'Mezudot' tops San Luis Cine fest


BUENOS AIRES - The winners of the inaugural Festival Internacional San Luis Cine were announced Saturday in the provincial Argentine capital in the foothills of the Andes Mountains.

Israeli film "Meduzot" (Jellyfish) won top prize in the features category, taking home the Golden Puntano and US$50,000. The film, directed by Edgar Keret and Shira Geffen, focuses on the lives of three women in modern-day Tel-Aviv. "Mezudot" also won the Camera d'or prize in Cannes this year, the top award for first-time directors.

David Cronenberg was awarded best director for his latest crime thriller "Eastern Promises" starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. Steven Knight was also lauded
with top screenwriting honors for his script for the film about Russian mobsters in London.

Top acting props went to Cesar Troncoso for the Uruguayan film "El Bano del Papa" (The Pope's Toilet) and Germany's Maren Kroymann for "Verfolgt" (Hounded).

The jury created a new category "Best Opera Prima" and awarded it to Nadine Labaki for "Sukar Banat" (Caramel), which is Lebanon's official submission for the best foreign language film category for next year's Academy Awards.

Stefan Schwietert's "Heimatklange" (Echoes of Home) won the US$10,000 prize in the best documentary category and Argentina's Maria Antolini's took home $5,000 in the short category for "Gong."

The jury was headed by actress Geraldine Chaplin and included Oscar-winning Argentine set designer Eugenio Zanetti, Spanish actress Emma Suarez, Brazilian director Fabio Barreto, Russian actress Marina Kazankova, Ghassan Abu-Shakra of Lebanon's Ministry of Culture and Argentine director Eliseo Subiela.

Catherine Deneuve helped open the festival on Nov. 16th and received a lifetime achievement award. Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta ("Il Postino") will receive similar honors at Sunday's closing ceremony. Bille August's "Goodbye Bafano" starring Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert and Diane Kruger will close the festival out-of-competition.

Organizers were pleased with the inaugural edition of the festival and hope it will help San Luis attract more film productions from abroad. The tiny province (pop. 400,000) is already a top filmmaking destination in Argentina, thanks in large part to its Cinema Law which sets aside some $10 million annually to fund productions.

The second annual festival is slated to unspool from November 14-23, 2008.