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IDA Member Spotlight: Rodolfo Castillo-Morales

By Anisa Hosseinnezhad

Headshot Rodolfo Castillo Morales with arm tattoos and a black t-shirt with a green and white print

Headshot of Rodolfo Castillo-Morales.

Rodolfo Castillo-Morales is a Mexican filmmaker and programmer. He has participated in several fiction and documentary short films, video art installations, feature and documentary series, and has photographed documentaries with directors from Mexico, Spain, El Salvador and Serbia.

He was the programmer of DocsMX and co-creator of Plataforma MX in Mexico City. Today he’s the Programming Director of the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG) and the FICG Cinematheque as well as General Coordinator of DocuLab: Documentary Laboratory. Currently, he is preparing two documentary features as director, writer, and Cinematographer.


IDA: Please tell us a little about yourself and your profession or passion. When did you first start working in the documentary field?

My first big chance to join the documentary field was in 2009-2010. I was invited to work as DoP at LA MAROMA Producciones in Mexico City with Inti Cordera. They were also the team behind DocsMX and were in need of a translator and subtitler, and that’s how I first got involved in the festival world; the following year Pau Montagud and Inti invited me to join the programming team and here I am, 15 years later. Before that, I studied History and Cinema worked on advertisements, and made a few independent short films. I also worked as a courier, bartender, waiter, and dishwasher when I was younger.  

IDA: You wear many hats as a programmer, curator, filmmaker, and producer! How does your curatorial practice inform your filmmaking or vice versa?

It’s a two-way road, because I think that one of the best ways of becoming a filmmaker is by watching as many films as possible, and I’m privileged to have to watch thousands of films a year, read many projects, and be close to great filmmakers. And programming it’s a lot like editing, you have the pieces -the films-, which you ought to find a way to put them together and make them converse with each other in order to create a program or a curation that has an identity and sends a message, complementing each other, so in reality one side is always inspiring the other.

IDA: You are currently in post-production on your third feature film. Can you tell us a little about it?

It’s a collaboration between plastic artist-filmmaker César Aréchiga and me, which we had the very rare chance to film in the northern mountains in Jalisco, with the amazing Wixárika people; it’s a sensorial film, with very little dialogue focused on the ritual side, which rather than trying to tell a story, we wanted audiences to join the ritual and live it a bit as we did; we are also preparing a transmedia cinema version of the film with a live performance. 

IDA: You have been the director of Documentary programming at the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG) and FICG Cinematheque since 2019. What exciting changes have you seen in the field in the past five years?

The rise in young people interested in documentary cinema which are finding ways to tell stories in diverse, exciting and poignant ways. The technology has given a hand to democratizing access to technical tools that allow people to discover new narratives and points of views; in Latin America, we are now facing a new breed of documentarians who are erasing the limits with fiction films, that are working with transmedia, with social networks, and new narratives, but always with the social commitment, which is present and necessary in our region.  

IDA: You have served as a juror and judge for many film festivals and awards globally. What are some of the key elements you think filmmakers should keep in mind when submitting their works to festivals and industry events?

One of the main elements to submit a film to a festival is to get to know what sort of films that festival has programmed, the curatorial style in the latest years of such festival and understand as much as you can, whether your film will fit in the festival's style; of course, that isn’t always an exact science, but it a first step into finding good matches for your films. It also helps the monetary side, because it helps you submit less but, better. Get to know your film, the genre, the style the length, and the narrative, and try to find festivals that match with your film.

IDA: Do you have any advice for emerging filmmakers and curators in the field?

That you commit to your craft as much as you can, to watch tons of films, but also to read extensively, to listen to as much music as you can, to attend museums, to go out and walk around, and to talk to people, even if you don’t seem to have anything in common with them; our work it’s a representation of reality with a lot of imagination, so we must cultivate both the reality and the imagination. 

IDA: What is next for you? Are you working on anything you can share with us?

We have a new film in development that revolves around a city, its music, and its musicians and we are already working towards the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Guadalajra International Film Festival (FICG), coming in June 2025.