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'Fifi,' 'Bug,' 'Manakamana' Win at Buenos Aires' Bafici

MADRID - Mitra Farahani's portrait of Iranian artist Bahamn Mohasses, "Fifi Howls With Happiness" topped the International Competition at the 16th Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI), which wrapped Sunday.

Distinguished with a wealth of local movies, however small, including a clutch of new titles, some popular though they didn't end up in with a prize, and an international competition packed with gems, beginning with its best picture winner, the 16th Bafici looks set to go down a strong edition.

"Fifi" delivers a bracing portrait of Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses, and the vastly contrarian and contradictory nature of creative genius at large, presenting at once a caustic, dogmatic, seeringly mordant interviewee who has destroyed many of his paintings and shunned the limelight, but is still concerned about how the world views him and is finally persuaded to paint again.

Sold by UDI, first seen at Berlin Panorama Dokumente last year, then at Telluride, where it made waves, establishing Farahani as a talent to track, "Fifi" will be released by Music Box this summer in the U.S.

A new title, "The Gold Bug," helmed by Alejo Moguillansky and Fia-Stina Sandlund, won BAFICI's Argentine's Official Competition where the talent on display, added to three Argentine titles playing International Competition, suggests Argentina is on a creative roll.

A melange film-within-in-a film adventure farce with musical interludes, made as part of the Copenhagen Festival's DOX:LAB, "Bug" was currying buzz before BAFICI.

Resonant long takes of Nepalese villagers sitting in a cable car high in the Nepalese mountains, Stephanie Sprey and Pacho Velez's non-fiction feature "Manakamana," from the Harvard U.'s Sensory Ethnography Lab, won Bafici's Vanguard and Genre Gran Premio.

Also sold by UDI, which in a triple-whammy handles FEISAL Prize winner "Natural Sciences," "El Mudo," from Daniel and Diego Vega, a tragic-comic putdown of a corruption-sodden Peru, took best director. Lead Fernando Bacilio won best actor, repeating plaudits at Locarno and Cartagena, for his perf as a first-instance magistrate, an honest man in a dishonest country. Or so "El Mudo" suggests.

World preeming in International Competition, "Mauro," from longtime Argentine editor Hernan Rosselli, who has worked with Juan Jose Campanella and Bruno Stagnaro, won the Special Jury Prize and Fipresci Award for a story of a street-hustler, dealing in forged bank notes, set in a Buenos Aires sub-monde. Film's minimalism was hailed by some as a throwback to early New Argentine Cinema, such as Pablo Trapero's "Crane World." Diego Battle in La Nacion hailed "Mauro" as "one of the principal discoveries in the festival" and "one of the standout Argentine feature debuts in quite some time."

"Carta a un padre," Edgardo Cozarinsky's autobiographical film-essay about his father and grandparents, Russian immigrants who settled in Entre Rios region of Argentina, won a special mention in the Argentine Competition. Best Director went to Gustavo Fontan for his Parana River-set b/w film poem "The Face."

Section's Audience Award went to a medium-feature - which abounded at Bafici - Julian Montero Ciancio's docu debut "While I'm Singing," a 41-minute portrait of his family's hairdresser, Juan Maria, a character, conversationalist and comedian.

A FEISAL special mention went to the FiGa Films-sold "Castanha," a sometimes-fictionalizing docu portrait of the chain-smoking Joao Carlos Castanha, a 52-year-old gay actor, cross-dresser boys' club compere and '80s gay scene survivor. Brazilian first-timer David Pretto directs.

Opening with Ari Folman's "The Congress," fest wrapped with "The Second Game," from Romania's Corneliu Porumboiu, a Cannes Camera d'Or winner with 12:08 East of Bucharest. In it, the director and his father comment off-screen over the entirety of footage of a soccer derby, 1988's Steau vs. Dinamo, both Bucharest teams, which Porumbiou's father refereed.

Only Bafici, whose highly cine-literate patrons live in a soccer-obsessed land, could program "The Second Game," one senses, as a closer.

Emilio Mayorga cintributedto this report

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