As part of its platform of social responsibility, one of the Guanajuato International Film Festival’s primary objectives is to support the creation of film in the region by educating the community and providing professional training. In 2010 GIFF established the Collegiate Documentary Contest “Identity and Belonging”. This educational program aims to strengthen the roots of Guanajuato youth, by encouraging them to find their identity and feel sense of belonging in a region that is rich in history and tradition. The contest requires that students find subjects and research themes within their own communities and trains them to produce a 10-minute professional documentary that can compete on an international level.
Each October Guanajuato university students are invited to submit projects during an open call for entries. Projects must include a short and long synopsis, a filming proposal, a thematic proposal, a list of subjects to be interviewed, a location breakdown, a production schedule, a production budget that includes possible donations or grants, an equipment inventory and a crew list consisting of 10 university students per team. All documentaries must originate and be filmed within the state of Guanajuato and all research must be supported by video, photographic, historical, periodical, literary and/or artistic materials to be included in a bibliography.
The call for entries closes in December and six finalist university teams are selected in January to produce a documentary that reflects their interests, concerns and expectations. Over the course of five months, between February and June, the students receive professional consultation on their specific projects from film industry experts on the subjects of theme, structure, audiovisual language, photography, lighting, production, audio production, post-production, public relations and marketing, offering them the necessary knowledge and tools to create and promote a professional short documentary which premiers during the Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) in July and goes on to compete in other film festivals around the world.
The main objective of the competition is to stimulate the creation of projects that strengthen the participant’s roots in their community; helping give visibility to identified problems, while formulating informed opinions and offering intelligent solutions; thereby actively participating in their society instead of abandoning their roots. It is an invitation to recognize their past and rescue their present.
The stories that are told have a humanitarian value, and are completely free of censorship, allowing the students to discover and unravel the DNA of their generation, from the context of a serious and professional film production.
The six finalist teams, comprised of 60 university students, receive a semester-long, senior-level (or fourth year university) documentary filmmaking course, free of charge, where the professors are the most respected professional filmmakers, directors, editors and production companies currently working in the medium. Eight intensive workshops are tailored for each of the six projects, providing the necessary knowledge and experience that each documentary requires. The six teams also receive 16 weeks of individual consultations from resident advisors who view, evaluate and advise the teams during each stage of the production process. Finally, after five months of hard work and preparation, the six short documentaries are screened during the opening day of GIFF in the 2000-seat Guanajuato State Auditorium, where they are judged by industry professionals who award the winning teams cash prizes, encouraging the participants to continue their cinematic trajectory.
Due to the highly practical level of the courses, and the specialized and personalized consultancy from film industry experts, the educational impact of this program is unique to the region. In addition, immediately following their premiere during GIFF, the short documentaries receive automatic entry into the national and international film festival circuit. The students themselves retain the rights to their own works, and have an opportunity to win future prizes at other festivals, while providing them a space to voice their point of view and propagate a greater sense of belonging amongst other youth in their community and across the country.
The Collegiate Documentary Contest “Identity and Belonging” is one of several educational programs currently run by GIFF that will eventually be housed in the Fabrica GIFF: Center for Cinematographic Development and Production, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The brand new facility will include workshops, conference spaces, cover sets, recording studios, post-production suites, state-of-the-art theaters, a research and development area, and an interactive digital library and audiovisual memory museum that will allow it to join the list of world-class film institutes. The project will begin construction in 2014 and will be completed by 2016.
The Guanajuato International Film Festival has a social responsibility to its community, both within Guanajuato and abroad: to encourage its youth to identify and address its society’s problems, while disseminating and facilitating the profound knowledge that taking with pride in one’s community and remaining a part of it can help build a brighter future for Guanajuato and Mexico, thereby helping overcome the many challenges that face Mexico in the 21st century.