Eugenio Derbez, Quentin Tarantino come to

Quentin Tarantino, Eugenio Derbez, Alfonso Cuaron notables at Mexican event

MORELIA, MEXICO – Jose Luis Valle’s knockout debut “Workers” took top honors at Morelia Saturday, beating out a brutal competition that included entries like “La Jaula de Oro” (The Golden Cage) from Diego Quemada-Diaz and Fernando Eimbcke’s “Club Sandwich” in what is doubtlessly the strongest lineup ever presented at the 11-year-old fest.

Nuria Ibanez took top docu for “The Naked Room” (El cuarto desnudo), a haunting exploration of mental illness in children, with a special mention for Adrian Ortiz Maciel’s public-housing shoegazer “Elevator” (Elevador). Morelia, which just opened up its competish to beyond second-filmmakers, nevertheless lauded “La Jaula” for its first-ever award for best work by a first or second filmmaker, despite the presence of “Workers” – by any definition being a first or second work – in some ways a testament to how tough a choice the jury must have had.

The week has been chock-a-block with surprise celeb shows like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Paz Vega and Robert Rodriguez atop the programmed attendees that included Alfonso Cuaron, Eugenio Derbez, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Edward James Olmos, so much so that the colonial berg has fallen into a swoon, mirrored by an upswing in industry love coming from the recent string of local B.O. successes like Derbez’s “Instructions Not Included” that has U.S. industryites paying attention.

While the fest doesn’t have a best helmer category, the fest lauded Aaron Fernandez anyway with an honorable mention for direction of his lyrical “The Empty Hours” (Las Horas Muertas), one of a number of coming-of-agers competing this year that include Eimbcke’s “Sandwich.”

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