Mexican director Amat Escalante left Russian moviegoers petrified with the stark cruelty and realism of his film "Heli," which was screened at the Moscow International Film Festival.

The work, honored with the Best Director prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and which tells the story of a Mexican family involved in a violent war among drug cartels, "is jaw-dropping for the cruelty of a sequence, but real life is even worse," a blogger wrote on the Web site Afisha.

Many in the audience got up and left Moscow's October Cinema Theater almost at the start of the scene in which one of the leading characters is submitted to extreme torture.

A smattering of applause was heard from those who managed to stay until the end, and as the lights went up they left visibly perplexed from a theater sunken in tomb-like silence.

"What sense does it make to not show violence just so the audience won't suffer, if real life isn't like that?" the 34-year-old Escalante asked at Cannes after hailing the controversial decision of the jury, presided by Steven Spielberg.

"A captivating, honest and cruel work, not suitable for the sensitive," the culture section of the Web portal said, while numerous Russian dailies recommended the film but warned that "this can hurt."

"Heli," the first film by the Guanajuato director chosen to compete for the Palme d'Or by the Cannes Film Festival organizers, was shown at the Moscow Festival without taking part in the competition.

In 2005, Escalante, born in Barcelona, Spain, of an American mother and Mexican father, won the prestigious Fipresci film critics' award at Cannes with his first work "Sangre." EFE