Ticket to Paradise Takes Top Prize at Havana Film Fest New York

The film was based on Jorge Perez´s "Confesiones de un medico" (AIDS in Cuba: Confessions of a Doctor), which tells the story of six young people who intentionally infect themselves with HIV so they can enter a hospice and have regular meals during Cuba´s severe 1993 economic crisis.

It was among 54 films from 17 countries that were screened during the festival, which ran from April 7 to April 15.

Chijona, who directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie and was honoured during the festival with a retrospective of his work, thanked the "wonderful" young actors in the film during his best-picture acceptance speech.

The 61-year-old director said the film, which opened the festival, is based on a "true story that broke our hearts".

The prize for best director went to Argentina´s Fabian Hofman for "Te extrano" (I Miss You), a Mexican-Argentine production that tells the story of Javi, a teenager who is forced to take refuge in Mexico due to a political persecution in his native Argentina.

The festival this year was part of New York´s Si Cuba! Festival, a city-wide celebration of Cuban arts and culture that will run for another two months.

"Los colores de la montana" (The Colors of the Mountain), Colombian director Carlos Cesar Arbelaez´s debut, received special mention from the jury "for not being afraid to show the real victims" of the Andean nation´s decades-long armed conflict. The film explores the friendship between two boys, Manuel and Julian, who dream of becoming professional soccer players. They are given a ball one day and, while they are playing, it gets away from them and ends up in a landmine field. Arbelaez thanked his film´s protagonists, who were unable to travel with him to the festival. "I want to congratulate them because they made the film," he said.

The prize for best documentary went to "Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba" by Estela Bravo, which tell the story of 14,000 Cuban children sent by their parents to the US in 1959 after the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro.

The Colombian documentary "Robatierra" (Stolen Land), directed by Miguel Salazar and Margarita Martinez, received honourable mention.

A jury made up of acclaimed members of the film industry reviewed a total of 21 films in competition at the festival.