Vying for a top award at the Los Cabos Int’l Film Festival’s Mexico First competition with her maiden docu-feature “Bellas de Noche” (“Beauties of the Night”), Maria Jose Cuevas comes with prizes and top festival berths already under her belt.
After participating in Los Cabos’ Work in Progress program last year, her docu screened at the Ambulante and Telluride film fests after which Netflix snapped it up before it participated in Toronto. Exhibition grandee Cinepolis plans to release it in late November, after which it rolls out on Netflix, most likely in February.
At the Morelia Int’l Film Fest in October, “Bellas de Noche” won best documentary, the Premio Guerrero Press Award and best documentary by a woman, the latter an apt win given the subject matter of her docu: In “Bellas de Noche,” Cuevas explores the past and present lives of Mexico City’s showgirls, pop culture celebrities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
A graphic designer, photographer and video artist, Cuevas was about 10 years old when her father, a famous painter, took her to cabarets and into the dressing rooms of these showgirls. After meeting one of her docu subjects, Princess Yamal, 10 years ago, she was inspired to interview more of them and start researching for her docu, which she produced along with Cinepantera and Detalle Films.
“The massive 1985 earthquake in Mexico City destroyed these cabarets, which were never rebuilt, so they are the last generation of these showgirls,” said Cuevas. She filmed some 180 hours of film, gaining the confidence and trust of her five subjects, one of whom, Lyn May, will attend Los Cabos.
“Thanks to my privileged access to them, I feel I learned how to celebrate life; understand what gives life meaning and makes us alive,” she mused. She credits her sister, video artist Ximena Cuevas, for skillfully editing her doc. “She’s the only one who understood me completely and what direction I wanted to take,” she said.
Her next docu will deal with something even closer to home: her father Jose Luis Cuevas whose young wife has isolated him from everyone, including his family. But that is just the takeoff point of her main theme, mental manipulation.
“What I like are portraits of human beings; to explore the human condition, discover and understand it.”