Mexican film festival comes to Chicago

By Bertha Serrano

While many events will happen in the city this June, a new one has been recently added to the calendar.

The Hola Mexico Film Festival, which will showcase 14 Mexican movies, will make its debut in Chicago from June 19 to 25.

Each of the films that will be shown were released during the past 18 months in Mexico. Samuel Douek, founder of the festival, said watching films such as Commando, Nightmare on Elm Street and Star Wars while growing up was his inspiration to launch the festival.

When Douek was 16, his interest in the industry grew after he discovered international films. Since then, his love for films has led him to start his own film festival.

After having the first one in Australia in 2006, the festival has since been shown in other cities around the U.S. This year, the tour will make its way to LA and New York City, as well.

The Chronicle talked to Douek, a proud Mexican and Israeli, about Australia’s reaction to Mexican films, why having a Mexican film festival is important and what he hopes to accomplish with the tour.

The Chronicle: Why did you choose Australia as a location to begin this film festival?

Samuel Douek: I was actually living in Australia before I thought about doing any film festivals. I was studying there, and that’s when I got the idea to do the festival.

What was the reaction to the films in Australia?

It was really nice. There’s really 1,500 Mexicans in all of Australia. In order to bring a film festival, it’s quite an out-of-the-window activity. It’s really unique and exotic, but people really like it. They know there are good Mexican films coming. When this festival came, it gave the opportunity to screen a lot of things that came out of Mexico, and [it] would have never been in Australia if not for the festival.

Why did you start a Mexican film festival?

To show film audiences what Mexican film is all about. I think Mexico is creating some of the best films in the world, and it’s very important for me to let the people know. I think it’s even more important to do this festival in the U.S., because there’s such a big relationship between Mexico and the U.S. I don’t think everything is very well understood in the way we are as a culture, and I think this festival serves as a platform for people to understand different ways and different values of the Mexican culture.

What kind of films will be shown?

We’ve managed to bring 14 films. Each of them were released in the past 12 to 18 months, and we have a selection from dramas, to comedies, documentaries, a little bit of everything.

Was there a reason why you picked Chicago as another place to host the film festival?

Chicago has a great culture and platform, and also the Mexican community is wide. The mixture of culture and Mexicans makes perfect sense for a festival.

What are you planning for the days of the festival?

We have an opening night, with Instituto Mexicano de Sonido. We will have some Mexican food and drinks. On the Saturday we will have an after-party, and then we will have five screenings every day from Friday to Wednesday at Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema.

Have you done anything like this in Mexico?

No, I haven’t. I’ve done it in Australia and USA, but not in Mexico. I think Mexico already has a film festival where they display all the new productions from [the country].  I think an important part of our festival is to screen Mexican films where they’ve never screened before, and in Mexico, that wouldn’t be the case because they would have had already been shown and released there.

Other than being the director of the film festival, are you involved in the film world in any other way?

Not really. I’ve just been trying to make this festival as big as I can in different cities and countries. I haven’t done any work in cinema besides the festival.

For more information on what films will be shown and to see a schedule of the event, visit