There is a magical place in Mexico City, and it is Morbido Fest.
Wednesday night, the opening night ceremony took place, but just before that, us filmmakers were treated to a private reception of freshly baked breads, a variety of meats, cheeses, nuts, and fruit. Just a little something to introduce those of us already in town to each other. It was quite nice.
And then Mick Garris and John and Deborah Landis walk in.
The energy changes. The filmmakers who are NOT known all over the world for creating masterpieces of comedy and horror --- us --- are quietly in awe.
"Hi! What's your name? Do you have a film in the festival?" Landis shakes my hand. I'm starry eyed. He does this, going across the room, with everyone. Deborah, an award-winning costume designer known for her work on Raiders of the Lost Ark and Michael Jackson's Thriller video (among many other accolades), smiles and watches, and I have a conversation with the very nice Garris about his upcoming projects. He's in town for the Spanish translation of his novel Salome.
The night had only begun.
After getting photos taken at the Morbido step and repeat, we enter a centuries-old structure. It looks like a film set, with expert colored lighting, and there’s a huge Dias de los Muertos shrine on the tiered stage. Festival director Pablo Guisa Koestinger appeared in a tuxedo, and I almost expected him to start singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
We were treated to ninjas, however, and an enormous mariachi band with spectacular vocalists and musicians. That’s not to forget the passed appetizers and cocktails, too. In attendance were Brontis Jodorowsky, John and Deborah Landis, Mick Garris, among many others filmmakers, press, and locals.
It was a fantastic opening ceremony.
Later, I head to La Clandestina with filmmakers Justin McConnell of Do You See What I See? and Theo Brooks, Mario Kenyon, and Tom Davia of Are We Not Cats. One of us pays to be electrocuted. Seriously. A guy walking around with a little black box and two contact rods offers a thrill. What you do is hold hands in a circle like a seance, and the guy with the box turns a dial. Electricity flows through everyone, starting with the person holding the rods. It's insane.
Welcome to Mexico City.
A coach bus brings us to the ruins of the ancient Mayan city Teotihuacan. We walk on red clay dust to the Sun Palace pyramid and climb to the top. Some flights of stairs are much steeper than others, causing some of us to use them almost like a ladder. Others ascend with the assistance of the cable railing. My guess is that we’re also at a higher altitude than usual; many of us are out of breath faster than we’d normally be.
It’s exhausting, but worth it for the views. At the top, a large group of hippies sit in a circle in the center. Their tarot cards and trinkets (and even a cell phone) lay on a large scarf while the hippies sing songs. The purpose of this was to charge them with the energy coming from the pyramid apex. When we arrived, the hippies were singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” — you can’t make this stuff up. Eventually, they moved on to other tunes not quite so youthful.
We move on to the museum on the grounds on our way out. The treasures within are amazing — Quetzalcoatl figureheads, jewelry, bowls, tiny sculptures, and even unearthed skeletons were on display. The bones were the most awe-inspiring of all.
Afterward, we were treated to a massive buffet lunch in a restaurant housed in a large cave — La Gruta. The chicken mole and corn cakes were as impressive as the location — and its Dias de los Muertos display. It’s an unforgettable meal that makes for a lasting memory.
After being bussed back to the city, several of us went to a festival co-presentation of Swiss Army Man, and it’s phenomenal. I cry during the emotional ending and I do not care that John Landis is sitting next to me and sees me.
In the morning, some of us visit the anthropology museum, and some of us visit Museo Souymaya, an incredible art collection that spans several floors, centuries, movements, and mediums. It’s astounding.
Today is the “true” beginning of the festival. While we were treated to great events (and there was a preview of several shorts programs last weekend), the cinematic schedule really begins here.
I see Are We Not Cats, Terror 5, and Downhill. I even manage to sneak in a screening of Doctor Strange at the commercial theater where some films are playing — because I can — and because I've already seen The Void. I head over to the q&a and then back to the hotel with filmmakers Justin McConnell, Steve Kostanski, and Jeremy Gillespie.