Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Appropriately for a festival that in part sets out to showcase new Mexican talent to the U.S. and Canada, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ feature debut “Güeros” – sold by Mundial, a joint venture of IM Global and Canana – won the top award at the 3rd Los Cabos Festival.
Presented by Diego Luna, the award was made at the Saturday’s closing gala ceremony where “Captive” star Rosario Dawson presented a tribute to Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan, calling him “evisceratingly smart.”
Ceremony segued into a gala screening of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” with Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater in attendance.
Gustavo Gamou’s “El regreso del muerto,” about the twilight years of a former hitman, received a special mention, as did Carlos Marques-Marcet’s “10,000 KM.”
Coming hard on the heels of a New Auteurs Audience Award at the AFI Fest Thursday, and following Berlin best first feature and San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos nods, the top Los Cabos plaudit consolidates “Gueros’” status as one of Latin America’s standout debuts of 2014.
Shot in black and white and in Academy ratio, “Gueros” follows three misfits – a rebel teen, his college slacker brother and larky best friend – as they cruise Mexico City, just as a massive students strike unspools nearby. While honoring Latin America cinema’s hallmark social issue tradition with its slice of Mexican City life tale, “Güeros” proves playfully inventive in its cinematography and soundtrack, recalling French New Wave movies for many critics.
Alonso Ruizpalacios, who is attached to direct “Museum,” a darkly comedic heist movie which was one of the standout at Los Cabos’ 1st Mexico-U.S.-Canada Co-production Forum, accepted the award on stage with leads Tenoch Huerta and Ilse Salas, who called “Gueros” “a song for youth.”
The closing prize ceremonies for the third Los Cabos Film Festival unspooled with an air of triumph tempered with outrage — triumph for pulling off a successful festival just two months after Hurricane Odile devastated the city of Cabo San Lucas, and anger at the fate of the 43 missing Mexican students.
Young documentary filmmaker Arturo Gonzalez Villasenor, who won the Mexico Prize for “All of Me,” called for the audience to remember the students by counting together aloud up to 43, while Luna also expressed solidarity for the cause.
“All of Me” profiles Las Patronas, a group of women in Veracruz who gather every day to cook and toss food to migrants riding La Bestia, a freight train bound for the U.S.
The chronicle of a rather more bizarre mission, Africa’s contribution to the space race, Frances Bodom’s “Afronauts” won the first Mexico-U.S.-Canada Co-production Forum and $30,000 in post production work from Carlos Reygadas’ Splendor Omnium Mantarraya services house outside Mexico City.
Jorge Hernandez’s “The Heirs,” a portrayal of thrill-seeking vacationing teens mixing sex, drugs and alcohol, which judged one of the most commercial bets in the films in post section, won Los Cabos’ Work in Progress. Another WIP title, Katrina Medina Mora’s troubled courtship drama “You’ll Know What To Do With Me,” produced by Mexico’s BH5 Group, took a $30,000 Fox + award.
A second Fox + cash prize, and a good guide to movies’ commercial potential, and this time for Mexico First, went to upscale supernatural suspense drama “The Incident,” from Isaac Ezban, one of Mexico’s young auteur genre stars.
Prize came in the firm of $30,000 for Latin American distribution rights.
As Los Cabos brought the curtain down on a vibrant third edition, multiple deals, one major, had still to be closed or announced at the fast-expanding Mexican fest. At least one prominent financier was circling two titles, a U.S. distributor another. Some 15-20 deals may have gone down or be unveiled by the time execs board planes tomorrow for L.A. and Canada.
Just three top deals, that were announced by Variety at Los Cabos:
* In an accord signed Saturday, Mark Kassen is set to direct the gangster comedy “Criminal Empire for Dummies,” with Kassen producing with Gremi Films’ Greg Hajdarowicz and Bo Cerba, and Cutting Edge Group’s James Gibb and Henry Boger. CAA, which represents Kassen, packaged the project and will rep domestic rights. Kassen is also represented by Stephen Clarke of Lichter Grossman.
* Monica Lozano, producer of milestone Mexican films – Eugenio Derbez’s “Instructions Not Included,” Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s “Amores Perros” – is launching Alebrije Distribution, which will distribute movies in Mexico, while acquiring North and Latin American rights to films.
* XYZ Films signed off at Los Cabos on Latin American rights to horror romance “Spring,” acquired by CineTren.
Meanwhile, the sales output deal between AG Studios and IM Global, announced the first Friday of the AFM, was the major industry talking point at the festival.
Championed by CAA’s Micah Green –who would like to grow Los Cabos as a venue for high-level finance meetings – and producer Alex Garcia, Los Cabos is already consolidating quickly as a key fixture for producers, financiers and distributors keen to explore the U.S.-Mexico-Canada axes.
“Los Cabos can become a regional market, a common bridge between, a region which is productions from L.A, the U.S., Canada and Mexico. That specific focus opens many doors,” said Alex Garcia.
“Everybody’s at Toronto and the AFM. We needs certain moments where we can have a regional dialogue,” he added.
That regional market vibrancy is driven by several factors. In a symptomatic deal announced at Los Cabos, Mexico’s Varios Lobos will co-produce “I’m No Longer Here,” set between Monterrey and New York, with New York’s Dodgeville Films, But it will be Varios Lobos, tapping into Mexican state incentives which will put up the majority of financing. Galvanized by Efecine tax coin, Mexico’s film industry is no longer a dirt-poor neighbor.
Also, as Mexico’s gears up for the launch of two broadcasters and pay TV grows rapidly, producers are rapidly acquiring rights for Mexico – think Lozano –practicing portfolio production to build catalog –Varios Lobos has six movies in development or production — and developing potential franchise properties, an AG Studios strategy.
Los Cabos market success will depend on the larger U.S.-Mexico-Canada market. The independent biz’s world market is increasingly challenge, but this edition showed that Los Cabos’ regional market is not.