Guests at festival included Werner Herzog, Willem Dafoe, Guillermo Arriaga, Edward James Olmos and Eva Longoria.

Paula Marcovitch’s The Prize (El Premio) from Mexico and Pablo Larrain’s Postmortem from Chile were the big winners at the 26th Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG).

The festival was operating out of impressive new headquarters under its new director, the former Mexico City University Cinematheque head Ivan Trujillo, appointed by the festival founder-president Raul Padilla.

The Prize, fresh from its world premiere and two Silver Bears in Berlin was named best film in the Mexican sectionreceiving $13,600. The film centres on the real life case of a young mother and her little girl hiding away from the Argentinian military junta in a small seaside provincial town. The film also received the best actress award for Paula Galinelli.

Pablo Larrain’s Postmortem, depicting the life of a solitary morgue employee under the Chilean military dictatorship, highly acclaimed at Venice 2010, was deemed best film at the Iberoamerican section receiving $13,600. The film’sAlfredo Castro was named best actor. 

The jurors — including the likes of Montreal festival head Serge Losique, Colombian director Jorge Navas, and Cannes consultant Jose Maria Riva — singled out in the Mexican section Odin Salazar as best director for Donkeys (Burros), a tragic-comic tale during the Mexican revolution. The award was backed by $9,000 in cash.

Best first film and $6,800 went to Iria Gomez Concheiro for The Cinema Hold Up (Asalto al Cine), the story of a Mexico city juvenile gang robbing the local multiplex. The film was a past year participant at the Co-production Meetings of the Guadalajara Film Market.

In the Iberoamerican section, the best director nod and $9,000 went to Spanish film-maker Fernando Leon de Aranoa for Amador, the intimate story of the human bond between a migrant house hold worker and the elder Spanish man she is hired to take care of. Peruvian Magaly Solier was named best actress for her part in the film; she previously won the same prize in Guadalajara for 2009’s The Milk of Sorrow.

The Jury Special Award and $6,800 were for the Dominican Republic/Mexican coproduction Jean Gentil by Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas dealing with a work-seeking Haitian teacher. 

Another $6,800 purse for best first film went to A Finger (El dedo) by Argentinian director Sergio Teubal, a black comedy in the vein of Oh Brother! Where Art Thou.

Thanks to a special agreement between FIGG and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the films The Prize, Donkeys, Postmortem and Jean Gentil will automatically enter the selection stage of the 2012 Golden Globes.

A number of other Mexican and Iberoamerican productions shared among them the rest of the $320,000-rich awards confirming the good health of the new generation of Mexican directors alongside their older pairs and the emergence of new interesting film-makers in countries such as Chile and Colombia.

On the local front such new names included first-time directors Patricia Martinez de Velasco with Between You And Me (Aqui entre nos), which won best actor for Jesus Ochoa; Bernardo Arellano with Between Night And Day (Entre la noche y el dia); David Michan with Adverse Effects (Reacciones adversas) — accompanied by such veterans as Maryse Sistach in her most welcome comeback with Moon Rain (Lluvia de Luna).

The revelation of new names on the continental level was particularly evident in the much-hailed Iberoamerican Co-production Meetings, the Docu Lab and the Guadalajara Construye sections. They form part of the festival Film Market and co-production activities counting with such international partners as the San Sebastian Cine en Construccion, the Cannes Producers Network and the Berlin Talent Campus.

Colombian films figured prominently in Guadalajara Construye, where selected films in post are competing for completion funds and awards worth $200,000+ in cash and services. The awards are offered by a number of private enterprises like Kodak, Latinofusion, New Art, Titra California, Churubusco Studios.

William Gonzalez Zafra’s La Sargento Matacho (The Sargent Matacho), about the life of a female rebel commander during the Colombian civil war in the ’60s, received four awards worth $50,000+.

Another Colombian, Carlos Osuna, received two awards and $25,000 for his upcoming feature animation Fat, Bold, Short Man (Gordo, calvo y bajito). The Mexican Jose Fernando Javier Leon Rodriguez bagged two awards worth $15,000 for his Mexican revolution tale The Zebar (La cebra).

In the Iberoamerican Co-production Meetings section, Chilean Sebastian Sepulveda received the Churubusco Studios award worth $136,000 in services for his upcoming The Quispe Sisters (Las ninas Quispe) set in the Pinochet military dictatorship years. The film is set to start shooting next October with additional funds from the French CNC and Fonds Sud.

The Film Market itself, co-directed by Alejandra Paulin and Andrea Stavenhagen, held steady as the lead Latin American market, fending off competition from Ventana Sur. Its growth (730 participants, 1200 titles registered, representatives from 1119 companies and 40 countries) is also due to the expansion of the area reserved to the Market (up 76% over last year). This forms part of the new consolidated, state of the art headquarters inaugurated this year at the Guadalajara Expo Center with the hotels housing the guests just around the corner.

The massive transfer to the new headquarters, a high-risk stake decided by the new director of the event, paid off nicely without any major hiccups. The future plan of constructing a nearby multiplex is set to secure an even greater degree of consolidation of the festival. This year’s programme was comprised of no less than 21 sections, sporting 306 titles.

Highlights included the presence of such figures as Werner Herzog who received an homage and the honorary award of the festival, enjoyed a full retrospective of his work including his new 3D effort Cave of Forgotten Dreams and offered an enormously successful master class for the Guadalajara Talent Campus alumni. He was joined in that by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and actor Willem Dafoe.

Other guests and honorees included Edward James Olmos, Eva Longoria and local mega-star Diana Bracho.

Israel was the invited country sporting a numerous and very active producers delegation, led by Israel Film Fund topper Katriel Schory. 

The festival opening film was the Israeli production The Human Resources Manager by Eran Riklis, who was present to introduce it.

UK director Justin Chadwick took the trip to Guadalajara to present his latest effort, The First Grader, which graced the awards gala setting the tone for next year’s invited country, Great Britain. 

Festival dates for 2012 are March 10-17.