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First Annual Baja International Film Festival Shines With Success

Sun, November 18, 2012 1:49pm EDT by Russ Weakland Add first Comment

The first annual Baja International Film Festival is in the books and it should easily be deemed as a tremendous success!

The first annual Baja International Film Festival, held November 14 – 17, 2012, in Los Cabos, Mexico should now be considered a Cannes-petitor to other film festivals throughout the world. Major stars the likes of Edward Norton, Melissa Leo, Diego Luna, Virginia Madsen, Matt Dillon, Octavia Spencer, and many, many more attended what could be a standard-bearer for the official start of awards season! Check out all the winners of the inaugural event!

The festival showcased 80 films from 18 countries, including 5 international feature films, 5 Mexican feature films, 5 international documentaries, 5 Mexican documentaries, 30 international shorts, 13 Mexican shorts, 4 environmental films, as well as special presentation screenings of 7 international feature films and 6 Mexican feature films.

Check Out The Baja Film Festival Winners Below!

Best International Feature – No, directed by Pablo Larrain. Revolving around Chile’s 1988 referendum on the Pinochet regime, this brilliant behind-the-scenes drama tracks with engaging detail the unfolding of a political marketing campaign that succeeded against all odds.

Best Mexican Feature – Los Mejores Temas, directed by Nicolás Pereda. Drifting from fiction to documentary, Los Mejores Temas tells the story of Emilio, a man in his fifties, who shows up at his family home after fifteen years of absence.

Best International Documentary – First Position, directed by Bess Kargman. Six young dancers from Italy, Africa, Israel, Colombia, and other countries battle intense pressure as they prepare for the most prestigious ballet competition in the world.

Best Mexican Documentary – Tie between two films. El Alcalde, directed by Carlos Rossini, tells the story of Mauricio Fernandez, mayor of the wealthiest municipality in Latin America, located in the North of Mexico. La Revoluciòn de Los Alcatraces, directed by Luciana Kaplan, is a documentary about Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza, a native of Santa Maria Quiegolani, an indigenous community located in the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca.

Best International Short Film – Luminaris, directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella. In a world where light reigns and sets the pace of life, an average man has a plan that can change the natural order of things.

Best Mexican Short Film – Yuban Yasib, directed by Vázquez Colmenares. This documentary is about the transformation of a Zapotecan community as it portrays the longing for a set of principles that are about to die and the effort the people make to keep their culture alive.

The Festival also bestowed Tribute Awards to the following recipients who were in attendance to accept their honors.

Two-time Academy Award-nominee Edward Norton for Outstanding Achievement in Acting.

Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo for Excellence in Acting.

Celebrated actor Diego Luna for Excellence in Acting.

Academy Award-nominee Virginia Madsen for Excellence in Acting.

Academy Award-nominee Matt Dillon for Outstanding Contribution to Cinema.

Acclaimed director Nicolas Echevarria, for Excellence in Directing.

Iconic filmmaker and Secretary-Treasurer of the Directors Guild of America Michael Apted for Outstanding Achievement in Directing.

The Awards were presented during the Baja International Film Festival’s Closing Night Gala presented by the Mexico Tourism Board on Saturday, November 17th at the state-of-the-art Cabo Convention Center. The Festival’s Closing Night film was “No,” directed Pablo Larrain and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Alejandro Goic, Alfredo Castro, Antonio Zegers, Luis Gnecco and Nestor Cantillana.

The star-studded Opening Night Ceremony and Gala, featuring a special presentation of Ariel Vroman’s “The Iceman,” starring Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, James Franco, David Schwimmer, Ray Liotta and Stephen Dorff, kicked off the festival on Wednesday.

On Thursday night guests were invited to the Puerto Los Cabos Wirikuta Cactus Garden, a botanical desert garden home to over 1500 varieties of desert plants from around the world, for an outdoor screening of Lynn Hershmann’s “Hecho in Mexico,” followed by dinner featuring food from many of the most popular restaurants in Cabo.

Friday evening featured an art walk showcasing pieces by celebrated Mexican artist Leonora Carrington as well a special outdoor concert by Los Angeles’ Hotel Café Performers Sara Bareilles, Cary Brothers, Harper Blynn, Holly Conlan, and Madi Diaz at the Puerto Los Cabos Marina.

Special guests of the festival included Patrick J. Adams, Danny Arroyo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Branch, AJ Buckley, Kat Coiro, Rachael Leigh Cook, Giancarlo Esposito, Barry Gifford, Daniel Gillies, Dolores Heredia, Cody Horn, Allison Janney, Mike Judge, Josh Lucas, Diego Luna, William Mapother, Esai Morales, Natalie Morales, Barbara Mori, Mark Polish, Gabriela Roel, Octavia Spencer, Martin Starr, Tate Taylor, Blayne Weaver and more, who participated in the week’s festivities.

Winners of the inaugural Virgin Produced Screenplay Competition, launched in partnership with Virgin Produced and the Baja International Film Festival include:

1st Place – MATERMINATED by Carey Dunn
2nd Place – Last Waltz of Vienna by Brian Weakland
3rd Place – Painkillers by Giles Daoust

The Festival competition accepted feature-length screenplays in all genres, and the winning screenplay is now eligible for option consideration by Virgin Produced, the film and television arm of Sir Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group.

For more information on the Baja International Film Festival, please visit

So HollywoodLifers, Make sure you check out all the amazing films from the Baja International Film Festival — they were incredible!

— Russ Weakland