Tuesday, June 25, 2024

‘Prayers for the Stolen’ dominates at the 64th annual Ariel awards for Mexican film

At the Cannes Film Festival last year, Salvadoran-Mexican director Tatiana Huezo received a 10-minute standing ovation for her debut feature film “Noche de Fuego,” which she also wrote. Last week, Mexico — where she has lived since age 4 — was the setting for more high praise for Huezo.

At the 64th Ariel Award ceremony in Mexico City, Huezo and her film came away with seven “Mexican Oscars,” including best picture and best cinematography, after entering the competition with 19 nominations, by far the most of any film.

Based on the 2012 novel “Prayers for the Stolen” by Mexican-American author Jennifer Clement, the film is about three girls who live in a cartel-dominated community in southern Mexico, where they pass themselves off as boys. The film portrays the close relationship between the girls and their mothers, who do all they can to avoid having the cartel kidnap their daughters.

“I would like to send a message of affection and admiration to all the mothers in this country who are raising their sons and daughters alone, who are sowing seeds of hope, freedom and equality,” said Huezo, a naturalized Mexican citizen who previously had made documentaries, upon receiving the award.

Mayra Membreño portrays the protagonist Ana in "Prayers for the Stolen."
Mayra Membreño portrays the protagonist Ana in “Prayers for the Stolen.”

Her winning film can be seen on Netflix under the titles “Prayers for the Stolen” and  “Noche de Fuego” (which translates to “Night of Fire”). English and other subtitles are available.

After two years as a virtual presentation, the Ariel Awards returned to an in-person event this year, although it was not held at its usual venue, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, but rather a few blocks away at the College of San Ildefonso, formerly a university but now a museum and cultural center (and considered to be the birthplace of the Mexican muralism movement).

The list of award winners included Alonso Ruizpalacios as best director for “Una película de policías” (“A Cop Movie”), which also earned best actor and best actress awards for Raúl Briones and Mónica del Carmen, respectively. A film about two police officers who have a sentimental relationship, and which moves between fiction and documentary, it also won the awards for documentary feature, original screenplay and editing.

To win best director, Ruizpalacios, 44, beat out a strong list of nominees, including Huezo, 50; Ángeles Cruz, 50 (for “Nudo mixteco,” or “Mixtec Knot”); the legendary Arturo Ripstein, 78 (for “El diablo entre las piernas,” or “The Devil Between the Legs”); and Ernesto Contreras, 53 (for “Cosas imposibles,” or “Impossible Things”).

Mónica del Carmen portrays the police officer Teresa in "A Cop Movie."
Mónica del Carmen portrays the police officer Teresa in “A Cop Movie.”

Cruz, who is of Mixtec ethnicity, took the statuette for best debut film. Her “Mixtec Knot,” which was nominated in eight categories but won only one, shows abuses committed against women in a small indigenous community in Oaxaca.

“A Cop Movie” and “Impossible Things” each had 10 nominations; the former won six awards to finish right behind Huezo’s film with seven, but the latter earned only one win, for best score.

The seven awards for “Noche de Fuego” also included best supporting actress to Mayra Batalla for her performance as Rita, the mother of one of the girls. “I want to share this with all the women and girls who save themselves every day,” Batalla said upon collecting her award.

The awards are presented by the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences (AMACC).

The nominations for best film were “Noche de Fuego” (“Prayers for the Stolen”); “Una película de policías” (“A Cop Movie”); “Cosas imposibles” (“Impossible Things”); “El otro Tom” (“The Other Tom”) and “Nudo mixteco” (“Mixtec Knot.”)

The newspaper Reforma put together a “best of” list of nominated and winning films that can be seen for free or rented online. Those listed here include English and other subtitles. Netflix:Prayers for the Stolen,” “A Cop Movie,” “La diosa del asfalto” or “Asphalt Goddess.” Amazon Prime: Impossible Things.” iTunes: “Cadejo blanco” or “White Cadejo,” (a cadejo is spirit from Central American folklore).

“Asphalt Goddess” is about a successful singer who returns to her hometown, is reunited with old friends and confronts danger past and present; it received four nominations but no wins. “Impossible Things” is about an abused woman who finds comfort in a disoriented young man; it received 10 nominations and one win. “White Cadejo,” is about a woman who infiltrates the crime world to find her disappeared sister and was directed by American Justin Lerner, who got the idea for the film during a 2016 trip to Mexico; it received one nomination and didn’t win.

With reports from El Pais, Reforma and the Associated Press

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