DUBAI // The first in a series of panel discussions that will take place daily throughout the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) was held yesterday afternoon.
The first discussion, dubbed Y Tu Mexico Tambien, focused on Mexican cinema and saw delegates from the Latino film industry gather at Madinat Jumeirah to present the progression of Mexican cinema from the Golden Age of the 1950s and 60s up until today.
Jane Williams, the head of Diff's Industry Office, said they had chosen Mexican cinema as a focal point because it provided a good example of how an industry can build itself to become self-sufficient.
Opening the discussion was Cristina Prado, director of cultural promotion of the Mexican Institute of Cinematography, who detailed the increase of audiences for Mexican films.
Following her was Ximena Hiriart, the producer of A Tiro De Piedra (A Stone's Throw Away) - the story of a 21-year-old shepherd who finds a key chain in Mexico and decides to return it to its owner. It is one of five Mexican films showing at the festival.
Hiriart said that 2010 had been the best year yet for Mexican independent documentary films.
"In 2004, they were making 17 films a year and now it is over 70," she said. She added that hard work is still required to tap into an audience for the documentaries.
Ms Prado said that, while Mexican cinema had an important presence in many international film festivals, they were not having the same success with sales.
"It is important for us, therefore, to be in Dubai to try to find Middle Eastern distributors," she said.
Felipe Cazals Siena, one of Mexico's most respected directors, said they only had themselves to blame.
Mentioning the 112 million inhabitants of Mexico and the 25 million speakers of Spanish in the US, he said filmmakers with such a large target audience should try harder.
"It is the fault of a continuous attitude of not seeing cinema as part of our culture," he said. "Cinema is still considered outside of normal culture."
Leading the line-up for the Central American country's film screenings at the festival is the 1947 classic Enamorada, directed by Emilio Fernandez.
It will be screened tomorrow night at an outdoor venue in Jumeirah Beach Residence and will be followed by a Mexican Mariachi band.