THE BLOG
01/14/2011 04:44 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Acapulco International Film Festival: Something Not to Miss

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was one world-class resort in Mexico that everyone had heard of -- Acapulco, Mexico.

Back when Grandma was a little girl, when the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable were still in their prime, and John Wayne was still little more than a kid, movie stars would take a four-day cruise from Hollywood to the Mexican state of Guerrero, where they would encounter an astoundingly beautiful set of three bays surrounded by rolling hills. Back then Acapulco was the third most famous place in the country, after Mexico City and Tijuana. The rich and famous all wanted to go there and those who wanted to see the rich and famous did too.

But after a very long run as the top resort in the country, they began to have some competition. First came Cancun and Cozumel, then the rest of the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos at the southern tip of Baja California. To us Anglos, Acapulco began to lose its luster, and was becoming a bit of a has-been.

That didn't mean that place was fading away. Mexico City is only a few hours by car, and a tiny hop away by airplane. The Mexico City dwellers, or chilangos, find Acapulco to be an excellent place to get away for the weekend, and the hotels, which range in price from six bucks to two grand a night, are usually close to being filled up. But there is an off-season; the locals want to cut it short by having an international film festival.

The first Acapulco International Film Festival (not to be confused with the other one that ran briefly half a century ago) was only six years ago, about the time that the Black Film Festival moved to Miami, Florida. There's also a French Film Festival there in that's still going strong, and a search of the Internet reveals that there have been others over the years that have petered out.

This year's selection was a mix of Hollywood films such as The Social Network by David Fincher, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Tourist, and a large selection of the best of Mexican cinema.

While most of the screenings take place at the Cinépolis Galerías Diana Multiplex, in the newer part of town, there are a number of outdoor screenings at Ft. San Diego (which for most of the city's existence was Acapulco), and Caleta Beach, which is about as far west as you can get before the famous cliffs take over.

Right next to the luxurious by surprisingly inexpensive Boca Chica Hotel, Caleta Beach faces a tiny island, accessible by a bridge, which is home to some souvenir shops and a tiny theme park called Magic World. I'm not exactly sure whether they put the screen on the island or the Beach itself. I didn't find out about this until the screening, of a film called Vuelve a la Vida ("Come Back to Life"), documentary about a move star and her local taxi driver boyfriend, had already taken place.

Between the beach and the street behind, are dozens of restaurants, in which one can stuff one's face with some extraordinary seafood. They really know how to cook squid down there!

The Film Festival is mostly for the locals, as they know that they are most able to ignore the absolutely gorgeous scenery that surrounds them. Cancun has nothing on this place. From one side of the bay, the downtown looks like an improved version of Hong Kong, and from Downtown, the view of the cliffs is spectacular.

While I'm sorry I missed the festival itself, (my hosts forgot to tell me about it and had to discover it as a poster on a lamppost), the outdoor venues are perfect for an evening out watching movies under the stars.