Malaga’s Spanish Screenings Host 222 Titles, Underscore Industry Drivers: NextGen Talent, Animation, the Rise of Spain’s Regions

Rexa Vella

Malaga’s Spanish Screenings Host 222 Titles, Underscore Industry Drivers: NextGen Talent, Animation, the Rise of Spain’s Regions

MALAGA —  Antonio Chavarrías’ “Holy Mother,” Celia Rico’s “Little Loves” and Diogo Viegas’s “Alice’s Diary” play at this year’s 3rd Spanish Screenings Content, the Malaga Festival’s part of the Spanish Screenings XXL, Spain’s biggest international industry platform in its history, featuring over March 4-7 and – when it comes to Málaga – the monumental number of 222 titles. 

In production volume, Spain has never had it so good. The market screenings at Malaga’s Rosaleda Multiplex range across over 80 Spanish movie titles, taking in recent past gems such as “The Girls Are All Right, “Something Is About to Happen,” “Jokes & Cigarettes and “The Chapel,” just to mention titles on Monday’s program. 

Also on offer are 11 Works in Progress, 62 Film Library titles and  65 shorts. 

The Screenings come at a propitious time in many ways for Spanish cinema. Two Spanish movies – J.A. Bayona’s Andean air crash disaster “Society of the Snow” and animated feature “Robot Dreams” – were nominated for Sunday’s Academy Awards. 

Four out of five most watched films in Netflix’s Top 10 of non-English-language films are from Spain, led by “Society of the Snow,” “Nowhere,” “The Platform” and “Through My Window.”

Bringing to the table the deepest pocket of any production powerhouse in Spain, Movistar Plus+ is revving up a slate of upscale and higher-end crossover pics from Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Alberto Rodríguez, Icíar Bollaín, Óliver Laxe and Ana Rujas.

The last is produced with Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo – Los Javis – who unveiled a second title, this time with Netflix, a modern remake of “Mi querida señorita,” as Ambrossi and Calvo they would soon be announcing a full movie slate from their production house, Suma Content. Other major producers in Spain look likely to drive into film production.

Malaga’s Spanish Screenings point up further market trends energizing Spanish production. 

One, no doubt, is co-production. Six of the 12 features highlighted by  the Spanish Screenings are made with foreign partners. 

Another is animation. A hit last year at Málaga, the Screenings will once more spotlight titles from Spain’s fast expanding animation scene, including the latest offerings from major players such as Spain’s Hampa Studio and Lightbox Animation Studios (“Alice’s Diary”), Ikiru (“Black Butterflies”) and TV On Producciones (“The Violinist”).    

Boosted by Spain’s subsidy system, which prizes new features, the  Screenings feature new talent. Directorial first features take in Jaime Puertas Castillo’s “Tale of Shepherds,” charting not only the physical but mental landscape of fast-disappearing rural Spain; Coré Ruiz’s dysfunctional family drama “I Gonna Disappear” and “We Treat Women Too Well,”  from Clara Bilbao, responsible for the “knock-your-socks-off memorable costume design” – Variety’s phrase –  of “Sunday’s Illness.” 

Meanwhile, the regions are rising. Three of the 12 titles at the Animation Hub, Market Premieres and Official Selection picks have been made in the Canary Islands. Films from their home-grown domestic industry begin to hit the festival circuit in far larger numbers. “I’m Gonna Disappear,” in Market Premieres, is “a proof that a cinema with Canary technicians, actors and musicians is not only possible but necessary,” says director Coré Ruiz. 

Another trend, if the Spanish Screenings market premieres are anything to go by, is history. For centuries, Spaniards have not wanted to look back – the major narrative is decline from once commanding the most powerful empire in the Western World, until Northern Europe’s industrial revolution put pay to that. 

A tale of female empowerment, set in the ninth century, little visited by Spanish cinema, “Holy Mother,” based on a real figure, charts the struggle of Emma, appointed head of an abbey, to repopulate lands, re-conquered from Moorish forces, despite the opposition of multiple forms of patriarchy. 

“We Treat Women Too Well” captures the fissiparous, internecine conflict which has bedeviled Spain for centuries. 

The Spanish Screenings form part of the Spain AVS Hub, part in turn of Spain’s Recuperation, transformation and Resilience Plan. 

Below, profiles of titles in the Screenings’ Animation Hub on Wednesday, market premieres and four titles chosen by the Screenings from the Málaga Festival’s Official Selection.

Animation Hub WIPs

“Alice’s Diary,” (“El Diario de Alicia,” Spain, Portugal, Brazil)

A short-format older pre-school series, about Alicia, a quirky, sometimes inspired six-year-old whose diary entries come alive on the screen. Director Diogo Viegas’s “King Gaston” won best short for children at Brazil’s Anima Mundi.  Given its prestige producer package– Spain’s Hampa Studio (“Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Tortoises,” Brazil’s Gepetto Filmes (“Chico Na ilha dos Jurubebas”), Sardinha em Lata (“My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons,” and Spain’s Lightbox Animation Studios (“Tad, the Lost Explorer”) – this is a title to track.   

“Black Butterflies,” (“Mariposas negras,” David Baute, Spain)

Lobuin, Vanesa and Soma are from very different parts of the world but all suffer climate change. Losing everything from global warming, they emigrate to survive. Edmond Roch at Ikiru Films (”Tad, The Lost Explorer,” “Eugenio”) produces with Tinglado Film (“Ona”) and Anangu Grup (“Mummies”) and Tunche Films (“Ainbo: Spirit Of The Amazon”). A 2D animated feature penned by Yaiza Berrocal, from Baute’s original story.

“The Invisibles,” (“Ikusezinak,” Imanol Zinkunegi, Spain, Chile)
Fruit of the building Basque animation scene, directed by one ef its modern pioneers, an animation supervisor on 1992’s “La leyenda del viento norte” and animation director on 2013’s “Lazarillo de Tormes.” The Invisibles arrive on Earth 3.7 billion years ago crashing to the bottom of the ocean where they are threatened by the evil Anthrax. 

“Norbert,” (“Norberto,” José Corral, Spain, Argentina) 

An incompetent spy from drab, dismal Graylandia, thwarts the his country ’s plans to invade the vibrant, if chaotic neighboring Colorlandia. An 3D animated comedy from Goya-nominated Corral (“El Desván”). Produced by Spanish indie outfit Capitán Araña (“Ozzy”), lauded Aquí y Allí Films (“Life and Nothing More”) and Buenos Aires-based Vista Sur Films (“Dalia and the Red Book”). Pick Parrot Media sells, Filmax distributes in Spain.

Norbert Credit: Capitán Araña

“The Violinist,” (“El Violonista,” Raul García y Ervin Han, Spain)

A potentially moving animated feature inspired by Han’s short of the same name, a period genre-blending mix of drama, romance action and music as a young Spanish reporter discovers the tangled lives of two young lovers, researching the provenance of an old violin, marked 1941. Singapore. Directed by Spanish former Disney animator and then director Raul García (“Extraordinary Tales”) and Han, who created Singapore’s first primetime animated series, Heartland Hubby. Han produces with Spanish powerhouse Paloma Mora at TV ON Producciones.

Market Premieres

“Holy Mother,” (“La Abadesa,” Antonio Chavarrías, Spain)

From Spanish giallo “Una ombra en el jardín” (1989) to immigrant-junkie drama “Susanna” (1996) from brother from hell imbroglio “Volverás” (2002) through procedural “Las vidas de Celia” (2005) and Trotsky assassination thriller “The Chosen” (2016), Chavarrías has directed a huge gamut of open arthouse films enrolling in multiple ways a sense of genre. Here, sold by Film Constellation and based on true events, in the 9th century Emma is appointed head of an abbey encharged in repopulating frontier lands abutting Muslim territory.  

“I’m Gonna Disappear,” (“Voy a desaparecer,” Coré Ruiz, Spain)

Begin Again Films highlighted market premiere, the tale of two estranged brothers’ reencounter, 10 years later, as one takes advantage of a prison furlough. An emotional artefact which breaths truth with two actor discoveries giving all they’ve got,” says Ruíz, who wrote the screenplay with female lead Raquel Herrera.  

I’m Gonna Disappear Courtesy of Malaga Film Festival

“Mum, I’m the Boss,” (“Mamá, ahora mando yo,” Federico Moccia, Spain-Italy)

Antonia Nava’s rapidly building Neo Art is bringing onto the market “I’m the Boss, a family comedy directed by Moccia, creator Italian, Spanish blockbusters, “Three Steps Above Heaven” and “I Want You.” In “Mum, I’m the Boss,” helmed by Moccia, Francesco (9), inherits his family house when his parents divorce, sewing confusion, exacerbated when he experiences first love.

“We Treat Women Too Well,” (“Tratamos demasiado bien a las mujeres,” Clara Bilbao, Spain, France)

Set in post-Civil War 1945 as the Spanish resistance takes over a mail office in the Pyrenees, run by the redoubtably patriotic Remedios Buendía. Hell hath no fury…

Carmen Machi and Antonio de la Torre lead a fine cast. “A clearly black comedy, with a remarkable screenplay by Miguel Barros, integrating humor to narrate a truly tragic story,” says Bilbao. A Prime Video and RTVE pickup for Spain.

Official Selection Titles

“Little Loves,” (“Los Pequenos Amores,” Celia Rico, Spain) 

Produced by Arcadia Motion Pictures, on fire after backing Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts,” Oscar nominated animated feature “Robot Dreams” and Netflix hit “Burning Body.” Rico showed in her debut, “Journey to a Mother’s Room,” selected for San Sebastián’s New Directors, how well she portrays a suddenly evolving mother-daughter relationship. Here, it is a redoubtable mother’s sudden dependence, starring María Vázquez and the always reliable Adriana Ozores. Latido Films sells.

Little Loves Credit: Latido Films

“Tale of Shepherds,” (“Historia de pastores,” Jaime Puertas Castillo) 

Developed at San Sebastian’s Zine Eskola Elias Querejeta but shot in Puertas Castillo’s hometown of Puebla de don Fadrique, a fiction tale of a young geologist meeting a wounded shepherd which delivers a telling take of a rural Spain that is disappearing, mixing Paleolithic settlements and abandoned farmsteads now in ruins, tales of forgotten ancestors and, part and parcel, fantasy, and invading modernity – drones and Internet apps. A Rotterdam Fest world premiere.

“Undergrowth,” (“La Hojaresca,” Macu Machín, Spain) 

In this doc feature, three ageing sisters reunite on the Canary Island of La Palma to settle the inheritance of family lands, voice old grievances, near return to their infancy as they reenact games. A film about “identity, belonging, and the dynamics of the place where me and my family came from,” says Machín, backed by Tenerife-based El Viaje Films.


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