Eimbcke's 'Tahoe' builds on success


MEXICO CITY -- The new wave of Mexican cinema has yet another rising star in writer-director Fernando Eimbcke.

Virtually unknown when he participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2003, Eimbcke made his feature film debut with "Duck Season," a deceptively simple comedy about teens battling boredom in a Mexico City apartment. The small black-and-white movie took many people by surprise, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 AFI Fest and 11 of Mexico's Ariel awards, including best picture, director and original screenplay.

Eimbcke studied at the CUEC, Mexico's first film school and the alma mater of director Alfonso Cuaron. There he met Paula Markovitch, who was giving screenwriting workshops at the time. Years later, after having directed numerous shorts and music videos, Eimbcke teamed up with Markovitch to write "Duck Season."

The natural performances by the young actors in "Duck Season" keep the film firmly grounded in reality, even at its most absurd moments.

"I told the actors to play the kinds of kids that you really see in life, kids with bottled-up anger who can be annoying at times," Eimbcke says. "I didn't want the carefree energetic kids that you see in Disney productions."

Cuaron saw the film during the Cannes International Critics' Week in 2004 and liked it so much that he helped Eimbcke land a distribution deal with Warner Independent Pictures in the U.S.

Last month, Eimbcke returned to Berlin in official competition with his sophomore feature "Lake Tahoe," walking away with the FIPRESCI prize and the Alfred Bauer prize for innovation.

The story centers on a 16-year-old boy who must find a mechanic after he crashes a car in a small Mexican town. His contact with several interesting characters, including a mechanic obsessed with Bruce Lee, allows him to cope with his father's sudden death.

"Lake Tahoe" reunited Eimbcke with colleagues who helped make "Duck Season" a big splash, such as producers Christian Valdelievre and Jaime Ramos, actor Diego Castano, cinematographer Alexis Zabe and screenwriter Markovitch.

The script has a more serious tone than "Duck Season," as it leans more on dramatic situations and less on comic relief.

"It's a melodrama based on a very personal and painful experience," Eimbcke says.

Eimbcke feels fortunate to be part of a new generation of filmmakers who have played such a crucial role in revitalizing Mexican cinema.

"There's always that doubt where the funding will come from for your next film," he says. "But at the same time, this is one of the best moments to be working in Mexico."