Zhou’s ‘Ermo’ rated best at Cancun fest

Befitting the harsh recession, the fourth Cancun Film Festival – which wrapped Dec. 2 – was an austere affair.

But for Mexico’s own Salma Hayek, who was on the jury, there was a no-show among Hollywood stars; auds saw a dozen fewer films than last year and a proposed film market never materialized. Even the weather was gray.

Many national exhibitors and distributors declined to make the trip to the Caribbean resort, and those who did found little to keep them busy. Yet fest president Jean-Pierre Leleu said at the closing ceremony that, despite the current economic adversity, the event would return next year.

At least one production company had cause for celebration. Televisa’s film wing, Televicine, since 1978 a producer of bargain-basement, low-brow comedies and actioners, finally came of age.

Two of the three films Televicine screened gained prizes, and each drew at least a measure of praise. A fourth Televicine pic, Carlos Carrera’s “Sin Remitente,” nabbed three prizes at the previous week’s Nantes festival in France.

Best picture at Cancun was Chinese film “Ermo,” by Zhou Xiaowen, which uses the tale of a village woman’s fascination with a TV set to survey changes in Chinese society. Pic’s leading thesp Alia picked up best actress.

San Sebastian fest director Diego Galan led the jury, which also included U.S. helmer Betty Kaplan (“Of Love & Shadows”), French director Jose Giovanni, and Mexican critic and film historian Emilio Garcia Riera.

The fest’s official prizes:

* Golden Maya Jaguar for best film: “Ermo” (Zhou, China).

* Special Jury Prize: “Clockers” (Spike Lee, U.S.).

* Director: Hans Petter Moland (“Kjaerlighetens Kjotere” (Zero Degrees Kelvin), Norway).

* Actor: Alain Chabat (“Gazon Maudit” (French Twist), France).

* Actress: Alia (“Ermo,” Chinese).

* Screenplay: Anna Pavignano, Michael Radford, Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli, Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino” (The Postman), Italy).

* Photography: Carlos Marcovich (“Salon Mexico,” Mexico).

* Press award for best Mexican film: “Entre Villa y una Mujer Desnuda” (Between a Villa and a Named Woman), by Sabina Berman.

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