‘Nora’ wins big at Ariels Awards

Funeral dramedy nabs seven kudos including best pic

MEXICO CITY – Funeral dramedy “Five Days Without Nora” (Cinco dias sin Nora) was the big winner Tuesday night at the 52nd Ariels awards ceremony – Mexico’s Oscars equivalent – with seven wins including Best Film and Best Original Screenplay.

While first-time helmer Mariana Chenillo didn’t walk away with the top directing honor – going instead to “Backyard” (Traspatio) director Carlos Carrera – her first effort made a considerable splash, also picking up the top honors for First Work, Actor (Fernando Lujan), Supporting Actress (Angelina Pelaez), Original Score and Makeup. Pic took the 2008 audience prize in Morelia and has had some success on the festival circuit abroad.

“Crime of Father Amaro” helmer Carrera’s “Backyard” came in a strong second, winning Photography, Actress (Asur Zagada), Art Design and Sound.

The pic centered around violence against women in the border town of Juarez, ringing especially loud against grim, daily reports coming out in recent months and years, and spurring a number of presenters and winners to decry the ongoing bloodshed.

In the fiction feature department, only two other films placed. Both, like “Nora,” are first-time directorial outings.

Emilio Portes’ circus-themed comedy “Meet the Head of Juan Perez” (Conozca la cabeza de Juan Perez) took home four Ariels for Supporting Actor (Jose Sefami), Wardrobe, Visual Effects and Special Effects.

Tijuana migrant drama “Norteado” from Rigoberto Perezcano won Best Editing and was the only winner to emerge from hip Mexican shingle Mantarraya Films.

The annual kudofest put on by the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences honors only films that saw commercial release here the preceding year. The rule, though analogous to the U.S. Academy’s, is one of several under criticism for misrepresentation of Mexican film output as lagging domestic distribution often keeps films from release for years after they bow at festivals.

The criticism is only one of many that colored the evening with many noting considerable snubs for the nation’s top B.O. winners in 2009: “Otra pelicula de huevos y un pollo” (Another Egg Movie and a Chicken) and generational drama “El Estudiante” (The Student). The Academy has defended their nominations repeatedly.

In a plea for change, outgoing Academy President Pedro Armendariz used the podium to issue a call for the industry to make broad changes through a national film law, and presenter Carlos Cuaron – brother of Big 3-alum Alfonso – also spoke of “a year of change.”

In the doc category, little known “Flowers for the Soldier” – a historical study of a family’s connection to a U.S. soldier – won the top honor. Ironically, Juan Carlos Rulfo, director of migration study “Those Who Remain” (Los que se quedan), presented the award, despite “Remain” having won in Guadalajara and Los Angeles in 2009 and failing to win a nod from the Academy in the category.