Garcia Bernal Picks Up FIPRESCI Prize at the Palm Springs International Film Festival

Gael Garcia Bernal is a diamond in the desert…

The 38-year-old Mexican actor picked up the FIPRESCI Prize for best actor at the 27th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival for his performance in Pablo Larrain’s Neruda.

Gael Garcia Bernal

Garcia Bernal portrays Oscar Peluchonneau, the fascist Chief of the Policía de Investigaciones, in the film about poet and Communist Senator Pablo Neruda.

Neruda, which was selected as the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, also picked up the fest’s Cine Latino Award.

The John Schlesinger Award, presented to a director of a first or second feature documentary, was awarded to Cristina Herrera Borquez for No Dress Code Required, which looks at a same-sex couple as they fight for the right to marry in their hometown of Mexicali, Baja California.

The fest, which ran through January 16, announced its juried award winners at a luncheon Saturday at the Hilton Palm Springs.

Here’s the complete list of winners:

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Toni Erdmann (Germany), directed by Maren Ade

FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Actor in a Foreign Language Film
Gael García Bernal in Neruda (Chile)

FIPRESCI Prize for Best Actress in a Foreign Language Film
Isabelle Huppert in Elle(France)

New Voices/New Visions Award
Winner: White Sun (Nepal/U.S./Qatar/Netherlands), directed by Deepak Runiyar
Special Mentions: Kati Kati (Kenya/Germany), directed by Mbithi Masya and Mellow Mud (Latvia), directed by Renārs Vimba

The John Schlesinger Award
Winner: No Dress Code Required (Mexico), directed by Cristina Herrera Bórquez
Special Mention: Beauties of the Night (Mexico), directed by Maria José Cuevas 

Cine Latino Award
Winner: Neruda (Chile), directed by Pablo Larraín
Special Mention: Everything Else (Mexico), directed by Natalia Alamda

HP Bridging the Borders Award
Winner: Mercenary (France), directed by Sacha Wolff

Huezo Sánchez Among Palm Springs Film Festival Award Winners

The first time’s a charm for Mexico’s Tatiana Huezo Sánchez, who has picked up one of the top prizes at the 23rd Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Tatiana Huezo Sanchez

The 40-year-old part-Salvadorean/part-Mexican director/cinematographer, who moved to Mexico City at the age of 4, received the John Schlesinger Award this past weekend, which is presented to a first-time documentary filmmaker, for her work behind the lens on The Tiniest Place (El Lugar Más Pequeño).

The documentary tells the heartbreaking yet hopeful story of Cinquera, a small town in rural El Salvador that was completely depopulated during the Civil War, as told by the survivors who have returned with astonishing resilience to rebuild their lives on their native soil.

El lugar mas pequeno

It’s a very personal project for Huezo Sánchez, who was inspired to make the documentary after her first moments in her grandmother’s town.

“A few years ago I visited my paternal grandmother in San Salvador and she took me to the town were she was born, Cinquera. It took us three hours to get there on dirt roads. That same evening we arrrived I went out for a walk, alone.  Suddenly an eldery woman hugged me, “Rina!” she shouted ‘you came back! You haven’t changed a bit!’ I didn’t know how to react, I told her it was a mistake, that I wasn’t Rina. The woman didn’t believe me. I’m not Rina, but I could have been.,” recalls Huezo Sánchez, about how her opera prima came to be. “Later, I stepped into the small town church, the walls were filled with bullet holes, there were only a few wooden benches, a military helicopter tail hung on a wall. There were very few religious images on the walls but there were rows of portraits of young people that died in the war. The images and sensations of this space touched me deeply. I felt a need to know everything that happened here.”

Huezo Sánchez has received the John Kennedy Statue, which is called “The Entertainer,” for her win at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, one of North America’s biggest film festivals attracting about 130,000 attendees each year with its features and documentaries from around the world.