London festival celebrates Mexican culture with rare sci-fi films and artistic wrestling

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So you're one of thousands who missed out on Olympics tickets, you're anticipating two weeks of traffic congestion and a TV schedule packed full sports you've never even heard of (race walking, anyone?) But don't worry, if you're keen to avoid the Olympics chaos, there are alternatives.

An enterprising festival is giving you the chance to watch some wrestling, without a branding-police officer or Games-maker in sight. You can even attend while scoffing unofficial brand chips and wearing a Puma T-shirt, if you want. Rich Mix, in Hackney, is showcasing highlights of Mexican culture - including Lucha Libre - a form of wrestling that comprises sport with performing art (like Jack Black's character in Nacho Libre, but infinitely more graceful).

The LondonMexfest will also display a photographic exhibition featuring the work of Lourdes Grobet who has captured the weird and wonderful world of Lucha Libre through a series of photographs depicting El Santo's life. El Santo was a real Mexican wrestler who had a career spanning several decades starting in the 1930s. As well as being a wrestler he was an actor and became a figure of justice for the common man.

Watching wrestling is an important part of Mexican culture, according to the Associate Programmer of the Morelia Film Festival, Mara Fortes: "We wanted to highlight the Lucha Libre aspect, as one of the themes at the LondonMexFest and include El Santo. He is like a real-life superhero but also a protagonist in fantasy pop culture not only in films but also in comics."

A selection of rarely-seen Mexican science-fiction films is on the itinerary at the three-day festival,  with films from the 50s and 60s, including sci-fi classics such as La momia Azteca contra el robot humano (The Aztec Mummy vs. the Human Robot) and La nave de los monstruos (The Ship of Monsters).

A screening of Santo el enmascarado de plata vs. la invasion de los marcianos (Santo vs. the Martian Invasion) features in the programme, about a masked wrestler attempting to prevent a Martian invasion of Earth. The films have gained a huge fan base over the years and count directors Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo del Toro among their following. 

Fortes said: "We wanted to represent different styles of film making. This festival is like a kaleidoscope of Mexican pop culture and Mexican identity. We thought it would be an interesting angle to include science fiction from this era."

Highlights:

*An installation and façade projection created by visual designer Tupac Martir.

*A live concert from Amandititita, the Mexican queen of Anarcumbia, an urban blend of rock, reggae, rap, and traditional Mexican cumbia.

* Actor-turned-director Diego Luna will be the festival as the guest of honour and will discuss his work, in particular his directorial debut Abel. The critically acclaimed film tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who returns from a psychiatric hospital and attempts re-integrate with his family.   

*Along with sci-fi films, there are screenings of contemporary films and documentaries, including El lugar más pequeño (The tiniest place) which follows five families attempting to rebuild their lives in the midst of war.

The LondonMexFest is part of the Shoreditch Fringe Festival which is holding cultural events in venues throughout Shoreditch.

The event has been organised by The British Council, The Mexican National Council for Culture and Arts, The Mexican Film Institute, the Morelia International Film Festival, Ambulante and CANANA. LondonMexFest runs from17-19 August at Rich Mix (020 7613 7498), London E1, www.shoreditchfringe.org

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