Arellano, DuRant Snag Gabriel Figueroa Post-prod

Development awards highlight eight Mexican directors to watch

BAJA FEST, LOS CABOS – New films by a roll-call of young, on-the-rise Mexican helmers – Bernardo Arellano, Elise DuRant, Yulene Olaizola, Ruben Imaz, Tatiana Huezo, Jose Luis Valle, Gabriel Marino, Pablo Delgado Sanchez, Yolanda Cruz, Alejandra Marquez,  – proved first recipients of Mexico’s Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund awards.

The grants were the first prizes to go down at the 2nd Baja Intl. Film Festival (BIFF) in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, which operates the new fund.

Baja’s official selection prizes and Work in Progress Awards will be unveiled Saturday.

Awarded to seven projects in development and two in post-production, the funding is modest for pics in development, $5,000 per movie for seven titles, weightier for two post-prod awards: $51, 620 in post-prod services at Latin American lab Labodigital

Plaudits certainly serve to highlight new endeavors from directors who have often bowed to acclaim and multiple prizes since mid-last-decade.

Post-production plaudits went to Bernardo Arellano’s “The Beginning of Time” and Elise DuRant’s “Eden.” First attracting industry attention when he won 2010’s San Sebastian’s Films in Progress with “Between Night and Day,” Arellano’s “Time” was presented in an early edit – the rought-cut lasted two hours – at WIP Mexico.

Set up at April Shannon’s Agrupacion Caramelo Cinematografico, “Time” is an equally singular proposition, a chronicle of a frail ninety-year-old couple- the husband shuffle-walks slowly –  shot in caring detail by Arellano’s handheld camera which dwells on hands, clothes, blankets, who are forced back to work, peddling tamales at a street-stall when the Mexican government suspends state pensions.

The feature deb of Elise DuRant, an assistant editor on four Woody Allen films, “Eden” also unspooled in Work in Progress Mexico proving a heartfelt, autobiographical tale about a young New York women who returns to her home village in Mexico to confront the man responsable for her father’s flight from Mexico 25 years before. Pic looks set for an early 2014 fest berth.

Of development grant winners, top Mexican shingle Canana announced at Baja that it produce “La Raya,” the fiction feature debut of Native Mexican docu filmmaker Yolanda Cruz, an indigenous community dramedy which was put through the Sundance Institute’s Workshop for Production, Writing and Directors.

OLaizola has helmed three fest-fave features straddling fiction and documentary (“Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies,” “Artificial Paradises” and “Fogo”). With Ruben Imaz (“The Tortoise Family”) she will now direct “Epitaph,” about three Spanish conquistadores dispatched by Hernan Cortes to summit Popocatepetl, an active volcano, in search of sulfur.

Grafting fiction and docu tropes, and plunging characters into the world of nature, “Epitaph” will shoot with a small crew in February on Mexico’s dormant Pico de Orizaba for August delivery, its producer, Pablo Zimbron, said at Baja.

Marino whose debut, Berlinale Generation 14 Plus player “A Secret World,” was acquired by Shoreline Entertainment, won a development grant for intimist post-Apocalypse tale “Irekani,” as did Pablo Delgado Sanchez (“The Tears”), with “Lisbon,” an older woman-young student relationship drama, which has been invited to apply for Cannes’ Cinefondation Residence.

Backed by Nicolas Celis at Mexico’s Pimienta Films and U.S. producer Jim Stark, Huezo’s “Tempest”, a docu-feature, tracks the bus journey from Mexico’s north to south of a woman, who was unjustly imprisoned in a maximum security facility.

Huezo’s follow-up to docu-feature debut “The Tiniest Place,” which won Palm Springs 2012 John Schlesinger Award and garnered glowing reviews – Variety called it “sublime” –  “Tempest” portrays “people that refuse to live with the fear that violence and impunity generate in Mexico,” Huezo said.

A big-scale El Salvador-set abduction thriller, “Operation Baby” is the third fiction feature from Valle, whose “Workers” topped October’s Morelia Fest and won best local pic at March’s Guadalajara Festival.

Development awards were rounded up by Alejandra Marquez’s beachside-set family drama “Holy Days,” also produced by Celis and Stark.

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