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‘Kilometers’ wins at Valladolid

Spanish pics make strong showing

MADRID — For the first time ever, a Spanish film, Gerardo Olivares’ moving immigration drama “14 Kilometers,” took the top Golden Spike at the 52nd Valladolid Intl. Film Fest.

In “Kilometers,” Olivares employs the same methods that yielded strong results in his Berlin Panorama player “The Great Match”: months long research and a fictionalized, warm-hearted re-creation of events shot in the same locations with sumptuous HD photography and non-pro thesps.

In this case, “Kilometers” follows two men from Southern Niger and a girl from Mali crossing the Tenere Desert, Algeria and Morocco before confronting passage across the Straits of Gibraltar — the 14 kilometers of the film’s title.

As ever, Valladolid, a fall launchpad for arthouse pics, sported a strong lineup of standouts from other events. Marjane Satrapi and Vicent Paronnaud’s “Persepolis” opened the festival to strong applause; another liked film, Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna Kos-Krauze’s contempo Polish family drama “Savior’s Square,” won a Silver Spike; and Claude Berri’s “Hunting and Gathering” took the fest’s general audience award.

But for once at Valladolid, it was Spain’s edition, with Spanish pics, often world preems, producing large press coverage and often upbeat reactions.

Well received by the public, Spanish filmmaker-writer Gonzalo Suarez’s “Oviedo Express” nominally chronicles a troupe of actors reaching Northern Spain’s Oviedo to put on a stage version of famed Spanish novel “La Regenta.”

But that’s just the launchpad for Suarez’s signature and semi- tongue-in-cheek mix of fantasy, literary references, and romantic drama.

Co-produced by Spain’s Morena Films, Mexican Rodrigo Pla’s “The Zone,” one of the standout Latin American debs of this year, a stylish and powerful social thriller about a gated community manhunt, also went down well, as did another strong Latin American first film, Lucia Puenzo’s transsexual drama “XXY,” co-produced by Wanda.

Fest boasted two standout docupics. One, Guenter Schwaiger’s discomfiting “Hafner’s Paradise,” co-produced by Schwaiger’s Madrid-based label, is an in-depth portrait of an 83-year-old ex-S.S. officer, Paul Hafner, who moved to Madrid under Franco in 1945, still lives comfortably in Spain, and has no moral qualms about his Nazi past.

Also currying positive buzz, Carlos Garcia-Alix’s “The Honor of the Wronged,” proved a painterly, revisionist take on the still-open scars left by the first third of the 20th century.

“Wronged” focuses on the turbulent life of off-the-rails anarchist Felipe Sandoval. It adds to attempts by usually new directors to come to terms with the complexities of Spain’s often atrocious and usually divisive recent past.

Fest ran Oct.26 to Nov. 3.

Owen Thompson contributed to this report.

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