Drive revs up Spanish titles

'Mouth' opening Malaga fest

MADRID — Drive Ent., the powerful new independent production house headed by vet TV exec Jose Manuel Lorenzo, is moving into pole position.

Its first feature, Mariano Barroso’s Cuban-set film noir “Ants in the Mouth,” opens the eighth Malaga Spanish Film Festival, April 22. Playing well at February’s Lanzarote Screenings, pic is a competish frontrunner.

Drive’s first docu, “72 Horas: Del 11M al 14M,” analyzing events from Madrid’s March 11, 2004, terrorist bombings to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s March 14 election triumph, snagged 3 million viewers and a 19.5% share on Telecinco March 7 — extraordinary figures for a docu.

A former numero uno at paybox Canal Plus Espana, industry vet Lorenzo is ruggedly independent. His contacts spread across Spain’s political spectrum. “72 Hours,” for instance, nails Spanish interior minister Angel Acebes as he insisted that Basque terrorist org ETA, not Al Qaeda, was behind the bombings.

Drive is determinedly upscale, but with a popular touch. Its docu projects include “Fuimos nuba,” about a wild boy who lived with a Sudanese tribe, and Alvaro Fernandez-Armero’s “Angel Nieto. Mi vida,” about Spain’s legendary motorcycling champion. “It’s an indirect history of Spain,” he says.

Above all, Lorenzo has ambition. He’s prepping “a fresh comedy about a very funny true-life ’90s politico-media imbroglio,” and bittersweet ’60s drama “Un franco a 14 pesetas,” about Spanish emigrants in Europe.

Lorenzo’s tossing around ideas for a big-budget historical production.

He’s also making a bold move, which could help Drive’s cash flow. On April 7, Drive bows what Lorenzo proudly announces as “the first Spanish musical ever to have been created from scratch,” “Hoy no me puedo levantar.”

To house it, Drive’s taken over a theater, the Nuevo Teatro Rialto, on Madrid’s Gran Via, Spain’s Broadway.

Its libretto is by Drive Teatro’s David Serrano, a hot writer-director (“The Wrong Side of the Bed,” “Soccer Days”). Its director is Nacho Cano, co-founder of Spain’s best-known ’80s pop group Mecano. Its songs are Mecano’s hits.

If it does become the talk of the town, expect Drive to be cruising at very high speed into 2006.

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