'Dia,' 'Asalto' win kudos at San Sebastian

SAN SEBASTIAN — Two films from little-known young Mexican helmers — Bernardo Arellano’s “Entre la noche y el dia” and Iria Gomez Concheiro’s “Asalto al cine” — swept the top honors at a hard-fought Films in Progress showcase at the San Sebastian Film Festival Wednesday night.

With the debut from another Mexican helmer, Kyzza Terrazas’ “El lenguaje de los machetes,” also screening well, the event turned into a tribute to the seemingly bottomless well of new directors coming on tap from Mexico.

The jewel in the festival’s industry crown, Films in Progress showcases Latin American pics in roughcut.

Of this year’s seven-film lineup, playing to an audience including programmers from Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin, Tribeca and Cannes festivals, the consensus was that around half or more of the pics could net major fest berths or sales agents deals.

Industry attendees also included leading sales companies Wild Bunch, Elle Driver, MK2, Rezo, Funny Balloons, Ondamax and Latido.

Stylishly lensed, “Dia” won FIP’s main Industry Award, ensuring post-production costs through to a 35 mm English-subtitled print.

Tracing the emotional odyssey of an ostracized autistic man, who finally finds solace in nature, “Dia” was defined by as “a poetically-spirited song of hope.”

“In many Mexican films, content dominates characters. Here, that’s not the case,” he added.

Produced by Roberto Fiesco’s Mil Nubes Cine, a Mexico City new director powerhouse, “Asalto” won FIP’s Casa de America Award, which carries a Euros10,000 ($12,700) cash prize for post-production.

It was rated as one of the section’s most commercial propositions, with several sales agents circling the title in San Sebastian.

In a typical turn for new Latin American films, “Asalto” still sports social issue credentials in its portrayal of a bunch of young friends in a soulless Mexico City hood, but mixes that with genre, here a slow-burning heist plot. As the heist kicks into gear, their friendship falls apart.

A second portrayal of disaffected Mexican youth, and obvious festival fare — it would be easy to imagine it playing Cannes Critics’ Week, for example — “Machetes” is far edgier, chronicling the downward spiral of a self-destructive but feckless political activist and his Goth singer g.f.

Co-produced by Canana, “Machetes” was shot in sustained, face-hugging close ups to emphasize the claustrophobia of the couple’s relationship, said Terrazas, Gael Garcia Bernal’s co-screenwriter on “Deficit.”

Colombia also made a strong showing at FIP. “Karen llora en un bus,” Gabriel Rojas Vera’s feature debut, proved a straight-arrow woman’s film of a housewife striking out on her own after nixing a dead-end marriage.

“Todos tus muertos,” the sophomore outing of Carlos Moreno, who debuted with the “Reservoir Dogs”-ish “Dog Eat Dog,” played to FIP’s largest turnout.

Pic kicks in social realist style with a farmer discovering a mass of corpses on his land.

Building in absurdist comedy, “Muertos” ends as a damning attack on general indifference — from the media and society at large — toward still continuing massacres and mass deaths in Colombia.

“In newscasts, reports are mixed with items on sport or soccer and nobody really seems to care if these people are dead or not,” said its producer, Diego F. Ramirez at 64ยช Films.

FIP ran Sept. 21-22.

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