Could Chile’s Pablo Larrain, director of Natalie Portman-starrer “Jackie,” snag Oscar nominations for two films this year? With Oscar buzz around Portman’s performance, Larrain’s “Neruda,” Chile’s submission for the foreign-language Academy Award, won the best picture award at Wednesday night’s 3rd Fenix Ibero-American Film Awards in Mexico City.
Open to recent movies from Latin America, Spain and Portugal which open theatrically or snag major festival prizes, the Fenix certainly serve as significant recognition for “Neruda,” which faced off in the best picture category with titles such as Kleber Mendoca’s “Aquarius,” a Cannes competition player, and Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan,” which won Trapero best director at Venice.
The plaudit will also serve notice to “Neruda’s” distributors. “Neruda,” which won four Fenix Awards in all, has sold nearly around the world but still has to open in most territories, said its sales agent, Peter Danner at Funny Balloons.
Released in the U.S. by The Orchard on Dec. 16, in one of its first pickups on a major foreign-language film, “Neruda” is a testimony to Larrain’s extraordinarily mental ability to juggle two major movies as he shot “Neruda over June to August 2015 then went on editing while filming “Jackie” from December 2015 to February 2016.
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A humor-laced chase movies which records the forging of Nobel winning poet Pablo Neruda’s political and literary legend as in 1946, he went on the run with the Chilean police, embodied by Gael Garcia Bernal in the film, “Neruda” is also a sign of Latin America’s filmmakers combining sometimes seering political analysis with artistic and often commercial ambition.
Whether Kleber Mendoca’s “Aquarius,” which won direction and best actress (Sonia Braga) and Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan,” a best actor winner for Guillermo Francella, or “Neon Bull,” from Brazil’s Gabriel Mascaro, which won best cinematography, the movies represent the most open and audience friendly of the filmmakers career, however recent in the case of Mendoca and Mascaro.
But they also offer damning testimony to recent Latin American history, whether the protection afforded a family of murderous kidnappers by the Argentine government under and after the country’s Dirty War (“The Clan”) or the impact of rampant property speculation on human lives (“Aquarius”)
The Fenix also offered two more triumphs: One is for Pernambuco and its capital Recife, where both Mendoca and Mascaro were born, and which provide settings for “Aquarius” and “Neon Bull.”
“Tempestad,” the second doc-feature by Tatiana Huezo, meanwhile scored not only best documentary but cinematography for a documentary and original score where it competed against fiction movies, a remarkable achievement.
One highlight of the 3rd Fenix Awards was the promised appearance at the ceremony of Kate del Castillo, who set up Sean Penn’s celebrated meeting with Mexican drug lord “Chapo” Guzman. She did appear, to give an exhibitor’s award to Patricia Riggen for the “The 33,” but only on video, not in person.
Alejandro Jodorowsky (“The Dance of Reality”) received a career achievement award Fenix, Spanish critic and film-writer Miguel Marias, a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, received Fenix for the body of his critical work.
3RD FENIX IBERO-AMERICAN FILM AWARDS
“Neruda,” (Pablo Larrain, Chile, France, Spain, Argentina)
Kleber Mendoça, (“Aquarius,” Brazil, France)
Sonia Braga, “Aquarius”
Guillermo Francella, (“The Clan,” Pablo Trapero, Argentina, Spain)
“Neon Bull” (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil, Uruguay, Netherlands)
Diego Garcia (“Neon Bull”)
“Neruda” (Herve Schneid)
“The Clan” (Vicente D’Elia, Leandro de Loredo)
Leonardo Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman (“Tempestad,” Tatiana Huezo, Mexico)
Muriel Parra (“Neruda”)
Estefania Larrain (“Neruda”)
Ernesto Pardo (“Tempestad”)