Documentaries swept the awards at the18th Guadalajara Mexican Film Showcase which ended March 27th, reflecting the sorry state of fiction feature filmmaking in Mexico last year.

Best Picture winners (ex aqueo) Marcela Arteaga's Recuerdos and Mercedes Moncada's La Pasion De Maria Elena split a cash prize of $9,300 (100,000 pesos). Coincidentally, both documentary directors are female.

This is the second year running that a documentary has nabbed the best picture prize. Last year, Juan Carlos Martin's ode to renowned Mexican muralist, Gabriel Orozco, won the top prize although it has yet to be released in Mexico.

Another documentary, Everardo Gonzalez' La Cancion Del Pulque, won best editing and cinematography. The OCIC (International Catholic Organisation of Cinema) also opted for non fiction entries, giving its best picture award to Recuerdos and La Cancion Del Pulque.

Critics body, FIPRESCI, chose Recuerdos for its top prize among Mexican films and Spain's fiction drama Poniente from the Iberoamerican official section.

Festival director Kenya Marquez announced that the festival will start a documentary section next year, given the growing numbers of non fiction productions. Guadalajara 2004 is slated for March 19 to 25.

Among the fiction feature films, gay drama Mil Nubes De Paz Cercan El Cielo by Julian Hernandez, received Best Sound and Best Director honours for Hernandez who also took home a cash prize of $9,300 (100,000 pesos).

Argentina's El Bonaerense by Pablo Trapero won the Best Picture and Best Director in the Iberomamerican official section, beating strong contenders led by City Of God, Historias Minimas, Como El Gato Y El Raton, Lugares Comunes, Nada+ and Los Lunes Al Sol.

Not surprisingly, given the buzz at its packed festival screenings, Columbia Tristar Mexico's first local co production Sin Ton Ni Sonia won audience prizes from the festival as well as from local newspaper Millenio, a good sign that this may be another blockbuster jackpot for the company after its rousing success with El Crimen Del Padre Amaro, the highest grossing Mexican film to date.

The directorial debut of Carlos Sama, Sin Ton Ni Sonia , follows the amorous adventures of two couples while a serial killer is on the loose. Columbia TriStar and joint venture partner BVI plan to release it on June 6th on around 300 prints, a high number for a local film.

In the Iberoamerican section, Fernando Meirelles' acclaimed City Of God took the Audience prize.

Carlos Reygadas' Japon won Best screenplay and art direction. Best acting prizes went to Katy Jurado for her last performance before her demise in Un Secreto De Esperanza and Damian Alcazar for his role in El Crimen Del Padre Amaro.

Both opening and closing ceremonies of the Guadalajara film festival (March 21 to 27) were marked by declarations against the war in Iraq.

Marquez reported that festival attendance rose to 65,000 admissions this year, up from 50,000 in 2002.