For second consecutive year, Mexican cinema had a stellar performance at the Cannes Film Festival winning for second time in a row the prize for Best Director. Last year Carlos Reygadas took home the prize for his controversial film Post Tenebras Lux while this year Amat Escalante (pictured left) was the winner with his equally controversial film Heli (pictured below right). Escalante thus becomes the fourth Mexican filmmaker to win the prize for Best Director at Cannes following in the footsteps of Luis Buñuel (Los Olvidados, 1951), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 2006), and Reygadas (2012).
After receiving his award from American actor Forest Whitaker, Escalante said: "I’d like to thank this Jury for making this brave decision. It is a sign of hope for Mexico. Hopefully our suffering will come to an end very soon." This year's Cannes jury was composed by Steven Spielberg, actors Daniel Auteuil, Vidya Balan, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Waltz, and directors Ang Lee, Cristian Mungiu and Lynne Ramsay.
Heli, Escalante's third film after Sangre (2005) and Los Bastardos (2008, both of which were premiered at Cannes' Un Certain Regard) and his first time participating at Cannes' Official Selection, tells the story of Estela is a 12 year old girl who has just fallen crazy in love with a young police cadet who wants to run away with her and get married. Trying to achieve this dream, her family will have to live the violence that is devastating the region.
Additionally, the ensemble cast of non-professional actors (pictured below left) of the Mexican film La jaula de oro / The Golden Cage by Spanish director Diego Quemada-Diez won the Un Certain Talent award in the Un Certain Regard competition. The cast is formed by the 17-year-olds Karen Martínez and Brandon López from Guatemala and Rodolfo Domínguez, 16, from Mexico. The film was also presented with the Gilles Pontecorvo Award by an independent jury.
Last year, in addition to Reygadas' prize, Michel Franco won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section for his film Después de Lucía / After Lucía, while the Mexican co-production films No, directed by the Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín and Aquí y Allá directed by the Spanish director Antonio Méndez Esparza won the top prizes in the Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week sections respectively. The first time ever Mexican cinema won prizes in all of Cannes' competitive sections.
Other Latin American winners at the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival were the Argentinean film Los dueños / The Owners, the directorial debut by Agustín Toscano and Ezequiel Radusky, which received a Special Jury Mention in the Critics' Week section, and the Brazilian short film Pouco mais de um mês / About a Month by André Novais Oliveira which also won a Special Jury Mention in the Directors' Fortnight section.