Spanish helmers feel Riviera freeze

Cannes leaves directors out in the cold

Spanish presence at Cannes in 2006 is the highest, tying 2003, in a decade. But that must be taken with a caveat.

The list includes three productions in the Official Selection (in competition: Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”; Manuel Huerga’s “Salvador” in Un Certain Regard), plus Directors Fortnight player “Honor of the Knights” from Albert Serra. Wanda put up 10% of Argentine Un Certain Regard screener “Hamaca paraguaya.”

Spain’s Official Selection muscle this year is almost on a par Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Latin America, which all boast four films a piece. (France comes in with 17).

And it’s up on the past: From 1997 to 2006, Spanish films have snagged 13 Cannes competition or special screening spots. Yet that pales before France’s 137 , the U.K.’s 37 or even Germany’s 24 and Italy’s 23.

Productions are one thing, directors another.

When it comes to helmers in competition this year, there’s a touch of deja vu — or, rather, deja non vu — about the Spanish presence: just Pedro Almodovar.

Only two Spanish directors have competed at Cannes in the last decade: Pedro Almodovar and Catalan Marc Recha (“Pau and His Brother,” 2001). That compares with two Germans, four Portuguese, six Latin Americans, eight Italians, 10 Brits and 28 French helmers.

Is Cannes biased against Spanish films? Spanish producers would claim so.

It’s cold comfort, but German directors get as rough a ride as their Spanish counterparts at Cannes. Venice and, notably, Berlin, open their competition to far more Spanish helmers.

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