GUADALAJARA – Mexican Nicolas Echeverria’s “Echo of the Mountain” and Argentine Matias Lucchesi’s “Natural Sciences” topped the 29th Guadalajara Festival on Saturday scooping respectively its Mezcal Prize and best picture, screenplay and actress in fest’s Ibero-American Competition.
The Mezcal Prize is awarded to best Mexican movie at Guadalajara.
Brazil also had a strong run with Fernando Coimbra’s “A Wolf at the Door” taking director in the Ibero-American section, Marcelo Gomes and Cao Guimaraes “Man of the Crowd” its special jury prize and cinematography (for Ivo Lopes Araujo), and Daniel Ribeiro’s “The Way He Looks” its audience award. Actor went to Gustavo Sanchez Parra for “Perpetual Sadness.”
In all, five of Guadalajara’s eight top prizes went to feature debuts, a sign of just how much a new generation of filmmakers is emerging with force in Latin America.
A talking point of the festival, “Echo” is produced by Michael Fitzgerald, whose credits include John Huston’s “Wise Blood” and “The Pledge” out of indignation that Santos de la Torre, the Huichol artist of a celebrated mural at the Palais Royal metro stop by the Louvre, was never invited to its opening ceremony, attended by Jacques Chirac and the then Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo. Nor was he paid for the mural. (De La Torre said at a press conference at Guadalajara that he has” forgiven” the non-payment; the non-invite “deeply hurt my soul,” he says in the film).
Memorably shot, “Echo” follows De la Torre around, as he mooches outside his mountain home – modest stone huts, sans water or light- on the spectacular Jalisco highlands, at a rented apartment in Zacatecas, buying crayons, on a pilgrimage, pointing out Cerro Quemado, a blackened hill on the horizon, part of the Huichol’s Wirikuta desert sacred lands, and a target for multinational mining companies.
Paced, with its intentions gradually emerging, “Echo” develops into a record of De la Torre’s preparation and creation of a new mural, to what looks like a powerful payoff given audience and jury reactions at Guadalajara.
Sold by UDI, written by Lucchesi and Gonzalo Solaya, and chronicling a young girl’s journey to find her estranged father, accompanied by her school mistress, “Natural Sciences” two femme leads, Paula Hertzog and Paola Barrientos, shared best actress.
“Sciences’” triple win is particularly impressive in an Ibero-American Competition where it duked it out with kudos-laden entries such as Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ Sundance winner “To Kill A Man,” “Wolf at the Door” and David Trueba’s Goya and Palm Springs winner “Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed.”
Lucchesi’s feature debut already won Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post Primer Corte in December, then the Berlinale’s Generation KPlus competition last February.
An unfolding abduction drama and reflection on the inscrutability of actions, Coimbra’s “Wolf at the Door” director win marks the seventh trophy in five festivals for the Mundial-sold title. Praised by Guadalajara’s Ibero-American jury for its “surgeon’s precision,” and already winning San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos, Rio, Havana Miami, and now Guadalajara, ”Wolf” establishes Coimbra as one of Brazil’s talents to definitely track.
The Audience Award for “The Way He Looks,” about a blind teenager’s first (gay) love, adds to the Berlinale Teddy and Panorama Fipresci plaudits for the Films Boutique-sold title.
“Man of the Crowd’s” double win reps recognition for a stylistically bold film, about loneliness in the big city, set against the alienating cityscapes of Belo Horizonte, where d.p. Lopes Araujo lenses in a box format, practically proscribing intimate two-people-framing, captures characters in mid-to-long shots, lost in milling crowds or dwarfed by Belo Horizonte big city architecture.
Winning Best First Film, American John Damian Harper’s Oaxaca-set emigration drama-thriller “Los Angeles,’” 80% spoken in Zapoteco, received one of the strongest applauses at the press conference.
“You can see foreign filmmakers making films in Mexico and Mexicans, like Dana Rotberg, making films abroad. Borders are being crossed more and more,” Trujillo said.
Introducing the Mezcal Award winner, Guadalajara Festival Ivan Trujillo took pains to stress that “Echo of the Mountain” won out after tying in votes from a 29 film student jury with another non-fiction work: “The Dance of Memory,” – a reportedly mesmerizing docu-essay on the mysteries of memory, a first feature for both director Gabriela Dominguez Ruvalcaba and producer Erika Mercado – and Jorge Perez Solano’s fiction feature “Perpetual Sadness,” about two woman forced to abandon their children.
Among this edition highlights for Trujillo was the attendance of a delegation from Quebec, the fest’s guest country.
For Trujillo, “The films had a great reception and the meeting between Quebec and Mexico filmmakers looks set to generate some common projects.”
Other highlights: The visit, with a tribute and retrospective, of Irish director Jim Sheridan – “It was marvelous how he really showed a deep interest for Mexico” – and the return of vet Mexican helmer Dana Rotberg with a new film, “White Lies,” made out of her adopted country, New Zealand.
Once Mexico’s uncontested preeminent film fest, Guadalajara now faces stiff competition from Morelia, newcomer Los Cabos, even up-and-coming Riviera Maya and Guanajuato.
This year, Guadalajara raised its Mezcal Prize money to 500,000 pesos ($37,000).
Many fest fundamentals are on an upturn: Admissions, up 7% to 111,000; budget, hiking 15% to $3.6 million. At 763, 39% more industry delegates attended; sponsorship money spiked 136% to $1.7 million, prize money 37% to $126,000.
Such numbers will be the envy of many festivals in Europe. Italy will be 2015’s guest country. Fest will run March 6-14.
Emilio Mayorga contributed to this article
2014 GUADALAJARA FESTIVAL AWARDS
And the winners are:
MEZCAL PRIZE, BEST MEXICAN PICTURE
“Echo of the Mountain,” (Nicolas Echeverria)
BEST IBERO-AMERICAN PICTURE
“Natural Sciences,” (Mattias Lucchesi, Argentina)
Fernando Coimbra, (“A Wolf at the Door,” Brazil)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, IBERO-AMERICAN FICTION FEATURE
“The Man of the Crowd,” (Marcelo Gomes, Cao Guimaraes, Brazil)
AUDIENCE AWARD, BEST IBERO-AMERICAN FICTION FEATURE
“The Way He Looks,” (Daniel Ribeiro, Brazil)
BEST FIRST FILM
“Los Angeles,” (Damian John Harper, Mexico, Germany)
Gustavo Sanchez Parra, (“La tirisia, Mexico”)
Paula Hertzog, Paola Barrientos (“Natural Sciences,” Argentina, France)
Matias Lucchesi, Gonzalo Salaya (“Natural Sciences”)
BEST IBERO-AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY
“La ultima estacion,” (Catalina Vergara, Cristian Solo, Chile)
DOCUMENTARY JURY SPECIAL PRIZE
“Echo of the Mountain”
Gabriela Fernandez (“Cantinflas,” Mexico)
WARRIOR PRIZE. DOCUMENTARY
“Echo of the Mountain,”
PRESS WARRIOR PRIZE, FICTION FEATURE
“Open Cage,” (Maz Zunino, Mexico)
“Natural Sciences,” Matias Lucchesi (Argentina, France)
“The Hours With You,” (Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, “Mexico)
“Rodencia and the Princess,” (David Bisbano Argentina, Peru)