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Cannes Critics Week: Antonio Mendez Esparza’s “Aquí y Allá” Takes Top Prize

Cannes Critics Week: Antonio Mendez Esparza's "Aquí y Allá" Takes Top Prize

Cannes Critics Week showcases the first and second works of filmmakers. Spanish director and Columbia University Cinema grad Antonio Mendez Esparza’s feature debut, “Aquí y Allá,” has taken the top prize – the Nespresso Grand Prize (won by Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” last year), reports Variety. Doc “Sofia’s Last Ambulance,” from Bulgarian director Ilian Metev, takes the Visionary Prize, and theological thriller “God’s Neighbors,” from Israeli director Meni Yaesh (a France/Israel co-production), takes the Gaul’s Society of Authors, Directors and Composers award. “The Wild Ones” takes the ACID/CCAS support for distribution. Variety has more details. And here’s Toh!’s Ryan Lattanzio’s early review.

Synopses for the films, via Cannes Critics Week, are below. “Aquí y Allá” synopsis, via official site:

Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the US.  He finds his daughters older, and more distant than he imagined.  His wife still has the same smile.  Having saved some earnings from two trips to the US, he hopes to now finally make a better life with his family, and even to pursue his dreams on the side by starting a band: the Copa Kings.  He cherishes the everyday moments with his family. The villagers think this year’s crop will be bountiful.  There is also good work in a growing city an hour away.  But the locals are wise to a life of insecurity, and their thoughts are often of family members or opportunities far away, north of the border.  While working in the fields, Pedro meets and begins to mentor a teenager who dreams of the US.  That place somehow always feels very present, practically knocking at the door. Life is unexpected.  And through each struggle, Pedro’s only wish is to build a better life for his family, without having to leave them again. Aquí y Allá is a story about hope, and the memories and loss of what we leave behind.

“Sofia’s Last Ambulance”:

In a city where 13 ambulances struggle to serve 2 million people, Krassi, Mila and Plamen are our unlikely heroes: chain-smoking, filled with humour and relentlesslysaving lives against all odds. Yet, the strain of a broken system is taking its toll. How long can they keep on fixing society’s injured until they loose their empathy?

“God’s Neighbors”:

Rules must be followed. For the “supervisors” of a Bat Yam neighborhood in Israel, this means ensuring that women are dressed appropriately, that people respect Shabbat, or that Arabs from Jaffa don’t enter the neighborhood with music blaring from their cars. Avi, Kobi and Yaniv are young and know how to fight. Avi is their leader. The group’s dynamic is challenged when Avi threatens a young woman that doesn’t follow their rules, a woman he’s about to fall in love with…

“The Wild Ones”:

Like in a western, it all begins with an escape. Five teenagers violently escape a reformatory school in an Argentinean province. They must pilgrimage a hundred kilometres on foot, across the hills, for the promise of a home to continue their days. They hunt to feed, rob houses they come across, do drugs, bathe in the river, fight with each other and make love: A progressive voyage into the wilderness, that soon becomes a mystic fable about courage and grace.

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