Rising talent

A look at filmmaking's future from Spain


Madrid’s Luna Cinemas, January. Cortes shoots a conversation between two midrow spectators for his upcoming feature debut, “The Contestant.” A traditional shot/countershot? No way. The camera careers down tracks on the distant stage. Cortes shoots five takes in five minutes. Like “15 Days,” Cortes’ celebrated short, the frenetically cut “Contestant” skewers consumer society. But Cortes, unusually for Spanish directors, worships at the altar of “Goodfellas” and “Fight Club,” not Chabrol and Loach — and in doing so, he’s become a ground-breaker.


Decked out in Goth-punk style or hip-hop, Echegui stars as wannabe actress Juani, an outer-barrio highrise glam-teen, in Bigas Luna’s upcoming “Yo soy la Juani!” No Spanish director discovers new talent (Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem) or skewers contempo modes better than Bigas. Echegui can act: She’s charmingly kooky in Felix Viscarret’s short “The White Album.” But if “Juani” does boffo biz, expect Echegui to be Spain’s new It thesp.


Juarez has a rare quality for a Spaniard: an enthusiasm for market forces. After L.A. gigs at E! Entertainment Television and Fox Kids Latin America, in 2001 he became general manager of Madrid-based Intuition Films, which his father owns. Juarez’s interests range from Euro animation (he co-produced Michel Ocelot’s Cannes player “Azur and Amar”) to new media (Intution has a videogame channel, j.v.) to Latin production (Rio mobster pic “My Name Is Not Johnny”).


Pastor surprised everyone when he returned from Sundance clutching a prize for international short. His “The Natural Route” has picked up more than 80 awards to date. His second short, “Peacemaker,” will be released soon, while Paramount Classics has signed him up for a to-be-titled full-length feature built around four buddies fleeing a viral pandemic in the American West.


Prado’s toon feature “De profundis,” which he made by filming handpainted acrylic cloths, marks an extraordinary labor of love and love of labor. Story turns on the relationship between a cello player living by Spain’s northern coast and a sailor who, drowned, floats through the ocean’s depths. But it’s the Edward Hopper-ish seascapes and deep ocean vistas that really register: dark, stark, vast, coldly beautiful. Latido screen excerpts here at Cannes.


Phone the cheery, connected and hyper-efficient Roch, and you’ll immediately relax. Here is someone who lives, breathes and speaks the language of international film production. As well he should: Roch was production manager in Argentina on “Seven Years in Tibet” and a delegate producer on “Perfume.” At Ikiru, launched 2004, he is completing financing on doc thriller “Garbo” and producing fiction feature “Moon in the Bottle,” now shooting, made with Chris Curling’s Zephyr and blue-chip Spanish producer Sogecine.


Galicia-born, London-reared, Madrid-educated and Taiwan-finished, Romero combines a Protestant work ethic and a Catholic fiesta stamina that propels his budding career. After a 2002-04 stint at producers’ lobbying org Fapae, he created Suki Films. He co-produced “Guantanamero,” the upcoming pic from hot helmer Vicente Penarrocha, his first in English. Romero and Sarah Haliloua’s new shingle, Visionaire, has Penarrocha’s next, “Play.” Both bear out Romero’s production ambitions: “high-concept, English-language films with edge.”


Spanish critics have been united in their praise for Sanchez Arevalo’s debut, “Darkbluealmostblack,” a distinctive, assured drama that plays all sorts of unexpected riffs on the standard youth themes of love and self-invention, cannily combining marketability and meaning. A series of lauded shorts — “Physics II,” “Express,” “Prophylaxis” — paved the way, with more to follow; future projects include more shorts, with a second feature still some time away. Expect “Darkbluealmostblack” at summer or fall fests.


A 40-something former journo and scripter, Tabernero looked back in time for inspiration for his debut, “Life and Color,” which took a major kudo at March’s Miami Film Festival. “Life” is a fable that shows the coming of age not only of its juvenile protag, but also of mid-1970s Spanish society as Franco’s power slowly wanes. The helmer’s immediate projects focus on TV rather than film.


From the extraordinary “Dreamers” (1998) to the memorable triptych “Winter Songs” (2004), “The White Album” (2005) and “Restless” (2005), short filmmaker Felix Viscarret captures the residual poetry of modern life: love’s paradoxes, nostalgia for things past, the solitude of sentiments, dreamlike existence. Produced by Fernando Trueba and Cristina Huete, his “Beneath the Stars” is one of the most awaited feature debuts this year.

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