Malaga Film Festival kicks off March 9

MADRID — Unspooling beneath a 14th century Moorish fortress, the Malaga Spanish Film Fest showcases Andalusia’s Muslim past.

With five awaited first features in competition, its 10th edition, running March 9-17, should also offer unparalleled vistas of Spain’s newest Nueva Ola.

The hallmark of Spain’s last, early ’90s New Wave was updated versions of genre films from the likes of Julio Medem, Alejandro Amenabar or Alex de la Iglesia.

Some Spanish debuts are still genre pieces, such as Juan Antonio Bayonas’ chiller “The Orphanage,” bought by Picturehouse at Berlin.

But globalization overshadows the Malaga tyros. Several of this year’s first-timers turned in rite-of-passage pics.

In Rafa Cortes’ sardonic identity-theft drama “Me,” which won a Rotterdam Fipresci award, a German gardener retiring in Mallorca assumes a dead man’s character.

Felix Viscarret’s “Under the Stars” has a washed-up musician returning to his pueblo, and falling for a mother and spunky daughter. Aided by new regional coin — from Navarre, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Andalusia, Castille and Leon — the Malaga debutants are Spain’s first generation to shoot all over the country, not just in Madrid and Barcelona.

Filmmaking brothers David and Tristan Ulloa used the Gijon resort setting of “Pudor” to contrast the open seascapes with characters’ failure to open up to each other.

With its new generation, Spanish filmmaking seems finally to have gained style — or styles.

“Maybe you get a new generation of directors every 15 years. What marks these new films apart is care for form, without forgetting content,” says Simon de Santiago, topper at Sogecine/Sogepaq, which sells “Thieves” and “Pudor.”

Rodrigo Cortes’ “The Contestant,” a frenetically cut, jaundiced take on consumerism, was lensed in three different formats — 8mm, Super 16 and video, then digitized. Reflecting globalization, the films show a patchwork of styles and genres.

Viscarret calls “Under the Stars” a “village road movie-cum-Western.” One of the Ulloas’ favorite directors is Michael Winterbottom, for his eclecticism.

None of the pics costs more than $3 million.

But all come with buzz. Some will no doubt play higher-profile events. A few could rack up impressive foreign sales.

Last year’s Malaga sleeper, first-timer Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s “Dark Blue Almost Black,” another quirky tale of rising above, played the Venice Days.

Jorge Sanchez Cabezudo’s recent deb “The Night of the Sun Flowers,” which shuttles shockingly from rape to murder to police skullduggery, grossed $1.4 million in Spain.

At Berlin, Sogepaq closed a soon-to-be-announced U.S. deal on “Dark Blue.”

“The new directors’ viewpoint is more international,” says Tesela head Jose Antonio Felez, producer of “Pudor” and “Dark Blue.”

“And in a globalized world, sentiments are similar in different places. So these films can find audiences abroad.”

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