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‘Comala,’ ‘This is Not Berlin’ Win Big at Impulso Morelia

MORELIA — At Friday night’s closing ceremony for the Morelia Film festival, winners of this year’s Impulso Morelia, the Works in Progress section of the fest, handed out awards to a handful of projects screened from Wednesday through Friday.

This year’s Impulso Morelia jury consisted of Bafta Nominee and César winning filmmaker Nicolas Philibert (“To Be and to Have”); multi-award-winning writer-director Josué Méndez (“Días de Santiago”); and Mirsad Purivatra, founder and director of the Sarajevo Festival.

That jury selected the winner of the Morelia International Film Festival award, Gian Cassini’s autobiographical documentary “Comala.” The prize comes with a $200,000 pesos ($10,300), a cash prize to be used in the post-production of the film.

An industry audience was impressed by the film, especially its story – Cassini’s hunt to learn the truth about his family, particularly his father and half-brother who were victims of incredibly violent assassinations. The consensus seemed to be that there was still work to be done on the two-hour cut of the film to make it a bit shorter and clarify the narrative, but it’s work that will no doubt be easier with the additional funding.

Hari Sama’s “This is Not Berlin” was the only project to score two recognitions, scooping the Cinepolis Distribution award – a distribution guarantee with a P&A of no less than $250,000 pesos ($12,900 USD), the highest dollar value prize at the event – and a special mention from the Impulso jury.

The film is the coming-of-age tale lived by Sama as a teenager in 1986 Mexico City. “It’s very autobiographical, it’s my story,” he explained to Variety in Morelia. The film features an impressive international soundtrack and astonishingly detailed artwork collected and recreated by Sama and his crew. The most complete of any of the participating projects, audience reactions were overwhelmingly positive.

Herrero Garvín’s “La Mami,” an intimate look into a Mexico City brothel and the women who work there, had viewers laughing throughout its screening, and was awarded with the documentary-dedicated Ambulante Award $50,000 pesos ($2,580 USD) for post-production services.

“La Mami” goes behind the curtain at Mexico City’s Blue Beard bar and explores the stories of the women who are paid in tips to dance and drink there nightly, focusing primarily on Priscila – a single mother who is trying to pay for her son’s chemotherapy – and La Mami – a employee of more than 40 years who has worked as everything from a dancer, to a hostess to her current role in caring for the girls and their changing room.

Joshua Gil’s “Sanctorum” had a triumphant return to Impulso Morelia; in 2016 it won a Tribeca Film Institute grant here. In a small town drowning in violence between paramilitary troops and drug cartels which employ nearly the entire local population, mysticism and fatalism mix as the people of the village decide to stand up for themselves, facing almost certain death, while a small orphaned boy pleads with the forces of nature for his mother’s return.

The film scooped the Splendor Omina prize which covers sound mixing and color correction at the company’s facilities in Tepoztlán, Morelos. The prize is valued at $200,000 pesos ($10,300 USD).

Marcela Arteaga’s “The Guardian of Memory” nabbed the Churubusco Award, granted by the famed Mexico City studio, a post-production prize valued at $200,000 pesos ($10,300 USD).

The timely documentary turns on Carlos Spector, an El Paso Texas immigration lawyer who has dedicated himself to helping people in Mexico’s most dangerous areas receive political asylum in the U.S.

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