Malaga festival showcases rising talent

Spanish event boasts a host of feature debuts

MADRID — A bevy of eagerly awaited first films — “Bajo las estrellas,” “Thieves,” “The Contestant” and “Yo” — feature among competish titles at this year’s Malaga Spanish Film Festival, Spain’s biggest sprocket opera dedicated to Spanish films.

Fest runs March 9-17.

Skewering contempo consumerism, Rodrigo Cortes’ “The Contestant” mocks TV gameshows, and their results. Troubled teen drama “Thieves” headlines Spain’s best known young thesps — Juan Jose Ballesta (“7 Virgins”) and Maria Valverde (“Melissa P.”)

From standout short film helmer Felix Viscarret, tragicomic redemption tale “Bajo” follows a washed up musician who returns to his Deep North pueblo for a family funeral.

Identity drama “Yo,” from Rafa Cortes, won the Fipresci international critics prize at January’s Rotterdam Film Fest.

Competition features another debut: “Pudor,” a family drama, from thesp Tristan Ulloa and brother David Ulloa.

On paper, the pics face some tough competition, such as from “Guantanamero,” the Guantanamo-set English-language debut of Vicente Penarrocha, whose own debut, “Out of Body,” drew applause.

Also currying expectation is Carmen Maura starrer “El menor de los males,” a study of political vice, from Antonio Hernandez (“The Borgias,” “Oculto”).

Competish will world preem Manolo Lombadero’s jazz-bar set “Tuya siempre,” with another standout perf from Colombia’s Flora Martinez (“Rosario Tijeras”), plus Anton Reixa’s “Hotel Tivoli,” a whimsical multi-parter romantic comedy, and Azucena Rodriguez’s thirtysomething femme drama “Atlas de geografia humana.”

Alvaro Diaz Lorenzo’s comedy “Cafe solo o con ellas” analyses a younger generation’s doubts about settling down. Also competing are Santiago Lorenzo’s ironical comedy “Un buen dia lo tiene cualquiera,” Miguel Alcantud’s musician murder thriller “Abastezsi,” and a surprising docupic about the Kabul Cinematheque, “Los ojos de Ariana,” from Ricardo Macian.

Competish title “Mariposa negra” is a Peru-set corruption thriller from Francisco Lombardi who, with 10 pics under his belt, rates as a veteran in this young director spread.

Fest closes with the BBC Films-backed “Four Last Songs” from Francesca Joseph (“Tomorrow La Scala!”), set in a Mallorca ex-pat community.

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