Interview with Eleonora Isunza, co-founder and co-director of Cinema Planeta, International Environmental Film Festival of Mexico.
7th Environmental film festival of Mexico takes place in the city of Cuernavaca. Cinema Planeta is famous with its beautiful crowded openings under the open sky. But also with many cinemas and teatros around the city where films are screened for almost a week, and with thousands of students that fill the venues every year.
Bicycles rides, parades, music shows, not to mention big debates and the whole program “Work in Progress” that support local filmmakers on their work on environmental movies. Cinema Planeta truly lightens the city.
I talked to Eleonora Isunza, who founded the festival together with Gustavo Martínez Ballesté.
Green Film Network continues a series of interviews with film festival directors. Welcome to the story of Cinema Planeta.
How did it all start? How Cinema Planeta was born?
Gustavo and I met in an event that I organized. He was there to do a open-air screening from a very important film festival. It was incredible! So we thought it would be wonderful to do more screenings like that. After that we planned a meeting and we decided to do a Film Festival in which we could bring to light environmental issues as we were so worried and concerned about that.
Nobody wanted to help us, brands didn’t know us, people of the government didn’t understand what we wanted to do, only the municipal government believed in us. A friend of mine, that in that time was a deputy, told me that there was going to be an event with the governor and gave me her invitation to go. When I arrived I noticed that besides the governor also was the president of México. So my husband encourage me to jump to the place of the journalists and I did it. When I was in front of the president I didn’t doubt to take his hand and not letting him go until I finished to introduced myself and give him the file of Cinema Planeta. He heard everything that I said – he had to because I was holding his hand – He was very friendly and very attentive to what I said and he promised me his support for our festival. After a very short time (five minutes!) we received a call from the presidency to give us a appointment with the president.
Do you remember your very first festival?
The opening was such an event! We chose to do it at the Borda Garden, which is a botanical garden from the colonial period, house of the first mango trees in the American continent. We put the screen right next to the lake, Myriam from the Paris Festival was there, she was one of the first persons to contact us and gave us a lot of support. It was a spectacular first day. The movie of our opening was “De Profundis” of Miguelanxo Prado. Cinema Planeta was born with great force, a lot of expectation and with the support of a lot of people that believed in us, friends, family that still help us.
What is the most difficult in your work now?
To keep on going every year and to be congruent. In Mexico the education and the culture are not priority issues.
What do you like the most about your work?
To keep on going and be congruent. Every day I realize the importance to remain and grow. When I see all the things that we’ve been through, it gives me the energy to move forward.
Obviously I have to accept that I love watching movies, travel to other film festivals and get to know wonderful people. That’s something that I wouldn’t change for anything.
Do you have some funny story about Festival preparation that you can share?
In the opening of our 5fth festival we invited the actor Bill Pullman. We do our opening in open air places and that time it was a small float in the middle of the pond. There were me, Gustavo, the governor and Bill Pullman to welcome the public. But as soon as we started to talk, suddenly we were surrounded with all the politicians that exist in the city! Instead of four people, we were in ten!
Bill Pullman said at that moment “Is it me or is this structure moving?”. We all had a nervous laugh attack. We were in front of 1500 persons and felt that in any minute were just going to drown. Fortunately, nothing happened and we rushed to get out of there very quickly with all the possible glamour. Once we were safe, we started to laugh again while we thank the moon that did not let us fall. It was a magical and funny night.
What can you advice to other film festival organisers? Some word of wisdom?
Perseverance and cleverness. Perseverance because we need to keep on going. Film festivals like ours are necessary and useful. And cleverness to know how to grow.
Why did you choose films as a tool to give environmental message? Why do you think it is a good media?
In Mexico we are inside a big wave in film making industry, so it was important to us to promote the production of environmental movies and to give them a platform to all. We are very proud of the festival. Cinema Planeta is a 100% citizen’s proposal and we had received a lot of support from Mexicans film makers.
What are other ways that work the best in your experience?
Integrate and collaborate. Be kind and also know how to receive. Cinema Planeta exists thanks to a huge network that has been woven. We have had the fortune that a lot of people already feel part of this and that give a lot of energy to the festival.
What are your ideas about the future? How do you think it is going to look like?
For me it is really hard to try to see the future, I want to believe in a better future but first I want to be a part of the present, help the children and young people to open their eyes and look around them, understand what they feel and find out what is worth fighting for. I’m completely sure that there’s no way that we can talk about future without conservation and without love, so let’s work!
By Anastasia Laukkanen