Dark horse drama wins Morelia fest


MORELIA, Mexico – "Donde estan sus Historias?" (Where are their Stories?), a drama shot on a shoestring budget, won best picture at the fifth edition of the Morelia International Film Festival, pulling off what many considered a major upset.

Critics attending the festival saw Nicolas Pereda's first feature as a dark horse going into Saturday evening's awards ceremony in Morelia.

Some were comparing his minimalist approach to the filmmaking style of award-winning Mexican director Carlos Reygadas.

The En Chinga Films $23,000-production, low budget even by Mexican standards, is likely to play mostly to art house crowds should it land a distribution deal. The story centers on a farmer who sets out on a journey to Mexico City to seek justice after his uncles threaten to
sell his grandmother's land.

"Historias" faced strong competition in a field of six features in the official selection.

Much to the surprise of many, it beat out Rodrigo Pla's drama "La Zona" (The Zone), which recently won the FIPRESCI International Critics' Award at the Toronto film fest and also grabbed a prize at this year's edition of the Venice Film Festival.

Other contenders generating much buzz were musical "Cumbia Callera" and drama "Cochochi," which is produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna's shingle Canana Films.

"Historias" executive producer Juan Aura acknowledged he "was shocked that such a small film came up so big."

The audience award went to Francisco Franco's coming-of-age drama "Quemar las Naves" (Burn the Bridges). Gussi Artecinema is handling theatrical distribution for "Quemar" in Mexico.

Lucia Gaja's "Mi Vida Dentro" (My Life Inside), which tells the story of a Mexican immigrant who is serving time in a Texas prison for a murder she apparently did not commit, got the nod for best documentary.

Three pictures, "Fenix," "Peces Platano," and "La Caja de Yamasaki," shared top honors for best short.

In just five years, Morelia has established itself as one of Mexico's most important movie showcases. This year's edition drew such guests as Stephen Frears, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Bertrand Tavernier, Arthur Penn, Gael Garcia Bernal and many important industry players from Latin America.

Tribeca director Peter Scarlet and Sundance programmer Trevor Groth formed part of the feature jury.

Mexican president Felipe Calderon attended the festival's inauguration, vowing to step up government support for the nation's film industry.