Esparza's directorial debut is U.S., Spain co-pro
CANNESSpaniard Antonio Mendez Esparza’s emigration drama “Aqui y alla” won the 51st Critics’ Week top nod, the Nespresso Grand Prize. “Aqui,” Esparza’s feature debut, turns on a man who returns to his mountain village in Mexico after having lived in the U.S. for years and struggles to reclaim his place in society. Pic is produced by Aqui y Alli in Spain and Torch Films in the U.S. New French sales agent Alpha Violet is handling international sales. Pic was chosen by a jury of film critics, including Variety’s Robert Koehler, and headed by French helmer Bertrand Bonello. The new Visionary Prize, backed by pubcaster France 4, went to Bulgarian Ilian Metev’s “Sofia’s Last Ambulance,” a darkly-comedic documentary following three overworked paramedics in Sofia, a city of more than 2 million people where there are only a dozen ambulances. Repped by Berlin-based Films Boutique, doc sheds light on Burgaria’s crumbling medical system. It is produced by Sia, in association with Chaconna Films, Sutor Kolonko and Nukleus Film. The Visionary jury was headed by French director Celine Sciamma and was made up of young film critics. Israeli Meni Yaesh’s theological thriller. “God’s Neighbors.” won the nod of Gaul’s Society of Authors, Directors and Composers, decided by a jury of filmmakers that included Bertrand Tavernier. “Neighbors” is sold by Gaul’s Rezo, which will also distribute in France. The ACID/CCAS support for distribution was awarded to “The Wild Ones,” the directorial debut of Argentinean screenwriter Alejandro Fadel, who co-wrote Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant.” “Wild” is sold by Memento Films Intl.’s arthouse label, Artscope. A key platform for emerging talents, this year’s Critics’ Week was the first under new artistic director Charles Tesson. Only selecting first and second films, Critics’ Week has discovered numerous helmers, notably Olivier Assayas and Jeff Nichols, whose “Take Shelter” won last year’s Critics’ Week Grand Prize. Nichols presents “Mud” in Cannes competition on Saturday.