'Mariachi Gringo' Wins Big at Guadalajara Film Fest

2:40 PM PST 03/10/2012 by John Hecht
"Mariachi Gringo"

Tom Gustafson's musical drama beat out the favorites in a surprising awards ceremony outcome at the annual film festival.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Tom Gustafson's musical drama Mariachi Gringo pulled off a big upset on Saturday at the Guadalajara Film Festival, winning best Mexican picture here in the nation's mariachi capital. 

Many festival goers saw Rodrigo Pla's La Demora (The Delay) and Gabriel Marino's feature debut Un Mundo Secreto (A Secret World), both of which participated at the recent Berlin Film Festival, as favorites going in to Saturday's awards ceremony. 

But Mariachi Gringo, the sophomore film of New York-based director Gustafson (Were the World Mine), won not only best Mexican feature but also best actress for Martha Higareda. The story revolves around a gringo who moves to Guadalajara to learn how to play mariachi music. The film has no sales agent nor distribution deals in place.

Best Ibero-American picture, a category including feature films from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, went to Argentine director Milagros Mumenthaler's drama Abrir Puertas y Ventanas (Back to Stay), winner of best picture and director at the Mar de Plata Film Festival in Argentina. It's writer-director Mumenthaler's first work.

The Mexican thriller Dias de Gracias (Days of Grace), which premiered in Cannes last year, nabbed best director for first-timer Everardo Gout, while in the Ibero-American category it was Ecuador's Sebastian Cordero winning best helmer for the heist flick Pescador (Fisherman), which bowed in San Sebastian last year.

Espacio Interior (Internal Space), a true-life story about a kidnapping, walked away with two prizes: the Audience Award for Mexican features and best actor for Kuno Becker.

The International Federation of Film Critics gave the FIPRESCI Prize to Sundance winner Violeta Went to Heaven, a biopic from Chilean filmmaker Andres Wood

Top documentary honors went to Russian filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky for the Argentine co-production Long Live the Antipodes and Everardo Gonzalez's Cuates de Australia from Mexico.

This year's international guests at the 27th edition of the Guadalajara film fest included actors Andy Garcia, Matthew Modine and British filmmaker Mike Leigh. The weeklong festival wraps Saturday night. 

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