Ambulante: Mexico’s Moving Film Festival

Plaza Juárez, San Andrés Míxquic. - March 24th, 2017. Photo by Ernesto Vargas / Ambulante Flickr

Plaza Juárez, San Andrés Míxquic. - March 24th, 2017. Photo by Ernesto Vargas / Ambulante Flickr

By Richard Gonzalez

A few weeks ago, we launched the film portion of Latinx Spaces with a feature on the evolution of actor Diego Luna. In that feature, we mentioned Ambulante, the traveling documentary film festival that he started with Gael García Bernal in 2005. Since this year’s incarnation of the festival began a few weeks ago, we thought it would be a perfect time to delve into the project and share a few details on some of the documentaries that stood out to us. The documentaries will screen in various cities around Mexico and California over the next few weeks.

Photo by Liz Robles / Ambulante Flickr

Photo by Liz Robles / Ambulante Flickr

Before we highlight the films, it’s important to give some insight into the festival itself and what differentiates it from a traditional film fest. Ambulante started 12 years ago as a passion project for Luna and Bernal with the idea to showcase documentaries that might not otherwise be seen in Mexico. Luna and Bernal aimed to screen them in creative places other than conventional theaters and in cities that don’t usually have many resources available to them. Screenings have taken place on mountainsides, city squares, and famous landmarks around Mexico. The documentaries that are screened are from around the world and showcase both creative triumphs and governmental struggles from places both inside and outside of Mexico.

This year, the festival will showcase 134 titles in more than 150 locations throughout Mexico. It is a truly stellar line up, and while there are so many amazing films that need to be seen, we picked five films that stood out to us which can serve as a starter as you dive further into the lineup. Here are some of the standouts for us:

I Am Not Your Negro

Raoul Peck’s beautiful attempt to finish James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript “Remember This House,” where Baldwin had the idea to weave the similarities and stark contrasts between Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. into a single story based on his own personal interactions with the civil rights icons. The film was nominated for best documentary at this years Academy Awards.

Lucha Mexico

The film documents the lives of the men behind the masks of Mexico’s legendary Luchadores. The film was shot over the course of four years, and offers an intimate look at some of the biggest names in the sport. We will be profiling this film more extensively in the next few weeks, so check back for that story.

One More Time With Feeling

This film is Shot in black and white and follows Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds while they recorded Skeleton Tree, the band’s 16th album. The documentary follows the band, and most notably Cave, at a tumultuous time following the tragic death of Cave’s teenage son a few months before.

Austin City Limits: A Song For You

Described as a film “40 years in the making,” the documentary showcases the landmark television show’s enormous contribution to the musical landscape, and highlights its journey from humble beginnings to sacred stage that even some of the biggest names in music get nervous to play.

Last Men In Aleppo

The documentary follows the heroic “White Helmets,” first responders in Syria’s ongoing civil war that help save lives among the bombings and unstable environments. The film showcases the horrifying tragedy of these events, and further reveals the courage that the residents of Aleppo show in order to maintain some “ordinary” aspects of life that some take for granted.

These films are just a small glimpse of the amazing work that will be featured over the next few weeks at Ambulante. We invite you to find a city close to you, explore the extensive website, and discover all of the amazing films that have been curated this year. All details can be found at Ambulate.org.