Actress Laura Mana was the big winner at the increasingly high-profile Spanish Film Festival of Malaga on Saturday night, walking away with the best film award for her directorial debut Sexo Por Compasion.

The film is a magic surrealist tale, also written by Mana, about a woman whose sexual favours transform a sleepy Mexican town. The film's triumph at the three-year-old festival should help make it a more attractive platform for producers to launch risky films and garner attention for newcomer talent.

The Malaga jury, headed by producer Antonio Perez, also sent each of the other six competing titles home with a prize or a special mention. Veteran Jose Luis Borau, former president of Spain's Academy of Cinema, took home the special jury award for his critically lauded urban drama Leo. Cesc Gay won best direction for teenage tale Krampack, his first solo directing effort. Cuban newcomer Thaimi Alvarino and established Spaniard Juan Luis Galiardo took home best actor awards for Waiting List (Lista De Espera) and Adios Con El Corazon, respectively.

Rafael Azcona and Jose Luis Garcia Sanchez walked away with the best script prize for Adios Con El Corazon. Alvaro de Cardenas won best music for Leo and Federico Rives best photography for Codigo Natural. Basque terrorist tale Arian's Voyage (El Viaje De Arian), the only film not to receive a prize, was given a special mention for lead actress Ingrid Rubio's performance. Rubio, who did not attend the festival, was considered an early favourite for best actress. Actor Jordi Vilches received a special mention for his performance in Krampack.

The awards reflected the festival's push to combine veteran and newcomer talent. Malaga basked this year in the support of its new, deep-pocketed sponsors, Via Digital and Antena 3 which replaced Canal Plus, but has not fully emerged from the controversies which dogged last year's edition. The entry of Via Digital and Antena 3 doubled the festival's budget to around $1.5m (PTS260m) but at the end of the week, local press were questioning how that money had been spent. Last year's edition was riddled with controversies including press claims that the festival had paid locals to fill theatres.

Malaga's position in the industry has yet to be confirmed, but it does fill a gap in the Spanish festival schedule and provides a good platform for producers to launch summer releases. Director Salomon Castiel has time to solidify the festival's standing: Via Digital and Antena 3 have signed on for two more years.