“Chronic” is one Mexican feature film shown at this year’s Los Cabos International film festival. // © 2015 Los Cabos International Film Festival
Feature image (above): Movie buffs will enjoy visiting the settings for several feature films shot in Mexico. // © 2015 iStock
Mexico’s strong links with great cinema will be in focus this month during the Los Cabos International Film Festival, which screens an array of critically praised movies from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Here’s a look at last year’s Los Cabos Film Festival
With the debut of the James Bond movie “Spectre” in November, Hollywood has again cast its eye to Mexico, where several scenes from the latest entry in the 007 franchise are set.
Mexico City, in fact, hosted the official premiere for the Americas on Nov. 2 — the first time that Mexico has hosted an international James Bond premiere. The timing is perfect, since it coincided with annual Day of the Dead festivities, which are featured in the film’s opening scene. In addition, a special exhibit, “Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style” opened at the Plaza Carso Exhibition Hall in Mexico City in late October, with costumes and models from the latest film, as well as more than 500 pieces from past films. The collection will be on display in Mexico City until Jan. 10, 2016.
This year’s film isn’t the first time that James Bond has touched down in Mexico City — although, granted, it was a different actor (Timothy Dalton) portraying him the last time the character paid a visit. Travelers can actually stay in one of the settings from the 1989 release “Licence to Kill.” For example, the lovely Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, located in the historic city center, serves as Hotel El Presidente in the movie.
But you don’t need to be a fan of 007 to get a Hollywood-induced high from visiting Mexico. The nation has, after all, served as a backdrop for countless movies that can please a wide variety of tastes. Following is just a sampling of the many examples.
Acapulco — Mexico’s first glamorous resort destination and a legendary hub for vacationing movie stars — has provided a sun-soaked setting for lots of entertainment, including the Elvis Presley 1963 film “Fun in Acapulco.”
Meanwhile, Puerto Vallarta first landed on the world’s travel map largely because of “The Night of the Iguana,” John Huston’s 1964 film version of the play written by Tennessee Williams. Producing the movie brought Ava Gardner, Richard Burton — and Burton’s off-screen love interest, Elizabeth Taylor — to the sleepy town, ensuring lots of celebrity-filled local headlines. Years later, the lush countryside around Puerto Vallarta provided an appropriately rugged landscape for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 film “Predator,” while tongue-in-cheek beachfront action was the draw for filming the 2010 flick “Sharktopus” in Puerto Vallarta.
In the outskirts of Mexico City, visitors can actually tour the rooms of Casa Azul, the childhood home of artist Frida Kahlo, which was used in the 2002 Salma Hayek film “Frida” and is now a museum. Mexico City is also the setting for two critically acclaimed Mexican movies: the gritty “Amores Perros,” which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000, and the groundbreaking “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” which was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards and Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globe Awards in 2002.
Stand-Ins and Fake Places
Travelers to Mexico may even walk through movie locations without realizing it. Several Mexican destinations have served as stand-ins for other countries and for places dreamed up by film creators.
In the 2008 movie “Che,” which starred Benicio del Toro as the Argentinian activist who played a role in the Cuban revolution, the Mexican city of Campeche served as a facsimile of Santa Clara, Cuba. Cuernavaca and Puebla filled in for Salamanca, Spain, in the 2008 Dennis Quaid thriller “Vantage Point.” And in the 2003 John Sayles drama “Casa de los Babys,” which stars Marcia Gay Harden and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Acapulco — including the famed Hotel Los Flamingos — was transformed into an unnamed South American city.
The 1996 movie “Romeo + Juliet,” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers, made good use of Mexico City, Texcoco and Veracruz for its vision of the fictional Verona Beach.
Last but not least, Mexico welcomed director Costa-Gavras’s “Missing,” the powerful true story about a U.S. citizen who disappeared during the 1973 coup d’etat in Chile that replaced elected president Salvador Allende with military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Since Pinochet was still in power at the time of filming, sending a crew to Santiago and Valparaiso was out of the question. Instead, Mexico City and Acapulco both rolled out the red carpet, as they have for many movies and travelers.