Latin American filmsdominated the awards at the 21st Mar del Plata Film Festival, which closedyesterday with a record attendance of 150,000 spectators.

Noticias Lejanas (News From Afar), Mexican Ricardo Benet's first feature film about a 17-year-old boy whohas grown up in a rural village and undertakes a journey of initiation to thebig city, won the Golden Astor Prize for best film.

Daniel Burman's Derechode Familia (Family Law) took three awards, including Best Iberoamerican Film, Signis Prize and AudienceAward (with 9.2 points out of 10).

The jury composed ofPolish director Krzysztof Zanussi, Spanish actress Assumpta Serna, localfilmmaker Fabian Bielinsky, German editor Juliane Lorenz, Viennale directorHans Hurch, Mexican scriptwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego, and Argentinian-born,France-based director Eduardo de Gregorio awarded the Special Jury Prize to Molly'sWay, a German-Irish co-productiondirected by Emily Atef.

The two acting Astors wentto William H. Macy for Edmond andJustine Clarke for her role in the Australian film Look Both Ways, while Portuguese newcomer Marco Martins won the BestDirector honor and the FIPRESCI prize for his debut film Alice.

"It's been a hugelysuccessful year for Mar del Plata, with its largest crowds ever and big namessuch as Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Michael Winterbottom, Abel Ferrara andJuliette Binoche attending the event," festival director Miguel Pereirasays.

The $1.5m (Pesos 4.5m)Latin America's leading film event also hosted the second annual Mercosur FilmMarket (MFM)

A total of 100 localcompanies, including Patagonik, BD Cine and Aquafilms, and 30 internationaloutfits such as HBO, Film Finders and NALIP (USA), Dogwoof Pictures and OneEyed Films (UK), Shanghai Film Group (China), WDR (Germany), Luce Institut(Italy), Filmax (Spain) and Epicentre Films (France), attended this year'smarket,

"More than 400 industryguests and 412 films participated at the market," explained Susana Landau,coordinator of the event. "Launching 80 new projects (60 from Argentinaand 20 from other Latin American countries) that were looking for additionalfinancing at the new Co-Production Forum was another major accomplishment forthe MFM," she adds.