'Dust on the Tongue' Tops Cartagena Film Fest

"Dust on the Tongue"

Mark Grieco's "Marmato" wins documentary, Colombian section awards.

CARTAGENA – Colombian writer-director Ruben Mendoza’s rural drama Dust on the Tongue, an offbeat, intense piece about the younger generation’s revenge on a tyrannical, patriarchal grandfather, took the Best Film award in the form of an India Catalina statuette at the Cartagena de Indias Film Festival, which wrapped last Wednesday with a screening of John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo, starring Turturro alongside Woody Allen.

A jury consisting of Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski and film writers Wendy Mitchell and Jose Maria Riba also awarded Best Director to Alejandro Fernandez Almendras for his stark family murder drama, the Chile/France coproduction To Kill a Man. Fernando Bacilio repeated his Locarno award for Best Actor here for his performance as a judge uncovering how the Peruvian legal system really works in Diego Vega’s El Mudo. A Special Jury Mention was granted to Celina Murga’s thoughtful teenage drama The Third Side of the River.

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In the 100 percent Colombia competition, the winner was Mark Grieco’s Colombia/U.S. co-produced documentary Marmato, about the face-off between a Canadian multinational and a Colombian mountain community over the issue of open-pit mining. Marmato also took the audience award. The jury, made up of festival director Daniela Michel and film writers Alissa Simon and David Melo, also awarded its Best Director prize to Ruben Mendoza for Dust, while its Special Jury Prize went to Maria Gamboa’s Mateo, a drama about community solidarity in the face of local corruption, largely played by non-pros.

Cartagena’s highly regarded documentary section also awarded its top prize to Marmato, with Joaquim Pinto’s candid self-portrait What Now, Remind Me? receiving the Special Jury Prize. Best director in this section was for Justin Webster, whose I Will Be Killed unravels corruption and murder in Guatemala’s political and legal systems.

Roberto Fiesco’s short Statues (Mexico) took best film in that competition, with A Little More Than One Month by Andre Novais picking up a Special Jury Award and best director going to Manuel Camacho Bustillo for Blackout Chapter 4, A Call to Neverland.

High-profile guests this year at the Caribbean fest, Latin America’s longest-running, included Abbas Kiarostami, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Clive Owen and John Sayles, revealing the festival’s growing commitment not only to Latin American cinema but to international cinema in general.

Cartagena’s policy of offering free cinema entrance to the public continues to bear fruit, with festival director Monika Wagenberg revealing during the closing ceremony that 110,000 people attended screenings in 2014, a rise of 30 percent from the previous year.