Benjamin Avila's drama played in Iberoamerican competition

GUADALAJARA, Mexico

Helmer Benjamin Avila’s “Infancia clandestina” (Clandestine Childhood), a tale of lost innocence amid Argentina’s brutal dictatorship, took top honors in the Iberoamerican fiction section of the 28th Guadalajara Film Festival, which closed Saturday.

An Argentina-Spain-Brazil co-production, the pic was Argentina’s bid for the foreign language Oscar this year, having toured the major festivals. It’s sold by Pyramide Intl. and has been acquired for U.S. distribution by Film Movement.

Environmental conservation-themed “Xingu” took the special jury prize in the main fiction competish. Produced by Fernando Mereilles’ O2 Filmes, “Xingu” is from Cao Hamburger.

The Mezcal Prize, dedicated to Mexican entries, went to Jose Luis Valle’s social-themed “Workers,” which bowed in Berlin. The pic, the director’s first fiction effort, was an early favorite and drew near unanimous praise from critics, programmers and a slew of festgoers.

MPM Film is selling the pic, a production of Autentika Films, Zensky Cine, Imcine-Forprocine and CUEC-Mexico.

Best first work went to “Tanta agua” (So Much Water), a father-daughter coming-of-ager set during a rainy vacation in the Uruguayan countryside. Co-directed by Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge, the pic is a Uruguay-Mexico-Holland co-production run by Agustina Chiarino and Tania Zarak with Bonita Films, Topkapi Films and Komplizen Film. Alpha Violet is sales agent.

Ensemble comedy “Tercera llamada” (Final Call) came away with the public prize, having also won the press prize in a separate ceremony Friday. Pic is directed by Francisco Franco (“Burn the Bridges”) and produced by Laura Imperiale.

Pic grew buzz through the week and exhibited potential for healthy commercial appeal in Mexico plus fest pickups. The femme cast won a collective prize for top female performance in a film.

In the documentary category, the best film prize went to Chilean helmer Ignacio Aguero’s “El otro dia” (The Other Day), lensed inside the filmmaker’s house as the surrounding city of Santiago de Chile intercedes. Aguero also produced the pic, which was a Work in Progress at the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film (Bafici) last year.

The special jury prize in the section went to “Quebranto” (Disrupted), by producer-director Roberto Fiesco, about former child actor Francisco Garcia’s decision to become a woman.

Fiesco garnered two parallel awards on Friday — the press prize and the Maguey Prize in the fest’s GLBT competition.

The section had an increased profile in its second year thanks in large part to the work of its head, Pavel Cortes, who also sat on the Teddy jury this year.

The jury gave a special mention to the doc “Elena” from Spain’s Petra Costa, a lyrical study of the director’s older sister. Produced by Buena Vida Filmes, pic unspooled at SXSW on Sunday.

Best director went to Dario Nardi for “Las mariposas de Sadourni” (Sadourni’s Butterflies) from Argentina with co-production partners from the U.K. and Italy. Bold visual style and production helped generate buzz from critics for the project.

Several noteworthy Mexican films were not in competition, including “Inercia” (Inertia) by Isabel Munoz Cota Callejas. The pic comes out of the CCC film school in Mexico City, which has consistently produced a quality slate in recent years.

In the film, a happy encounter at a hospital with a former lover turns darker with his deteriorating condition. Film stars Flavio Medina and Marisela Penalosa.

Already confirmed for Bafici, Chilean Jose Manuel Sandoval’s “Soy mucho mejor que vos” (I Am Much Better Than You) world premed Friday to steady and hearty laughter. Pic is a continuation of helmer’s previous film “You Think You’re the Prettiest, But You Are the Sluttiest.” New pic is set for theatrical release in Chile in September.

Other buzzy Mexican entries shut out of the main competition include CCC-produced “Las lagrimas” (The Tears) from Cesar Yanez. Pic, which bowed at Morelia, has buzz and solid reviews with a strong performance from young thesp Gabriel Santoyo Navidad; and “Levantamuertos” (Death Strokes) from first-time director Miguel Nunez, who produced the film without government coin, a rarity today for Mexican films.

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