Vibrant 53rd edition of the festival sees Colombian president touting importance of filmmaking and filmgoing in the country.

Miguel Gomes’ Tabu has won the best film prize in the international competition at the 53rd Festival Internacional De Cine De Cartagena De Indias (FICCI).

The jury, which comprised Nancy Gerstman, Paul Schrader and Raoul Peck, awarded the best director prize to Paraguay’s Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori for 7 Boxes, while the best actor prize went to the cast of Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Here And There (Aqui y alla). The special jury prize went to Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves.

The Fipresci jury, comprised of Klaus Eder, Lucy Virgen and Wesley Morris, gave its prize to So Much Water (Tanta agua) by Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge.

In the Colombia al 100% competition for local films, the top prize went to the animated feature Anina [pictured] by Alfredo Soderguit, who also won for best director. Best actor was Alejandro Buitrago for Deshora. A special jury prize was awarded to Priscila Padilla’s The Eternal Night of Twelve Moons (La eterna noche de las doce lunas).

In the documentary competition, the best film award went to The Mayor (El alcalde) by Emiliano Altuna, Carlos Rossini and Diego Osorno. Best director was Alejo Hoijman for The Shark’s Eye (El ojo del tiburon) and the special mention went to Teresa Arredondo’s Sibila.

Best short was El tiple by Ivan D Gaona with a special mention to Rodri by Franco Lolli.

In the Gems competition of festival hits, recent Oscar winner Searching For Sugar Man won the best film prize; and the jury gave special mentions to Spiros Stathoulopoulos’ Meteora and Joachim Lafosse’s Our Children.

In the new creators competition for students, the winner was La espera by Jenny Machado Vides with second prize to A Traves de una capa de tiempo by Anna Magdalena Silva.

Screenings up 60%

The 2013 festival, which boosted both its number of screenings and number of films due to audience demand, included 290 screenings (up from 179 in 2012) and included new digital venues.

The festival kicked off on Feb 21 with the world premiere of Andres Baiz’s ROA and closed with Hernan Goldrid’s Thesis On A Homicide starring Richardo Darin.

The festival’s special guests included Harvey Keitel, Paul Schrader, Raoul Peck, Julio Medem, Peter Webber, artist Bel Borba and footballer Eric Cantona. Aaron Eckhart was also in Cartagena at festival events with US producer Ash Adams, as they hope to get a Colombia-set project off the ground in the near future.

Presidential speech

This year’s festival marked a strong year for local cinema, with nine world premieres in the Colombian competition including a slew of new documentaries. ProimagenesColombia not only offers its funding for local productions and co-productions, but 2013 sees the launch of a new tax incentive in Colombia to attract international producers to shoot in the country.

That strong support for the film industry was noted when Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos gave an impassioned speech at the opening of the festival. He spoke of taking his cabinet to see films like Lincoln and Argo.

Of the threat of censorship to controversial French-Spanish co-production (a festival selection) Operacion E, about Colombian FARC rebels, he said: “Cinema is cinema and history is history…This film is a work of fiction based on real events and that’s how the public understands it and that’s how the filmmakers understand it.

“We cannot restrict free expression, censor an expression of art and creativity, nor dictate our own version of reality to scriptwriters. And we should continue with these stories because the cinema is largely made of them.”

‘Great moment’

He added: “Speaking about cinema means speaking about life: the deepest, the vainest, the most tragic, the happiest, everything that makes up the great complexity of the human being.

“This festival brings us together at a great moment for Colombian cinema…We celebrate ten years since passing the Cinema Law – which I helped to design and foster with Claudia Triana and Silvia Amaya – a law whose results we see here.

“Colombia is now the fourth nation in Latin America in terms of film production: 300% growth in theater construction, record ticket sales going from 16 million in 2005 to 41 million in 2012. And we had premieres of 23 national films, with 3.4 million spectators.

“Further, we passed a law a few months ago to create incentives for foreign producers who want to film in Colombia. The Colombian Film Fund allows producers to recover up to 40% of their cinematographic costs and up to 20% of their food, transportation and hotel costs.

“And with other laws for local producers this is truly a great moment for our national cinema!”