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Shingle banks on Spanish tyros

Esta Vivo! makes risky move with first-timers

SITGES, Spain — Barcelona-based prodco Rodar y Rodar has launched a talent label, Esta Vivo!, aiming to make six movies over 16 months.

Five are young directors’ debuts; all employ largely first-time crews. Esta Vivo!, per Rodar, is “a new revolution” whose movies are “different, risk-taking … and Spanish.”

Trying out so many first- timers seems like a risky move, making Esta Vivo! an ambitious project for a Spanish outfit.

With two Spanish film schools opening in the ’90s, there’s a fresh crop of talent making shorts and commercials.

Esta Vivo! helmers Guillem Morales and Jose Antonio Bayona studied at Barcelona’s film school from 1994. Bayona’s shorts, “Mis vacaciones” and “El Hombre esponja,” won dozens of prizes. But the directors are only now making their first feature.

Albert Espinosa, who’ll direct Esta Vivo!’s “Trazos,” is a young Catalan playwright. Colombian-born Irene Arzuaga, who’s prepping “Juego de ratas,” has made numerous commercials. Per Rodar co-prexy Joaquin Padro, “We’re trying to build bridges with the short-film scene, commercials, comics and legit.”

What’s so different or Spanish about Vivo!? At a time when Spanish horror films are emerging abroad — Miramax will shortly release Jaume Balaguero’s “Darkness” on 2,000 screens — Vivo!’s calling card may be its very Spanishness.

“Ratas” is a morgue-set suspenser; Bayona’s “El Orfanato,” a ghost-story about a man’s descent into madness; in Rodar co-prexy Mar Targarona’s own “Alma,” a girl thinks her father has killed her mother.

Morales’ “El Habitante incierto” (The Uncertain Guest), which world preemed at Sitges, is a lushly shot horror thriller.

“Spanish horror films often have a lot of time and money spent on them,” says Adele Hartley, director of Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival.

“Guest” turns on a young architect who thinks another man is living in his house, mixing elements of horror with dark psychological drama.

American films are usually easier to categorize. But the selling point of foreign genre fare — be it Korean or Spanish — is that it brings something original to the table.

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