Mar Del Plata Film Festival, and the winner is…..

by Rob Sykes, contributing blogger

Still from Octubre, winner at Mar del Plata Film Festival

It was a week-long gorge on cutting edge cinema from around the globe at the 2010 Mar del Plata International Film Festival. Whilst opinions were no doubt banded around, divided and reconciled at various times during the week, the real prizes were handed out at Sunday’s glitzy closing ceremony.

Jerzy Skolimowski’s, Essential Killing scooped the best film award. The Polish political thriller also brought home the best actor award for Vincent Gallo’s leading role. Continuing in Eastern Europe, Alexei Fedorchenko claimed the best director gong for Silent Souls, the same film seeing Denis Osokin awarded for his script.

Closer to home, the Vega brothers (Daniel and Diego), took home best Latin American film for their Peruvian, Venezuelan and Spanish backed Octubre, set during Lima’s ‘Lord of Miracles’ celebrations. Argentinean director Lucas Blanco also received a special mention in the same category for his film Amor en Transito, whilst in the shorts section, Gabriel Gauchet was rewarded for his work on Efecto Domino. Meanwhile in the national category, Tamae Garateguy took the prize for her look at Villa (slum) life in Pompeya, and León Tannchen took the shorts prize for Pies.

The double award for Silent Souls is one that will please many fans of more unusual story telling. The film makes use of long-held static shots to portray the aftermath of the death of a woman from the Merja community in central Russia. According to the film, ritual dictates that the sexual allure of the deceased should be discussed amongst all men who knew her thus within her community, which in this case, happens to be her widowed husband and his best friend. These inevitably peculiar conversations are carried out without Osokin’s script ever heading down the road of the clichéd dramatic stand-off. As such we’re left with a moody, atmospheric picture.

Another award to have got many talking was that given to the Vega brothers of Peru. Their portrayal of a money lender, who quantifies inter-personal relationships through debt and recovery, uses Religious symbolism within desperate situations to provide a fresh and interesting vision of Lima. Perhaps, in the Vega brothers, we have a powerful new voice in Latin American cinema?

Of course there were many more winners over the space of the week. For example in the ‘unofficial’ awards, i.e. those brought to us by third parties, both Illusions Studios and Matanza Cine SRL were recognised for their work in Argentinean cinema. Furthermore, perhaps the real winners were those lucky enough to take in some of the marvelously diverse productions on display. From deathly events in Eastern Europe to wishing for miracles in the Andes, to all too up-close looks at inner-city life, a veritable feast was there for all to savour. So here’s to next year, when perhaps we’ll see more of this year’s winner of the work in progress award; Hernan Belon’s El Campo.

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