Ensemble comedy-drama Tapas was the surprise winner of the best film, best actress and thepublic's prizes at the eighth annual Spanish Film Festival of Malaga(April 22-30), with other top awards split among higher-profile contenders 20Centimeters, Heroine and Ants InThe Mouth.

Tapas was also the biggest hit at Malaga's three-dayMarket Screenings, attended this year by 61 buyers from 24 countries.Co-producer and distributor Filmax closed sales on the film, directed by JoseCorbacho and Juan Cruz and co-produced by Barcelona's Tusitala, to LAP TVfor pay TV in all Latin America, Cinemien in Benelux and Audiovisual in Greece.

Filmax also closed sales on black comedy To Die In SanHilario (Morir En San Hilario) by LauraMana, a previous Malaga prize-winner who went home empty-handed this year, tonew UK distribution company Dogwoof Pictures and LAP TV.

Sogepaq teased buyers at the Market Screenings with a promoof 20 Centimeters (20 Centimetros), anAligator-Estudios Picasso co- production which will debut in the Cannes market.The glossy tale of a transvestite whose narcoleptic fits give way to fabulousmusical numbers won the festival's critic's prize and well-deservedtechnical nods for best music and make-up.

Gerardo Herrero won best director and best script (byAngeles Gonzalez Sinde) for his self-produced drama Heroine (Heroina) about a mother's crusade to bring down thedrug trafficking business in Galicia. Star Adriana Ozores (best actress, Malaga2004) was overlooked for the best actress prize, which went to Elvira Minguezfor Tapas. Sold by salesconsortium Latido, Heroine wasthe most solicited title on video in the Market Screenings.

Mariano Barroso's Cuba-set thriller Ants In TheMouth (Hormigas En La Boca) picked up thespecial jury prize and best actor for Eduard Fernandez, who plays anewly-released prisoner trying to unravel the mystery behind the disappearanceof his ex-girlfriend and bank heist partner.

Sales handler Grupo Pi said it would hold off closing dealson Ants until Cannes, as with romanticcomedy Semen, A Love Sample (Semen, Una Historia De Amor), another competitor overlooked by the festival jurybut - behind Tapas - the secondmost-attended film in the Market Screenings. DeA Planeta has signed on todistribute Semen in Spain.

Nuria Gonzalez won best new actress for her role as a memberof an all-girl punk band in the 1980s-set El Calentito, which also picked up a best cinematography prizefor Kiko de la Rica. Pilar Ruiz Gutierrez's Alicia'sNames (Los Nombres De Alicia) won the specialjury prize.

In the sidebar ZonaZine competition, both top prizes forbest film and best script went to Pablo Llorca's The Scar (La Cicatriz). The Elias Querejeta-backed Winter InBaghdad (Invierno En Bagdad) by directorJavier Corcuero won the top prize in the Documentary competition.

Mexican distributor Luis Calzada of Quality Films receivedan International Distributor Prize bestowed each year on a loyal handler ofSpanish cinema. In his acceptance speech Calzada emphasized the importance ofthe Mexican market when he noted that the success of Jaume Balaguero's Darkness in Mexico had helped convince Miramax not to bypasstheatrical in the US, where it has earned over $20m.

Malaga's three career achievements awards this yearwent to Carlos Saura, Gerardo Vera and actress Veronica Forque. In a sign ofthe festival's importance to the Mediterranean city, plans are underwayto construct statues of honorary prize-winners on the city's maritimeboulevard, incidentally named after native son Antonio Banderas.