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Bringing Canadian Arts to Cervantino

In 2019, Canada was the guest country at the Festival Internacional Cervantino—one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world. From October 9 to 27, the festival showcased Canada’s vibrant and diverse arts sector on the stages and streets of Guanajuato, Mexico.

The Canada Council for the Arts was proud to support Canada’s participation as guest country at the 2019 Festival Internacional Cervantino in collaboration with its partners, Global Affairs Canada and the Embassy of Canada in Mexico.


Festival Internacional Cervantino

The Festival Internacional Cervantino is one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world. For three weeks every October, it takes over the city of Guanajuato, Mexico. The 2019 Festival Internacional Cervantino ran from October 9 to 27, with Canada featured as the guest country. Many of that year’s performances focussed on the 2019 theme, “Migrations.” Canada had also been featured at the 2002 Festival, as had Quebec at the 2009 Festival.

At a glance: Canada’s presence at the 2019 Festival Internacional Cervantino

Performing arts program from Canada

The 2019 Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC2019) program featured 17 inspiring music, dance and theatre shows by a diversity of artists from across Canada.

Film from Canada

In collaboration with Telefilm Canada, the FIC2019 featured nine provocative films exploring Indigenous and youth-based themes.

Canada House

The Canada House, a venue presented by the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, featured three weeks of immersive visual, literary and performing arts programming that deepened audiences’ experiences of Canadian arts and culture.

A Tribe Called Red featuring Lido Pimienta, FIC2019 Opening Event

October 9, 8:00 p.m. | Explanada de la Alhóndiga de Granaditas

A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) straddled a broad range of musical influences based in modern hip-hop, traditional powwow drums and vocals, blended with edgy electronic music production styles. ATCR opened the FIC2019 with a collaborative performance featuring Lido Pimienta, a Toronto-based, Colombian-born interdisciplinary musician and artist-curator.

A Tribe Called Red Photographer(s): Timothy Nguyen

Théâtre Motus, Ganou—Gàla, la traversée

October 18–20, 4:00 p.m. | Auditorio de Minas

Founded in 2001, Théâtre Motus creates shows that combine puppeteering, acting techniques, coloured shadow theatre and music, in order to give life to original creations for young audiences. Ganou—Gàla, la traversée is an international co-production that brings together a core group of creators from four countries on three continents. Together, they create an original play that brings together actors, puppeteers and musicians from each of the four countries involved in the creation, including both Canada and Mexico.

Theatre Motus Photographer(s): Robert Etcheverry

The Fretless, Genre Bending Strings

October 11, 12:00 p.m. | Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera

The Fretless is a Canadian fiddle foursome playing an essential part in the emerging movement mainstreaming traditional Irish folk music. Starting with their debut album in 2012, the band has steadily moved into the public eye, winning several awards for their recording.

The Fretless Photographer(s): Matthew Burditt

Quatuor Bozzini, Music from Canada

October 11, 5:00 p.m. | Pinacoteca del Templo de la Compañía

Since 1999, Quatuor Bozzini has been an original voice in new, experimental and classical music. They have commissioned over 200 pieces and presented more than 300 world premieres. Their skew is radically contemporary, propelling the hyper-creative foursome into the Montréal scene and beyond.

Quatuor Bozzini Photographer(s): Michael Slobodian

Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation

October 11, 8:00 p.m., and October 12, 12:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. | Auditorio del Estado, Centro de Convenciones Guanajuato

Founded in 1939, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet presents more than 50 performances every season and has performed in the United States, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Japan, Asia, Mexico—and every Canadian province. Going Home Star—Truth and Reconciliation explores the world of Annie, a young, urban First Nations woman adrift in a contemporary life. When she meets Gordon, a long-haired trickster disguised as a homeless man, she’s propelled into a world she’s always sensed but never seen. Together, Annie and Gordon learn that without truth, there is no reconciliation.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet Photographer(s): Samanta Katz

2b Theatre, When It Rains

October 11, 9:00 p.m. | Teatro Juárez

Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2b Theatre strives to stimulate the mind and awaken the spirit by producing theatre that is innovative and challenging. Their eclectic body of work includes a klezmer music-theatre hybrid and an elegiac duet for a violinist and storyteller. With a cast from Argentina, When It Rains is a play in the form of a live-action existential graphic novel, lit entirely by a video projector. This darkly funny, original work tells the story of two couples encountering improbable and unfortunate events—communications fracture, relationships crumble and behaviour becomes absurd.

2b Theatre Photographer(s): Nicolas Colledani

Snotty Nose Rez Kids

October 11, 10:00 p.m. | Los Pastitos

Snotty Nose Rez Kids (SNRK), of Toronto, are the combined talents of Yung Trybez and Young D, hailing from the Haisla Nation, “The People of the Snow.” Above all else, SNRK blends trap beats with woven lyricism that challenges Indigenous stereotypes. Their music is best described as thought-provoking club bangers.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids Photographer(s): Marc De Vinci

Elisapie Isaac, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl

October 11, 11:00 p.m. | Ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera – El Trasnoche

An ambassador for Inuit culture, Elisapie has designed a genuine work of art by intertwining pieces of her own intimate story: her birth, her family, her village, her exodus, her love of art and music, her insatiable curiosity towards others and her observations on the role of women in society. Her journey as a multifaceted artist and her life experience as an Inuk woman are two of the many narratives found in her concerts.

Elisapie Isaac Photographer(s): Le Pigeon

Nomadic Massive

October 12, 10:00 p.m. | Los Pastitos

Nomadic Massive is a unique, crowd-rocking, multilingual hip-hop crew based out of Montréal. Known for their explosive shows and sharp, socially conscious lyrics, the band has captivated audiences worldwide with their own mix of global beats, based on live instrumentation and the art of sampling.

Nomadic Massive Photographer(s): Evan Shay

Dancers of Damelahamid, Mînowin

October 14 and 15, 6:00 p.m. | Teatro Principal

The Dancers of Damelahamid is an Indigenous dance company from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. Their compelling performances celebrate the diversity and temporal depth of the many Indigenous cultures across Canada. Integrating narrative, movement, song, performance, and new multimedia design, Mînowin connects landscapes and coastal lines with contemporary perspectives of customary Indigenous dance forms. The Dancers of Damelahamid draw from traditional stories and explore ways to translate these perspectives through a contemporary lens.

Dancers of Damelahamid Photographer(s): Derek Dix

ILL-Abilities™ Crew, Dir. Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, Dis-Connect

October 16 and 17, 6:00 p.m. | Teatro Principal

Montréal-based ILL-ABILITIES is an international breakdance crew of eight dancers from around the world. It gets its name from the hip-hop culture standard of using a negative term to refer to something positive, where “bad,” “nasty” or “mean” are compliments. Today, ILL-ABILITIES spreads positive thinking by sharing their stories with motivational entertainment programs and theatrical dance performances worldwide.

ILL-Abilities™ Crew Photographer(s): George R. Mercado

Peggy Baker Dance Projects, who we are in the dark

October 19 and 20, 6:00 p.m. | Teatro Principal

Peggy Baker Dance Projects was dedicated to offering experiences of significance, personal connection, and transformative potential to audiences through the power and beauty of the art of dance. Established in Toronto, Canada, Peggy Baker Dance Projects was led by one of Canada’s foremost contemporary dance artists, Peggy Baker. who we are in the dark explored and illuminated shifting identities, betrayals, secrets and intimacies played out in the dark. The piece featured seven outstanding dancers and live music commissioned from violinist Sarah Neufeld and drummer Jeremy Gara, both from Grammy and JUNO Award-winning rock band Arcade Fire.

Peggy Baker Dance Projects Photographer(s): Jeremy Mimnagh

Music Picnic/Macau Experimental Theatre, Mr. Shi and His Lover

October 25 and 26, 6:00 p.m. | Teatro Principal

Music Picnic was founded by Toronto-based composer Njo Kong Kie to create and produce picnics—musical or otherwise. The company’s work is eclectic, joyful, whimsical, intimate, meditative, communal and, above all, delicious—key ingredients to a great picnicking experience. Macau Experimental Theatre (MEXP) is a non-profit theatre company founded in January 2008. Recently, the company has turned its focus to new writing and music theatre. Mr. Shi and His Lover is a musical drama that tells the story of a respected diplomat and a Chinese opera star who fall hopelessly in love, only to find themselves caught in a web of deceit and betrayal. When the opera star is revealed as a spy—and a man—the two must face the prospect of their mutual downfall.

Music Picnic/Macau Experimental Theatre Photographer(s): Kane Po Tsang Ho

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools

October 25 and October 26, 5:00 p.m. | Teatro Cervantes

Established in 1979, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is Toronto’s leading destination for artistically rigorous alternative theatre and a world leader in developing queer voices and stories for the stage. Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory is an Inuk artist based in Iqaluit. Laakkuluk’s foundational artistic practice is uaajeerneq, a part of her Greenlandic heritage. It is a performance that looks to unhinge inhibitions in an exploration of humour, humility, fear and sexuality. Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools is the meeting place of two powerful storytellers, and the North and South of a country. Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and queer theatre-maker Evalyn Parry give voice and body to the histories, culture and climate we’ve inherited, and ask how we reckon with these sharp tools.

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Photographer(s): Jeremy Mimnagh

Shawn Jobin

October 10, 10:00 p.m. | Los Pastitos

Shawn Jobin is a singer-songwriter and rapper. In May 2017, Jobin launched his album Elephant, which was named one of the 35 must-hear albums of mid-year 2017 by Ici Musique (Radio-Canada).

Shawn Jobin Photographer(s):  Kenton Doupe

Kaia Kater

October 10, 11:00 p.m. | Ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera – El Trasnoche

Kaia Kater is a Montréal-born Grenadian-Canadian singer-songwriter. Her 2016 release, Nine Pin, earned a Canadian Folk Music Award, sending her on an 18-month tour from Ireland to Iowa. Her new album, Grenades, explores themes of migration and belonging.

Kaia Kater Photographer(s): Raez Argulla

Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Kent Nagano, music director

Veronika Eberle, violin

Mozart, Violin Concerto no. 3 in G major, K. 216

Mahler, Symphony no. 5 in C-sharp minor

October 11, 8:00 p.m. | Explanada de la Alhóndiga de Granaditas

Since its founding in 1934, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) has distinguished itself as a leader in the orchestral life of Canada and Québec. A cultural ambassador of the highest order, the Orchestra has earned an enviable reputation internationally through the quality of its many recordings and tours. The OSM carries on that rich tradition under the leadership of music director Kent Nagano.

Antoine Saito
Photographer(s): Antoine Saito

Canadian Film

In collaboration with Telefilm Canada, the FIC2019 featured nine provocative films exploring Indigenous and youth-based themes. The films were screened at the Auditorio General de la Universidad de Guanajuato, at 7:00 p.m.


Angry Inuk

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2016 | Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Screening on October 25

Part exposé, part personal documentary, director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Hot Docs Audience Award-winning film investigates the global anti-sealing movement’s damaging impact on Inuit communities.

La disparition des lucioles

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2018 | Directed by Sebastien Pilote

Screening on October 21

La disparition des lucioles brings to life the trials and triumphs of Léonie (Karelle Tremblay), a teenager waiting to finish high school and escape her industrial town. The story is anchored by the strong friendship between Léo and her much older guitar teacher, Steve (Pierre-Luc Brillant), which defies expectations as it touches on the characters’ battling egos and negotiations of power.

Giant Little Ones

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2018 | Directed by Keith Behrman

Screening on October 14

Adolescents face enormous pressure to make life-defining decisions every day, and they want to lock in their identities sooner than later. All of this pressure is exacerbated by physical and social changes. Franky (Josh Wiggins), the hero of the film, is under more pressure than most when his father (Kyle MacLachlan) leaves his mother (Maria Bello) for a man, and his birthday party leads to an unexpected sexual encounter.

The Grizzlies

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2018 | Directed by Miranda de Pencier

Screening on October 23

Inuit youth in a small community gain a powerful sense of pride and purpose through the sport of lacrosse in The Grizzlies, a true-story account of tenacity, renewal and inspiring resilience.

Hello Destroyer

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2016 | Directed by Kevan Funk

Screening on October 17

A young hockey player deals with the consequences of hockey violence after he critically injures another player during a game.

Indian Horse

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2017 | Directed by Stephen Campanelli

Screening on October 15

Based on the novel by Ojibwe Canadian author Richard Wagamese, and with executive producer Clint Eastwood, this powerful film tells the story of Saul Indian Horse, from his survival of an Indigenous residential school to his rise as a sports star during a time of endemic racism.

Koneline: Our Land Beautiful

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2016 | Directed by Nettie Wild

Screening on October 20

An art film with politics, drama and humour, Koneline: Our Land Beautiful explores different ways of seeing—and being. A guide outfitter swims her horses across the vast Stikine River. The world’s biggest chopper flies 16,000-pound transmission towers over mountaintops.

Les Rois mongols

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2017 | Directed by Luc Picard

Screening on October 22

Montréal, October 1970. Twelve-year-old Manon’s family is on the verge of collapse; she and her little brother Mimi are about to be placed in foster care. Manon is incensed. Inspired by the current political crisis, she comes up with a plan and takes an old woman hostage to demand the right to choose her own future.

RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World

7:00 p.m. | Canada | 2017 | Directed by Catherine Bainbridge

Screening on October 16

A feature documentary about the role of Native Americans in popular music history, bringing to light a profound and missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence.

Canada House

Canada House offered more than 50 activities during the Festival Cervantino. It was also a rallying point in Guanajuato for artists, specialists, companies and festivalgoers. Canada House was an amazing place to experience Canada’s culture and exchange with an international audience. Its program was as rich as the 75 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Canada.

Program highlights

Artistic Dialogues

A special program of dialogues between artists and specialists from Mexico and Canada participating in the Festival.

Horacio Franco with Kaia Kater

October 10, 1:00 p.m. | Museo Iconográphico del Quijote

Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú with Dancers of Damelahamid

October 15, 12:00 p.m. | Casa Canadá

Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli (ILL-Abilities™ Crew) with Cine para imaginar – INGUDIS

October 17, 12:00 p.m. | Casa Canadá

A master class with John Ralston Saul

John Ralston Saul is an award-winning essayist and novelist. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, has received the Order of Ontario and is a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France.

October 11, 1:00 p.m. | Universidad de Guanajuato, auditorium

Literary activities

Canada House also included a series of literary activities in which Canadian and Mexican writers participated in dialogues, book presentations, workshops, etc.

Visual arts

The work of Canadian artists was exhibited on the ground floor of Canada House, featuring two interactive VR art installations: Unceded Territories, by Paisley Smith, and Biidaaban: First Light, by Lisa Jackson.