• Poetry
  • Poetry Film
  • Geopoetics
  • Videopoetry
  • Film Poetry
  • Intermedia
  • Screen Poetry
  • Ekphrastic Poetry Films
  • Family History
  • Ecopoetry Films
  • Translation
  • Performance and Subjectivity

Open your Gaze: a review of Festival Fotogenia 2022 and interview with festival director Christian O. Pacheco Cámara, by Janet Lees

I decided to attend the fourth annual edition of Festival Fotogenia in Mexico City in late 2022 partly because I was lucky enough to have three films in the programme, but mainly because this festival is so broad and diverse in scope, encompassing poetry film, video art, experimental cinema and avant-garde films. I’m interested in all kinds of ‘divergent narratives’ (what a great term Fotogenia has coined!) and wanted to take a closer look at some of the films that are out there. This festival offers an unparalleled opportunity to do this, with its invitation to ‘abre tu mirada’ – open your gaze.

Meticulously organised and hosted, Fotogenia took place over nine days at five cultural venues across the city – one of the world’s biggest, with a population of nearly 21 million. The festival opened at UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), an iconic city of learning, then moved to the cultural centre at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional – a slightly smaller but still vast campus. The other venues were the film centre Faro Aragon, the cultural hub El Rule in the city’s Centro Historico, and Terminal Coyoacán, a wonderfully intimate arts space in Coyoacán, a beautiful, tree-filled traditional district which is home to Frida Kahlo’s famous blue house, Casa Azul.


front of UNAM

Fotogenia UNAM

The festival

The programme was opened by Festival Director Christian O. Pacheco Cámara, supported by Festival Coordinator Gabriela Román Mérida. There were addresses from Sara Matos, representing IMCINE (Mexican Institute of Cinematography), Jorge D. Martínez Micher, representing the UNAM Film Archive, François Bellerive, First Counselor, representing the Délégation Générale du Québec à Mexico as part of Le FIFA.

The programme began with ‘Dance Night’, a curation of dance-based films from Le FIFA. By turns savage, surreal, beautiful and powerful, they featured stunningly inventive choreography and premium production values. The bulk of the festival was made up of  two-hour screening blocks of selected films, Mexican and International, over the eight days that followed. There were upwards of 120 films in total, with other events including a sold out dialogue table session with special guests filmmaker and YouTuber Luis Eduardo Rodriguez Farjeat and Sebastián Ortega, and workshops that took place both during and in advance of the festival. There was also an international Facebook forum in which filmmakers from different countries exchanged views, and an opportunity for people around the world to view the festival films online via the Fotogenia website.

The festival was a heady mix of realism and Surrealism, text and voice, live action and animation – including hand drawn, computer animated and AI-generated. The films ranged in length from the typical poetry film at a few minutes to full-length features, and there were way too many highlights to mention them all. But among the films I’d not seen before, just a few of the works that stood out for me were the momentous ‘If I go out walking with my dead friends’ (poem by Rita Boumi-Pappas, direction by Aleksandra Ćorović & Alkistis Kafetzi), the beautifully realised ‘Once I passed’ by Martin Gerigk, based on a poem by Walt Whitman, and Antonio Huerta’s ‘Rampage’, which draws attention to the plight of migrants with energy and wit. I was captivated by the visual beauty of ‘Lost Images’ by Cesar Bedogné, and moved by Arturo Zepeda’s ‘Bajo Teirra (Hola Mama, Hola Papa)’, a simple yet powerfully poignant film based around Mexico City’s metro system, written in the form of a letter home. Andrew Demirjian’s ‘Recalibrating’ was a brilliantly pitched and paced look at a post-human world through the eyes of a drone, while Helene Moltke-Leth’s ‘I c’ grabbed me by the throat with its breath-taking narrative that questions everything, including the medium of film itself.

In several cases the filmmakers had produced video introductions to their films, a great feature which brought added insight into the artists’ intentions. Fotogenia gave all selected filmmakers the opportunity to do this, as well as to have their films subtitled in Spanish for a small fee. Everyone was also invited to record a short ¡Hola Fotogenia! piece to camera, which made for entertaining viewing – as shared on Facebook as part of the festival team’s impressive rolling social media coverage.


Andrea Grain Hayton                                         

The winners

The three main prizes were the Delluc Avant-garde Award, the Amero Revelation Award, and the Epstein Special Mention Award.

The Delluc Avant-garde Award went to ‘Changing Skin’, directed by Maxime Coton of Belgium and described by the jury as “A mysterious film with very original footage that still makes you think, even after you’ve seen it multiple times…. His narrative utilises every semantic medium within the reach of the creator – landscape, sound, visual, and voice – with a coherent force.”

Winner of the Delluc Avant-Garde Award

Winner of the Amero Revelation Award was Andrea Grain Hayton from Mexico for ‘Cartilla (In)Moral: Ética para perder el rumbo’ (Im(moral) Code: An ethics to lose one’s way). This film layers archival imagery with live action footage and overdrawing, complemented by a similarly layered soundscape, with a mix of languages, shapeshifting music, and a consistent heartbeat that acts both as an engine and a reminder of power – the text is a playful rewriting of the ‘Moral Primer’ issued by the Mexican presidency in 1952 and characterised by an utter lack of inclusivity for women and non-masculine groups. [note from Dr Patch: ‘the presidency of Mexico republished it in the 21st Century, which is totally absurd and ridiculous in these times, because of the outdated vision of the author, and moreover, a serious problem if the actual Mexican government thinks like that.’]

The jury commented, “What really impacts from this work is the feeling that it is unfolding in real time: the bursts of statements, the political energy… An important film with social relevance and power; the work of a director who has an original vision and who the system hasn’t frustrated or ‘professionalised’.”

Jules van Hulst from the Netherlands took the Epstein Special Mention Award, with ‘Faorlpich Lan’ (Provisional Country), of which the jury said, “A film with great originality in the juxtaposition of image, text and sound. With several moments of surprise and a narrator who manages to endure the tension between everything presented on screen.”

Winner of the Epstein Special Mention Award

The finalists

The 12 finalists were:

  • flint, michigan ‘skinny’ – Jim Hall, US, 2022
  • Borrodurra – Camila Estrella, Bárbara Oettinger, Carlos Soto Román, Chile, 2021
  • Once I passed – Martin Gerigk, Germany, 2022
  • Ashen Glow – Eta Dahlia, UK, 2022
  • Astillas – Kissel Bravo, Mexico, 2022
  • El Albareque de los Sueños – Roberto Belmont, Mexico, 2020
  • What I fear most is becoming ‘a poet’ – Janet Lees, Isle of Man, 2020
  • Un Día en Pantalla – Jorge Santana, Mexico, 2022
  • Today I Wrote Nothing – Keith Sargent, UK, 2022
  • Concertina – Gabriel González, Mexico, 2022
  • Panta Rhei – KWA, US, 2021
  • Un Toro Tuvo Una Pesadilla – Andrés Pulido, Mexico, 2022

Un Dia en Pantalla, Jorge Santana

The jury

Each member of the jury deserves an Outstanding Stamina Award. The job of narrowing down such an incredibly diverse range of films must have been difficult to the point of being painful. The three valiant souls who rose to the challenge were…

Guido Naschert – Director of the Thuringian Literary Society in Weimar, which organises and moderates readings and debates on contemporary literature and poetry. With an academic background in philosophy and literary studies, Guido taught for many years at universities in Germany. He has been committed to the genre of poetic cinema since 2014 and, with the artist Aline Helmcke, has edited the magazine Poetryfilmkanal / Poetryfilm. Since 2016 he has been curator of the Weimar International Film Poetry Prize, and since 2020 director of the Thuringia International Poetry Film Festival. He was a member of the jury of the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin and of the Central German project on the production of poetry films “lab / p-poetry in motion”.

Sarah Tremlett – Poet, theorist, award-winning poetry filmmaker and a director and editor of Liberated Words. Sarah is a well-known festival curator and judge, and her book The Poetics of Poetry Film, described as ‘a pioneering, encyclopedic work, and essential reading’, has rapidly established itself as the bible of the genre.

Fernanda Río Armesilla – A programmer for film exhibition projects in Mexico City, Fernanda published ‘How to set up a cinema: manual for exhibitors’ in 2018, and took part in the exploration ‘Seats, platforms and asphalt, new looks at Mexican cinema’. A widely published film critic, she is also Director of Operations at the distributor Manticora, having previously been Director of Promotion of Mexican Cinema at the Mexican Institute of Cinematography.

Sarah Tremlett one of the judges

A special mention must also go to the brilliant volunteers – Yanin, Frida, Martha, Victor, Osmar, Rafael and Jose Juan – whose sterling efforts and warm welcome made the festival run like clockwork and a joy to be part of.

Interview with Christian O. Pacheco Cámara, Fotogenia Director and principal curator

Christian is studying for a PhD in Arts & Design at the Postgraduate School of Arts & Design at UNAM, with a focus on Moving Art, Animation, and Filmmaking. His research on avant-garde cinema and Surrealism led him to create the Fotogenia Festival four years ago. I asked him some questions about Fotogenia, past, present and future.

How did Fotogenia come into being?

I first began studying avant-garde, early cinema, and Surrealism as part of my Master’s in 2015, when I had the opportunity to travel to London and study for the autumn term at Goldsmiths University. Through my tutor Michael Richardson, an expert on Surrealism and Cinema, I met active surrealists including Guy Giraud in Paris, and Kathleen Fox in Hastings, and became involved with the movement which takes its name from Lautreamont: ‘a poetry made by all’. At the same time, I was making a short film – more like a film essay – trying to encapsulate all the theories I was learning at the time – for example, Bresson’s ‘the encounter’, Tarkovski’s ‘poetic logic’, and Pelechian’s ‘counterpoint montage’, in search of both the ‘marvellous’ and the everyday. My degree culminated in an initial model of a cinematic installation and an early draft of a surrealist manifesto of cinema.

Festival Director Christian Pacheco Cámara : credit Fotogenia

Following this line of investigation, I started my PhD with the desire to connect with artists from Mexico and around the world who were making films outside the box – not only to continue my research but also to make a small show with this kind of cinema. But I didn’t know how to find them, so I came up with the idea of curating a first collection of films addressing the theme of memory. It was important that these films would be non-narrative stories, a type of poetic narration in the mood of Tarkovski’s poetic logic. With the help of some colleagues and mentors such as Dr. Iliana del Carmen, Dr. Tereza Stehliková, and Itzel Pedroso, I felt confident to share these first ‘rules’ with the world and see what happened, expecting maybe one or two people to respond to the call.

I was greatly surprised to receive work from China, and then from the USA, Canada, Spain, and so on. I realised I couldn’t just host a small screening; suddenly I felt a great responsibility with all these artists responding to the call. And so Fotogenia was born! The first edition in 2019 comprised 43 works split into three programmes, dedicated to how filmmakers translate and explore ‘memory’ into and through the film. In 2019 I was supported by Gabriela Román Mérida, Director of Cinéfilo CDMX, a film agenda that promotes festivals, call for submissions, and projections in Mexico City. In 2020, I hesitated to hold another festival in view of the pandemic, but fortunately went ahead and did it online with the support of Gabriela and Thania Ochoa Armenta, Coordinator of Cinefolio.

The online edition brought us closer to an international community that interacted with love and a shared passion for film during those times of uncertainty. Thania works on PR and communications, and also helps with the venues. For our fourth edition, Gabriela took on more responsibilities as Festival Coordinator and was the main curator of the Mexican Section. The three of us have been working together since 2020 on developing and strengthening the festival.

At the Awards Ceremony

You have support from a wide range of cultural bodies. Could you say a little about this, and in particular your partnership with Le FIFA?

Because I started the Festival from the Postgraduate School of Arts & Design, I had the opportunity to make contact with different cultural bodies both inside and outside the University. UNAM is the largest university in Latin America  and one of the best-ranked in the region. While being there helped me to open some doors, it wasn’t an easy task, and not all the doors that I knocked on opened. But one that did was the right one: the UNAM Film Archive, where Director Hugo Villa Smythe was interested in a film festival proposal from a school of arts rather than from a film school.

Year on year we are adding more cultural partners, such as PROCINE, a public organisation dedicated to film production in Mexico City – and last year we had financial support from IMCINE, among others institutes and partners. The cultural bodies we work with have mainly supported the festival with venues, diffusion, and managing the projection spaces; securing public or private funding to work with is the hardest thing festivals face.

Regarding Le FIFA, Isabelle Huiban, who in 2020 was the Director of Communication, Marketing, and Partnerships of Le FIFA, approached me following our online edition during the pandemic; she was looking for festivals to connect to Le FIFA. In 2021 they gave us Carte Blanche au Festival Fotogenia, which involved presenting a Special Mexican Program comprised of some of the best Mexican short films from our past two editions.

At Terminal Coyoacan : credit Fotogenia

Le FIFA is one of the biggest festivals dedicated to film and the arts, having been running for more than 40 years. They continually look to partner with premium festivals and cultural institutions. We felt very honoured by this invitation, especially because at that time Fotogenia was a small festival that had only been running for two years. This outreach by Le FIFA is notable because it gives exposure to smaller projects that resonate with its work. Last year, for the first time, we invited Le FIFA to screen two special programmes, one to open our festival and one at the closing ceremony. It will now be part of our remit to  present special programmes from invited festivals or institutions. It’s important to add that Le FIFA is gathering selected film festivals together in a project called Films on Art Network, where we will work to develop a network of festivals to distribute films among our countries.

I have especially enjoyed the combination of experimental/avant-garde cinema and poetry films. How did you approach curating such a diverse and broad-ranging selection of films?

It’s been a work of experimentation itself, looking at the ways in which such diverse films can be connected. For instance, in 2019 I started the festival with a theme, ‘the memory’, in order to try and unify the works. While all the selected works spoke to this theme in some way, I then looked for distinct elements to split them into programmes. For example, some of the works were about loss, while others approached the subject in an abstract way, so I worked with this in terms of telling a ‘story’ by way of a dreamlike state. The same thing happened in 2020 and 2021 when our themes were ‘present’ and ‘future’. Experimenting with the role of curator, I sub-categorised the programmes based on aesthetic contemplation. Some of them were linked by colour, black and white, sounds, or landscapes – I think I was interpreting some of the editing techniques explored by Eisenstein.

On Tour

Last year, I decided there would be no theme, in order to judge films purely on their own merit. I wanted to widen the programming to see what we would get without this ‘rule’. We ended up receiving films that address themes such as climate change, identity, feminism, political issues, racial issues, and some with a more intimate approaches to loss, grief, life, and death. Since we know that experimental cinema has a broad range of viewpoints – the very foundation of experimentation – I don’t think about techniques so much as subjects. In this way, we can create programmes with the same motif but very different ways of making.

In the end, the programmes are a celebration of life and an observation of the diversity of thought and solutions to put poetry into film. The principal idea while curating such a diverse selection of films is to play with them, to be amazed, and to try to take the audience into an odyssey of transcendent and vital issues that are part of our human nature.

What, in your opinion, are the key ingredients of the perfect poetry film?

That is a hard question and I think there is no single answer. My path to poetry in film was informed by other thinkers, scholars and artists – as I said, I came across the concept through Surrealism. I believe that film is a simply a vessel for poetry; perhaps, the supreme question for me is what poetry itself is. The common answer is that it is writing made in verse, but for me, as for the surrealists, poetry is a way of seeing and sensing life. I remember that Jan Švankmajer – a member of the  Czech surrealist group – once said at a conference in Mexico City that he considers himself a poet, and uses as many mediums as possible to transmute poetry into life. This could be through theatre, film, writing, acting, animation, design, painting … Of course, this conception comes from Surrealism, and I agree not only with Švankmajer but also with Octavio Paz when he said that anyone can be a poet without writing a single verse.

Borrodurra, Estrella, Oettinger & Roman

With this in mind, a poetry film is a film that captures a moment of life and puts it on screen with the aid of light, sound, space, time, text, voice, animation, and any medium the filmmakers can use when they understand the screen as a canvas, as Sarah Tremlett states in her book The Poetics of Poetry Film. Having said that, probably for me, the key ingredient of the perfect poetry film is that, whatever means the filmmaker uses, the film has to be true to a moment of life, the way in which it is felt by the artist, the way in which it is captured and the way in which it is presented on the screen. It might or might not be ‘narrative’ or logic, but it should be truthful, meaningful and organic, like our thought. The ultimate task is to find the balance between all these elements, deciding whether they are all needed, or some can be dispensed with altogether.

This is at the heart of Fotogenia’s quest. When I started the festival, I decided to use this concept – inspired by the theories and wonders of Delluc and Epstein – for the name, referring to that elusive quality that makes cinema different from other arts. Is it the way in which it captures light, space, sound, text, time, or life? Many artists have tried to answer this question, and I consider this to be the main concern for poetry itself. Therefore, a poetry film is a way of seeing and sensing life through the screen, it is open to evolution, new rules, and avant-garde methods of capturing life, and even gives us the possibility of unfolding creative systems for a film to be exposed, not only via the screen but also across the space. To paraphrase Sarah Tremlett, we can call it poetry film, film poetry, video poetry, or cinepoesía, but in the end, the artists – and the festivals – that explore the genre are the ones creating innovative paths to bring poetry into life. Film poetry is revolutionary film in all aspects.

Today I Wrote Nothing, Keith Sargent

Why do you think poetry film is experiencing a surge in popularity now, with new festivals and screenings popping up all over the world?

I can think of two reasons, although, of course, there are more. One is the accessibility of technology in the 21st century. In the days of early cinema, it was too difficult to work as an artist in filmmaking because of, for example, the cost, the huge cameras, the creation process. So even though some of the avant-garde artists considered the camera as an instrument for creating art, making cinema wasn’t accessible for all. At the same time, some of the ideas for scripts created by the avant-garde movements were, back in those days, too difficult to shoot, so many films never got produced.

However, the notion of film as an instrument for research, exploration, imagination – and the only instrument capable of reconstructing life through its capture of time, space, light, and possibilities for juxtaposing these elements – spoke strongly to artists. During the sixties, the revolution in video, smaller cameras, TV and technology made it possible and affordable to work with audio-visual art. Now, we can film on a mobile phone, edit on our personal computer and share the results with the world via the Internet. Consequently, any artist who wants to use film as a medium of expression, can. Being a filmmaker is nowadays as accessible as being a painter, photographer, writer, with no need for a big studio behind the production.

The second reason, and I believe this is crucial, is that poetry is inherent to human feeling and expression. Luis Buñuel called cinema ‘an instrument for poetry’, and that is what it is, an instrument of revolution, freedom, subversion of reality, beauty. When you have access to this instrument, you can connect with others because you are conveying your emotional states and concerns, by playing with all of the elements we talked about above. And we need festivals that show this work.

It’s interesting and significant that in the first two decades of this century we are celebrating 100 years of some of the avant-garde movements and cinema, with the same spirit and curiosity that the artists of that time approached the new medium: not simply an instrument determined by narrative, an apparatus only to tell stories, but a vehicle for emotions, sensations, feelings, experimentation, astonishment – an embodiment of the extraordinary in life that we can capture with a camera. In a way, we’re renewing the vows of those experimental filmmakers of the 1920s who were interested in cinema as a form of art.

What are your plans for Fotogenia?

Well, I have plenty of ideas for the festival, but at this moment I can sum up three tasks that serve our vision. The first is to collaborate with other festivals, blogs, and institutes to join the dots around the globe and bring together people who share common interests in film poetry and experimental cinema. From now on we want to present special programmes dedicated to partners including The Festival of Thuringia, Liberated Words, and The Institute for Experimental Arts – and of course, we’ll continue our involvement with Le FIFA’s Films on Art Network. There is a lot to work to do. I believe that linking festivals, artists and audiences, even virtually, shows that cooperation and collaboration can open minds through art. Everyone is invited, so if you’re reading this article and have a project, blog or festival, please feel free to contact us to create something together

The second one is expanding Fotogenia, not only in our territory but also abroad. Last year, with the support of IMCINE, we took the festival on a small tour to Quintana Roo, a southern state in Mexico. I really want to take the festival on tour across Mexico and to the UK, Europe, and other Latin American festivals. As well as geographical expansion, we are exploring expanding the festival in scope. As I said, poetry can be embodied in every form, so we’re looking at expanded poetry cinema with performances, mingling music, theatre, dance – whatever the imagination of the artist can create – in order to touch all the senses.

The final task, as already mentioned, is to shape a community that can work together online and in person here in Mexico and abroad. A sense of community is at the heart of Fotogenia; instead of isolated people exploring the possibilities of  film poetry alone, it is so important to work on projects together that can really impact people and communities. We opened our eyes to this notion last year with our tour in Quintana Roo: as well as screening two Mexican programmes from our first and second editions, we hosted two workshops to inspire people about the possibilities of expression using cinema. The most profound aspect of film poetry is that people can use it to understand their surroundings and their emotions, and to communicate this to the world. In this way, we’re building on Lautreamont’s dream of ‘a poetry made by all’.

Once I Passed, Martin Gerigk

What is your view on the experimental and poetry film scene in Mexico?

Regarding recognition from our cultural institutions, we have gained ground in recent years. For instance, this year our Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) has launched an open submission to obtain funding for works in experimental cinema. This is a big step forward, being the first time the Institute has considered filmmaking that doesn’t follow the rules of the industry – i.e. the stages of pre-production, production, and post-production.

In our country, there has been public funding support for feature films and short films for many years, but the rules have always been very clear about the classical manner of making a film and presenting a pitch, taking into account these stages of production as a key evaluation element. It seems that this has changed now, and we like to believe that Fotogenia was part of this transformation.

Nonetheless, the most difficult aspect of the experimental and poetry film scene in Mexico is finding venues interested in showing this other cinema. This is probably a challenge partly because of audiences: the Mexican public is more attuned to the classical cinema narrative model, not to mention the big blockbusters that every year hit the big screen. Therefore our commercial circuit doesn’t have many spaces to show cinema outside the box. While there are, of course, some small theatres dedicated to it, it has been hard to find physical space for experimental cinema. So, bijou Mexican film festivals dedicated to ‘the other cinema’ find it really tough, and as you can imagine it is twice as hard to find resources, whether private or public, to work on these things on a continuous basis, as these types of cinema do not guarantee a return on investment.

In the case of Fotogenia, all the future plans I’ve talked about will only be possible through cooperation but also with funding, and as the festival is growing so fast, we need to look for different funding opportunities in order to maintain the work of the people who make this possible. So in a creative way, we’re thriving, but we need investors and the government to see this type of festival not in terms of capital revenue but social revenue that will make better human beings by virtue of art. This is where the real return of investment is: in changing points of views and communities for a better tomorrow. We also need artists and the public to understand that submission and entrance fees are part of this synergy, indispensable to support all the work that makes a festival happen, and bringing together people and social action.

Having caught some of the official Mexican selections in person and watched others online, I’m so impressed by the quality and energy of the films coming out of this country. Has the scene here always been this fertile, or is it a recent development?

The scene for Mexican experimental cinema has suffered at the hands of the regulated circuits of creation and exhibition, as in the USA, mainly because of the Hollywood industry and its power to attract the attention of the masses. The period that we know as the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, although rich in cinematography, reflected the Hollywood storytelling model while being adapted to our own stories and nationalism. Looking back at our own film history, we don’t have a significant tradition of experimental filmmakers; perhaps the best known experimental film is ‘La fórmula secreta’ (The secret formula) made by Ruben Gamez in 1965. This won the first and only Mexican Experimental Film Contest, in response to the decadent Golden Age, and then this kind of work seemed to disappear from our national filmography.

Of course, during the years that followed, there were people working in this field – Pola Weiss for example – but in the main, isolated artists with no significant public recognition. It is only in the 21st century that like-minded individuals have gathered in a formal way to show experimental cinema. Bruno Varela and Elena Pardo, for example, have a dedicated body of experimental audio-visual work, and it’s also worth mentioning ULTRAcinema Festival and LEC–Laboratorio Experimental de Cine (Experimental Cinema Laboratory) – projects that have built the foundations for showcasing experimental film in Mexico.

The teaching of experimental filmmaking in Mexico has been limited to film history and has not enjoyed the status of an actual artistic practice – sure there are some workshops and related subjects in the University, but in filmmaking schools the norm is to learn movie-making in the industry format of telling a story, and so in the Art School video art is a lonely practice.


The Fotogenia Team : credit Fotogenia

So, one of our tasks as Fotogenia is to work on the recognition of experimental cinema and poetry film as a form of art, investigation, practice and delight, with the aim of growing audiences that appreciate this divergent cinema. For instance, in 2020, we inaugurated a prize called ‘Amero Revelación’ which is dedicated to Emilio Amero, a Mexican artist barely known for his work in cinema. This is mainly because we don’t have copies of his films, but there are notes about a film called ‘777’ which he made in the tradition of the Ballet Mécanique. What is curious about this is that he was the first Mexican who wanted to teach cinema in Mexico, from our San Carlos Academy of Arts – a fine arts academy that is part of the history of our actual Faculty of Arts and Postgraduate School of Arts at UNAM. His vision was to use the camera as a tool for the artist, not as a tool for narrative, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to teach this and for years afterwards the teaching and making of cinema in Mexico followed another path. What would’ve happened if cinema in Mexico was taught through the lens of art?

So, it has taken many years to feel that the Mexican experimental scene is fertile. In the case of poetry film, we can proudly say that Fotogenia is the first Mexican festival dedicated to this genre – an unknown genre for the majority of our population – and we could say that probably La fórmula secreta was the first Mexican poetry film. The genre has been developing in recent years among new Mexican artists – for the first three editions of Fotogenia we received about 20 Mexican works, whereas last year it was around 60 – and gaining in popularity among people who are open to watching ‘divergent narratives’. This was a term proposed by us to cover all those narratives that sit outside the classic, mainstream Hollywood narratives, and the many forms that poetry takes in film. This last mission is probably our most arduous, but we try to make people see the world via cinema and feel poetry for the first time, like a child seeing the grass with an untamed eye. This is why we reference Stan Brakhage in our leitmotif: ‘open your gaze’.


Janet Lees & Antonio Heurta, a director from Sonora : credit Fotogenia

Janet Lees https://janetlees.weebly.com/ is a lens-based artist and poet. She has been selected for many festivals and prizes, including the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, the International Videopoetry Festival and the Aesthetica Art Prize. In 2021 she won the Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition. In 2022 her work featured in the landmark exhibition ‘Poets with a Video Camera: Poetry Film 1980 to 2020’. She has been published worldwide. Her two books are ‘House of water’, and ‘A bag of sky’, winner of the Frosted Fire Firsts prize 2019.


All photos Janet Lees unless specified