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BELIZE CITY, Belize – Mexican films and shorts dominated the winners of the 13th Belize Intl. Film Festival on Sunday in a brisk closing ceremony punctuated by pulsing reggae music performances by the likes of Ras Indio & Boss Lady, Ernestine Carballo and Jah Art.

The event was broadcast live on local television station, Channel 5.

“Guerrero,” Ludovic Bonleux’s harrowing documentary about the disappearance of 43 students and the protests that paralyzed the Mexican state, won best film in the festival’s Collective Memories section.

“You wouldn’t know it, but it’s a feel-good musical,” quipped juror Dan Mirvish, co-founder of Slamdance, who presented the award.

Mexican short films also beat out other contenders from the region with Toronto-based multihyphenate-juror Nicole Brooks – who showed off her prodigious dancing skills to kick off the event – giving out the best short prizes.

Mexican short “The Good Man” (“El Hombre Bueno”) by Jose Luis Solis, won the top prize. The 16-minute film turns on a man in a drought-stricken town who was told as a child that for rain to come, a good man must die.

Animated sci-fi-fantasy short “The Inksect” (“La Secta de Insectos”) by Mexico’s Pablo Calvillo, took home an honorable mention.

Dominican Republic docu “Jeffrey” by Yanillys Perez, won the Best Film prize in the Human Condition category, presented by juror Flavio Florencio, who reminded the audience that they should make films for themselves, not for Hollywood. “Jeffrey,” about a young boy’s aspirational struggle to change his dire circumstances through reggae, was first presented at the Panama Fest’s 2016 Primera Mirada pix-in-post showcase and later selected by Toronto.

Meanwhile, American-Belizean filmmaker Samantha Aldana, whose whimsical short “Melancholy Man’ preceded the opening night film, Abner Benaim’s “Ruben Blades is Not My Name,” received an Emerging Storytellers Feature Film Award for her upcoming debut feature, “Little Lying Wild.”

Reggae performer Ras Indio won the Best Music Video award, selected by juror Denise Williams, for his song “UNITY,” which he performed on Sunday. The closing ceremony was preceded by “Torch,” presented by director Christopher Coppola who shot the drama in Belize and the U.S.

In Belize to rep Final Draft, the leading screenwriting software program, Kala Guess gave out the coveted program to winners and to attendees of the screenwriting workshop she conducted along with Story Gardens producer Chris Pack, Florencio and Mirvish.

Greg Emerson, Post Production head of Warner Bros. Animation, addressed students earning an Associates of Arts degree in graphic design where he deconstructed the production process for them.

Florencio spoke at Belize City’s Gateway Youth Centre (an educational and recreational facility for at risk youth aged 13 years+) where he conducted theatrical exercises and chatted with the youth about their dreams and how to achieve them.

“We wanted to encourage young people to look at film as a career option,” said festival director Suzette Zayden. Aside from screening 31 films from 21 countries in four days, the festival sought to bring more awareness to environmental issues that affect the planet and daily lives. “We partnered with the World Wildlife Fund and Oceana in Belize to create a new non-competitive category called Green Globe, strictly for educational purposes,” Zayden noted.

The 13th BelizeIFF ran Nov. 8-11.

Pictured above, left to right: Juror Dan Mirvish, Juror Nicole Brooks, NICH president Sapna Budhrani, Festival director Suzette Zayden and Juror Flavio Florencio.

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NICH/ Jahmai Trapp