Morbido 2019: Award Winners, Morbido Continues to Return to Form
Another year, another amazing Morbido film festival has come and gone. And because Canada and Winter are kind of being bastards at the moment, things like earning a living and keeping a roof over our heads took precedence right after we returned from CDMX, so bringing you up to date on this year’s festival has taken longer than expected.
Early this week the winner of the Morbido Skulls were announced. Each winner will receive a lovely sugar skull statuette to mark their win this year. Not made of sugar of course.
First here are the Latin American Winners.
The Golden Skull (Calavera de Oro) which is the Audience Award (Premio del Público) went to Rendez-Vous from Mexico's Pablo Olmos Arrayales.
The Silver Skull (Calavera de Plata) which is the Mórbido Award (Premio Mórbido) went to the great Luz from Colombian director Juan Diego Escobar.
The Wooden Skull (Calavera de Madera) which is the Press Award (Premio de la Prensa) when to The Gasoline Thieves/Huachicolero from Mexico's Edgar Nito.
And here are the International Winners.
The Golden Skull-Audience Award went to Richard Stanley's Colour out of Space, proving once again I'm never on the side of the audience at any festival I go to. I'm weird that way.
The Silver Skull-Mórbido Award when to Adrían Garcia Bogliano's Svart Cirkel (Black Circle) which I really liked and have failed to write a review for yet. Going to have to fix that soon.
The Wooden Skull-Press Award went to Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen's Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street. I missed this at the festival and Mark Patton was there signing LPs and merch, and I couldn't get to the head of line before he had to go into the screening. I had pesos to burn and missed out!
Finally there was the Bronze Skull (Calavera de Bronce) which is an Honorary Mention (Mención Honorífica). It went to Paco Limón's doc Sesión Salvaje (Wild Session).
Now. On with the show!
Having done Morbido for a number of years now this year I felt that this year the festival was returning back to form more than ever. Not that I don’t love it every year, fellow Anarchists know I threaten violence on anyone who tries to take my spot, this year we even welcomed Anarchist Kurt and his wife LJ to join us for a bit of holiday fun. Thing is, I’ve known the heights at which the festival has ascended in past editions but the festival has had to jump its share of hurdles since moving back to CDMX. There was the year right after the terrible earthquake of 2017 where the city was still reeling from the events that September before the festival ran. Taking care of the people of CDMX was more important than a film festival that year. This year there was a change in government in Mexico. It just meant that arts and culture funding, something which every film festival counts on to help run the show each year, was kind of in limbo while the new government figures out who gives what and who gets what.
What CDMX does not have in abundance is stand alone cinemas and this is very important to Morbido's lord and master, Pablo. I get it. Having a cinema in a mall just adds to the distractions around you. Pablo wants to keep the experience as true as possible. As is the way of things, builders and city planners try to mash all your entertainment needs into one convenient box. The Cinepolis Diana is one of the last ones in the city and even it is under threat of redevelopment as it sits in a prime location along Av. Paseo De La Reforma in downtown CDMX. Walking to the cinema you could see that some of the shops outside have been boarded up.
As good as it is to have a stand alone cinema the trick about the Diana is that there is no place for Pablo and his crew to really set up shop. What we have been sorely missing over the years since the festival has moved back to CDMX has been seeing Pablo and programmer Abraham pull out all the stops when it comes to introducing films. We thought that Morbido Puebla would be the last time we would see Pablo come out and introduce every film in full costume and/or character from each filmmaker’s film.
This year however, there were hints of that old glory when Pablo introduced Richard Elfman’s Aliens Clowns and Geeks dressed as a clown, with a little person at his side in a kind of jester’s costume (you just have to roll with the little person thing when you’re at Morbido, okay?)
But before the festival began we all needed to share in the glory that is the Morbido Opening Ceremony!
This year the opening ceremony would be held at the beautiful Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris in the old city. Earlier that day we had stopped the theatre while touring the old city with Screen Anarchy’s Kurt Halfyard and his wife, LJ, who had come down on some holiday time this year. Sensing that we were making the staff nervous, I spotted them peering at us from behind a closed door off to the side as we were looking at the seating plan at the ticket booth. Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris is a gorgeous and massive building and we hope that Morbido will be able to use this facilty more often in the years to come.
Either by stroke of luck, or someone in the Morbido head office was cheering me on, I was seated next to my friends Jimena Monteoliva, Florencia Franco and Cecilia Cartasegna from Matar al Dragon. We met at Morbido two years earlier when Jimena and Cecilia came to Morbido with Clementina and have stayed friends since. The lovely ladies were to my left. To my right I find out I would be seated next to Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway producer Sergio Uguet de Resayre who has never been to Morbido before. I told him, “There is nothing like a Morbido opening ceremony. No other festival does what Morbido does. No one!”.
The lights dimmed and actriz Paloma Ruiz De Alda came on stage to start the show. A fixture at Morbido for a few years now she graced the stage once again with her presence and unmatched beauty. Following her intro we were treated to six musical numbers with more than 60 artists on stage. It was a glorious return to form for the festival, with no threat of wardrobe malfunctions on my part (read last year’s article). All the while Kurt and LJ were looking out for the little people, another fixture of the opening ceremony.
Mack promised us little people!
It took some time but they were there near the end, dressed up as a lobster and an octopus, while one more ‘swam’ around Mega Mermaid Regina Orozoco and the band La Sonora Dinamita in trunks, a toy dingy with a snorkel and mask. It is worth a mention that there were two very sexy Mermen, with their bums hanging out their mer-suits, salsa dancing along with her. Just in case you thought the entire ceremony was wholly irreverent, there was something for those who like Mermen too. Sure, Dracula came out and bit Jesus on the neck, but that was it! Everything else was on the level. If you do not count the dance number with Pablo and Paloma to Mi Aquita Amarilla by “Los Toreros Muertos”, which Pablo told international guests afterwards was a song about urine. It fits into the water theme, it does!
The longest act of the night belonged to the fish dancers from Michoacan. We figure its length was all part of the backstage preparation for second half of the night and I mean no disrespect when I say there is only so much I can take of regional dancing which amounts to a man running around on stage with holding a fish over his head.
The closer for the night was a drag act set to Rivers of Babylon by Bony M. Our lord and master Pablo was in a wonderful get up but the night belonged to Eva Blunt, Barbara Durango and Iviza Lioza, three famous, local drag queens. They were wonderful!
Opening night cocktails at Malaquita Rooftop. We have been here before and it is a lovely place to have a couple hundred of your closest friends gather to close out the night. I don’t know what was better. That the festival sponsor was Buchanan scotch whiskey and that asking for a whiskey with no ice translated into at least three drams per glass, or, that the pan de muerto ice cream came back. I seriously thought I was already in Heaven with the endless glasses of whiskey being ushered my way (yes it is a blended whiskey, but it is a free blended whiskey) but as soon as I saw someone walk by with the little cups of ice cream I nearly lost my mind! You have no idea what your ice cream game is missing until you have had pan de muerto ice cream.
One of the things on my to-do list in Mexico was to go down to Xochimilco, the last remnants of a vast water transport system built by the Aztecs, and ride the gondolas. As I was due for my ‘Holy shit, right, Mexico is closer to the Sun this time of year - sunburn’, heading out on a couple of gondolas and riding the calm waters to the Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls) with old and new friends was the only way to achieve that level of crispiness. Stupendously hungover after the opening night salvo of blended scotch whiskey we made our way down to Xochimilco.
Two gondolas headed out with two smaller boats, one with tacos, always welcome, and one with a Marimba, a wooden xylophone. While one can never tire of tacos it turns out that you can grow leary of the Marimba pretty damn quick. Having nipped that one in the bud after visiting Isla de las Muñecas we were able to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the canals on our way back to the docks.
Isla de las Muñecas is pretty much as creepy as you expect it to be. Were it not for the little terrier sporting a spider costume nipping at the heels of everyone there the dolls would have been the scariest thing we would see that day.
(Ammendmant) I forgot to take a moment and just say what a lovely human being Gary Sherman is. I only spoke with him for a scant few minutes during the festival, letting my filmmaking friends gleam priceless wisdom from him when possible, I dare not interfere. I will say though that while we were driving out to Xochimilco Mr. Sherman was taking in the sites, staring out the window, full of wonder as CDMX sped by. Before we started the boat tour I introduced myself and told him and his wife that they need to go along Av. Paseo De La Reforma and see all the large, painted skulls and the day glow spectacle that is the floats for the Dia de los Muertos parade. That's it. That's about the extent of our interaction that week. Just a few minutes. Wouldn't you know a couple days later he asked how I was doing, by name. By name. That, ladies and gentlemen, is class.
After Xochimilco we went over to Casa Fuerte de Emilio El Indio Fernández in Coyoacán for a late afternoon meal and an opportunity to tour the estate that was home to many filmmakers from the golden age of Mexican cinema and was used in Jorodowsky’s Santa Sangre! We received a gracious word from Rocio Amezquita viuda de Taboada, widow of Carlos Enrique Taboada (Poison for the Fairies), an icon of Mexican genre cinema. The estate is closed to the public but opens only for a couple days around Día de Muertos. Every inch of the interior of this massive, massive home is filled with alters to every type of entertainer from Mexico. We consider ourselves privilaged to have had this moment to step into Mexican cinema history, if just for a moment.
The following evening there was the live concert with composer Simon Boswell and the And back at the Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris. This is the third time Boswell has come to Morbido to perform, the second time I've been there at the same time. First, it should be said that Boswell, his wife Lola and band members Jack and Duncan are some of the loveliest people you will ever meet on this planet. Such lovely. lovely people. It cannot be said enough times. Lovely. People.
Somebody in North America please hear my plea. There has to be some way someone can set up a national tour for them. By gods, Boswell has composed music for some of the great genre gems: Hardware, Dust Devil, Santa Sangre, Stagefright, Shallow Grave, Lord of Illusions to name a few. All of these films were featured in this year's show with an emphasis and more time devoted to music he composed for Santa Sangre. If Craven and members of Goblin can sell out tours then surely Boswell and the depth of his work can do so as well. When was the last time you heard live performances of tunes from these movies? Right? Right.
After the show everyone went to a lovely place right around the corner (unless you jump into a shuttle and the one way streets of the old city lead you away from centre like we did) called Palacio Metropolitano for the Santa Sangre Black and White party. Having arrived 'fashionably late' when you made your way to the back of the room was the life-sized replica elephant coffin. For real.
The master of ceremony, Pablo, dressed as a circus ring leader started the show, a collection of local circus entertainers, contortionists and jugglers. The performances were capped off by a Santa Sangre burlesque tribute act from Anastasia Elfman, complete with severed arms and trickles of blood at the end. Then the food and drink began to flow and having learned our lesson from the opening night cocktail party we paced ourselves a little better. There was a photo booth at the party where you lined up against a green screen and you could choose one of four backgrounds from Santa Sangre. Seizing the oppportunity I chose to have mine taken against Thelma Tixou, the voluptuous tattooed woman, in her funeral 'dress' from the film. Because I could.
The bulk of the festival rolled out with nary a hitch, unless you count the day that Sala 6 was closed down for most of the day because Antrum played in the theatre the night before. No one died so we do not know how much mileage the folks behind Antrum can get out of it but that is our story and we are sticking to it. So that was a day of films largely missed because everything I wanted to see was booked for Sala 6, save for Richard Elfman's Alien Clowns and Geeks which would play in Sala 8 later that night. It did mean that I would miss Juan DIego Escobar Alzate's excellent Luz on the big screen, which was scheduled to start my viewing day.
The closing night party was at a club called Soberbia, a LGBTQ bar in the old city. After catching the last screening of the festival, Richard Stanley's Color Out of Space, we dashed back into the old city and caught up with amigos y familia who decided that it was better to get their drink and dance on than catch a bit of cosmic horror. I should have done the same but I made my choice so giving heed to the brightly lit and girthy decor I hit the bar as much as I could and made the rounds saying our goodbyes, snapping photos, and promising to do it all again next year.
My personal thanks to mi padre de terror Pablo for such a great show this year. My undying love for mi hermano de un madre diferente Abraham for a great year of programming with some great discoveries. My thanks and gratitude to the staff and volunteers of mi familia Morbido. To all our friends and family members who came back once again (once, twice, three times a Morbido) we're in for life.
To all you newcomers, you're one of us now.
Welcome to Morbido.