By Chris Sands Vía Baja.com
The 1st Annual Baja International Film Festival ended on a high note, with visiting stars walking the red carpet, awards handed out to the best films in each category, and dignitaries lauding the unqualified success of the inaugural event. "Thanks to you the festival has surpassed all our expectations," said co-founder and Los Cabos businessman Eduardo Sanchez Navarro, speaking to several hundred filmmakers, sponsors, and local leaders at the gala awards dinner. "We'd like to thank all of our sponsors, large and small."
Eduardo Sánchez Navarro of Grupo Questro & Developer of Puerto Los Cabos spearheaded efforts to bring the festival to Los Cabos. Photo by Camilla Fuchs.
Co-founders Sean and Scott Cross, who started the Vail Film Festival and served as artistic directors for this year's Baja foray, voiced similar sentiments. "We'd like to thank all the filmmakers from Mexico City, Los Angeles, and beyond."
Gael Garcia Bernal, star of the Pablo Lorrain film 'No', that is being touted as an Oscar contender. Photo by Camilla Fuchs.
The closing film was No, a period piece from director Pablo Lorrain about the efforts of a Chilean advertising executive to swing a referendum on dictator Augusto Pinochet. Set in 1988, the film starred Gael Garcia Bernal, and was later honored as the winner of the International Narrative Features Competition.
Yuban, Yaasib Vasquez' study of a Zapotec community in transition, was named top Mexican short film, with director Juan Pablo Zaramella's Luminaris taking the top slot in the International Short Competition. Two films, El Alcalde and La Revolucion de la Alcatraces split the vote in the Mexican Documentary Competition, and the International doc prize went to First Position, Beth Kargman's heart warming story about a year in the life of six young aspiring ballet dancers. The Mexican Special Narrative Presentation went to Hecho en Mexico, the musical feature showcased at Thursday's outdoor screening at the Wirikuta Cactus Garden in Puerto Los Cabos.
Actress Virginia Madsen at the Baja International Film Festival. Photo by Chris + Lynn
In addition to the awards categories, several individuals were honored. Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, Diego Luna, Virginia Madsen, and Edward Norton were given awards for their achievements in acting, and Michael Apted was singled out for his directorial contributions. Honoree and Advisory Board Member Edward Norton drew a huge round of applause when he said of Los Cabos, "It's clearly the place Mexico should have a film festival." No one seemed inclined to disagree with Norton's assessment, and the cinematic extravaganza, along with June's G-20 summit of world leaders, has seemingly cemented Los Cabos' reputation as an area capable of pulling off major international events, with all signs pointing to a return of the festival next year.
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