By Laura Schwab

Latino filmmakers dominated the prizes last week at the Miami International Film Festival. Ernesto Contreras’ The Obscure Spring / Las oscuras primaveras (pictured) took home the Knight Grand Jury Prize, the Festival’s top prize, as well as the Grand Jury Award for Best Performance for stars Cecilia Suarez, Jose Maria Yazpik, Irene Azuela and the rest of the cast.

Contreras’ second feature depicts a story of love, sex and passion. Playing with the notion of love as both passion and illusion, a bizarre love triangle forms amongst the confused state of minds of Igor, a plumber in a big office building, Pina a lonely secretary, and Flora, Igor’s wife. The film premiered last year at the Morelia International Film Festival. Abner Benaim took home the Grand Jury Award for Best Director for his film Invasion / Invasión. The first-ever Panamanian film submitted for the Academy Awards, premiered at the festival. The documentary looks at the invasion of Panama by the US in 1989 by focusing on the memories of ordinary Panamanians. 

The Knight Documentary Achievement Award went to the Chilean-American documentary Tea Time / La once (pictured right). Maite Alberdi filmed a group of senior citizens’ monthly reunions over a period of four years as they catch-up and gossip over tea. The film was partly funded by Tribeca's TFI Fund, and the Miami screening marked its North American premiere.

This year’s Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima Competition also went to a Chilean filmmaker, Claudio Marcone, for In the Grayscale / En las gamas de gris.  It follows Bruno who leads a picturesque life: he is happily married, has a beautiful son, a nice house and a new car. In the midst of an early mid-life crisis he leaves his wife. In the midst of his soul-searching he meets Fer, a young gay man, exuberant and extroverted, who further threatens and changes Bruno’s “perfect” life.

The winner of the Encuentros competitive industry section was The Apostate / El apóstata a co-production from Spain, France and Uruguay.

The 32nd edition of the Miami International Film Festival ran from March 6-15.