What does it take to film in Mexico City?

20 May

Earlier this month, Excélsior‘s Lucero Calderón profiled several Mexico City sites that have been immortalized in film, including el Palacio Nacional, el Castillo de Chapultepec, and la Basílica de Guadalupe, as well as la Torre Latinoamericana, which was featured in Alfonso Cuarón’s first feature, Sólo con tu pareja.  The tower, which was completed in 1956, features prominently in the film, but makes its mark in a very cinematic suicide attempt (it’s not a spoiler if it’s the premise of the story) by protagonist Tomás Tomás (Daniel Giménez) and his neighbour (Claudia Ramírez).

See below the cut for the full list of her picks (with English-language links).  Inspired?  Calderón also spoke to Fernando Uriegas, head of the Mexico City Film Commission, to find out exactly what it takes to get permission to film in Mexico City.  Read more.

Despite being a huge fan of this director constantly identified with Mexico, and having once made a half-hour long presentation on the history of the country in high school Spanish (they only offered the first level), I know very little about what’s going on two borders south of me.  However, my experience studying (urban, reform era) China and (post-Asian Financial Crisis) Korea has left me with a strong impression that the movies are a good way to get something of a glimpse.  So here is Calderón’s list for scenes in Federal District (i.e. additions to my own to watch list):

  • Plancha del Zócalo Capitalino: The Zócalo is the main plaza in the history centre of Mexico City, formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución (named for the colonial constitution of 1812).  Olympic marathon runners began their race at the square in 1968, but by the end of the 20th century it was in total disrepair.  Late 90s and early 21st century mayors have been working on it.
    • Cobrador: In God We Trust (Paul Leduc, 2006) – IMDb
    • Pastorela by (Emilio Portes, 2011) – IMDb
  • Palacio Nacional: The National Palace houses the executive of Mexico’s federal government (o, federalism).  Located on Zócalo, it sits on the former residence of Moctezuma and took  much of its building materials from the original Aztec emperor’s palace.
    • Río escondido (Emilio Indio Fernández, 1948) – IMDbWikipedia (synopsis only)
    • Salón México (Fernández, 1949) also makes use of archival footage of the palace – IMDb
    • El atentado (Jorge Fons, 2010) – IMDb
  • Castillo de Chapultepec: This castle sits atop the Chapultepec hill, once a sacred site for the Aztecs.  It currently houses the National Museum of History.
    • Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996) – IMDbWikipedia
    • Cristiada (Dean Wright, 2012) – IMDbWikipedia
    • La sombra del Caudillo (Julio Bracho, 1960) – IMDb
    • El encanto del águila (Mafer Suárez, 2011 tv series) – IMDb
  • Paseo de la Reforma – Ángel de la IndependenciaThe Angel is the most famous monument of the avenue/boulevard de la Reforma, which crosses the city diagonally.  The avenue, between the monument and Zócalo, is a traditional route for protests and demonstrations.
    • Tlatelolco (Carlos Bolado, 2010) – IMDb (It looks like Bolado will also direct an American companion to this film)
    • Depositarios (Rodrigo Ordóñez, 2010) – IMDb
  • Museo de la Ciudad de México: The Mexico City Museum is located a few blocks south of the Zócalo and was inaugurated in 1964, but has been open in its current form since 1997.
    • Infames (tv series), in which the museum is made to look like the National Palace and the offices of the Ministry of Finance – Official Cadenatres website
  • Palacio de Bellas Artes:  The palace houses the Museum of the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the National Museum of Architecture.  It also regularly hosts the national ballet, opera, symphony orchestra, and, notably, the Ariel  film awards.
    • Arráncame la vida (Roberto Sneider, 2008) – IMDb
  • Torre Latinoamericana:  This tower was built to house the headquarters of La Latinoamericana, Seguros, S.A. (insurance company), which is still a co-owner of the building.  The 44th floor is open to the public as an observation deck, as seen in Sólo con tu pareja, and has also been the site of announcements and news releases, including the DVD release of film.
  • Basílica de Guadalupe:  The basilica is located just north of Mexico City and hosts millions of pilgrims each year.  The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupeis December 12.
    • Morenita, el escándalo (Alan Jonsson, 2008) – IMDb
    • Matinée (Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, 1997) – IMDb


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