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Mary Poppins and Indiana Jones in Mexico Bronco

Created: 28 August, 2009
Updated: 26 July, 2022

Frontera NorteSur

 It could have been a suspenseful scene from any old action flick. Gathered in Chihuahua City this past week for the inauguration of the International Film Festival, a star-studded crowd of movie producers, actors and politicians listened to an orchestra pound out themes from Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Actors dressed like Charlie Chaplin, Darth Vader, E.T., Mary Poppins, and other cultural icons made cameos at the red-carpeted gala in the downtown of Chihuahua state’s capital city, as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” entertained onlookers.

 But just as a showing of “Buddha’s Head” got underway, a bomb threat and gunfire not far from the festival site temporarily forced the evacuation of celebrities.  Like Ciudad Juarez to the north, Chihuahua City is the scene of a real-life war between competing underworld gangs. The bomb warning proved false, and the show went on true to classic Hollywood form.

 A host of distinguished personalities was on hand for the event.  The guests and participants included, among others, Marina Stavenhagen, general director of the Mexican Institute of Cinematography; Alvaro Madero, president of the International Film Committee; Mexican actress Carmen Salinas; Hector Valles Alvelais, secretary of the Chihuahua state tourism and commercial development department; and Chihuahua City Mayor Carlos Borruel.

 The festival was part of an initiative by the Chihuahua state government to promote the international film industry as a new local business opportunity.

 “This is the beginning of a new era of culture in Chihuahua,” said former Mexican model and television personality Rebeca de Alba. “Applause goes out to everyone involved in positioning Chihuahua as a platform to attract the national and international film industry.”

 Chihuahua now joins a host of other entities in Mexico and the US which are pulling out the financial stops to attract movie production. In the 21st century, the film industry is following the textile, auto, electronics, call center and other economic sectors which first relocated to the US South and Southwest and then overseas.

 Although state and municipal governments on both sides of the border currently face huge budget deficits that have education and social programs on the chopping block, many continue to lavish generous subsidies on the film industry.

 For example, New Mexico provides interest-free loans, subsidized labor, sales tax exemption and other financial incentives for Hollywood. New Mexico’s success in luring California movie producers has earned a state more known for its green chile the curious nickname of “Tamalewood.”

 “During these erratic financial times, the biggest compliment we consistently receive is that New Mexico’s film incentive programs are tried and true, reliable and sustainable,” reads in part a statement by New Mexico Film Office Director Lisa Stout on the agency’s website.

 The rush by US and Mexican states to subsidize the movie industry has officials in the old heartland of the big screen clearly worried. The phenomenon of a “runaway” film industry led the Los Angeles City Council August 11 to enact a five-year suspension of the multi-media business tax and pass a resolution to explore the expansion of a tax incentive.

 Earlier, at a March 24 meeting, Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry introduced a successful motion that recognized the importance of a historic film industry increasingly tempted by government offers of support from outside the region.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news  Center for Latin American and Border Studies  New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico.