'Marimbas From Hell' Wins Morelia Fest's Top Prize

MEXICO CITY -- "Marimbas from Hell," a docu-fiction hybrid centering on the real-life story of a hapless Guatemalan musician, took home best picture Saturday at the 8th edition of the Morelia International Film Festival.

Written and directed by U.S.-born helmer Julio Hernandez Cordon, "Marimbas" revolves around the misfortunes of an unemployed marimba player and a glue-sniffing, wannabe manager who join a heavy metal rock band. The film features a cast of nonactors.

"I decided to use real musicians, with their actual problems, dreams and frustrations," said freshman filmmaker Hernandez Cordon.

"Marimbas" made its world premiere earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Los Angeles-based Figa Films handles sales for the Mexico-Guatemala-France co-production.

The audience award went to Alvaro Curiel's "Acorazado." The dramedy turns on a Mexican migrant who attempts to reach the U.S. on a makeshift boat, but a storm changes his course and he accidentally washes up on the shore of Cuba.

Also migration-themed, yet set in a small town in central Mexico, Marta Ferrer's "El Varal" nabbed best documentary. 

This year's festival shined as one of Morelia's most star-studded events ever. Among the guests on hand in the colonial town were directors Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Terry Gilliam, Quentin Tarantino, and actors Javier Bardem and Danny Trejo of "Machete" fame. 

During the weeklong festival, the Mexican Film Commission announced that it had approved tax rebates for the first three films to benefit from an upstart fiscal incentive program. 

Among the recipients are Icon Productions' "How I Spent my Summer Vacation," a prison drama starring Mel Gibson; the French adventure-comedy "Houba, le Marsupilami et l'orchidee de Chicxulub," featuring Gerard Depardieu; and the Mexican period piece "Cristiada," with Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria Parker. 

In a move to step up mid- to large-scale production in Mexico, the government announced the $20-million annual program in March, which allows for tax rebates of 7.5% on projects that exceed the amount of 70 million pesos ($5.7 million). Since a typical Mexican budget rarely exceeds $5 million, the measure clearly targets producers from abroad. 

The film fest opened on Oct. 16 with Gonzalez Inarritu's Mexico premiere of "Biutiful" and closed on Saturday with Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere."