Venevision takes three at Madrid

Event elicits mixed response

MADRID — Miami-based Venevision Intl. inked U.S. DVD, video-on-demand and pay-TV rights Tuesday to a trio of titles at the Madrid de Cine-Spanish Film Screenings.

Pics nabbed by Venevision for broadcast on its 24-hour Spanish-language movie channel VeneMovies, said Venevision international acquisitions exec Jose Ramon Ganchegui, were Mexican wrestling docupic “Loco Fighters,” sold by Notro Intl, and Cesar Martinez’s youth social drama “Arena en los bolsillos,” and Jorge Nebra’s Cuba-set feature debut “Habanece,” both licensed from Bulbeck & Mas.

The second edition of the Screenings faced several challenges.

Running Saturday night through Tuesday, the event came hot on the heels of Cannes. So much of the product had already been seen.

Spanish sales agents praised the number of buyers in attendance — significantly up on 2006 — and the caliber of some execs.

“There are some important buyers and companies represented here, and we get quality time with a lot of people,” said 6 Sales topper Marina Fuentes.

But Spain’s film industry just doesn’t have the critical mass of big international titles to attract all significant buyers worldwide.

So sales companies postpone the bows of many of their best and biggest pics for international fests.

Of new or newish films that did receive official screenings, though sometimes off limits to Daily Variety, Roberto Santiago’s broad black comedy “The Suicide Club” and Lucia Puenzo’s perceptive hermaphrodite drama “XXY” were among the most praised by buyers.

“Presumed Guilty,” a five-a-side soccer comedy from Enric Folch, was thought simpatico by more mainstream distributors.

Ramon Costafreda’s “Wrap Up” proved an understated rough diamond: its challenge will be to find a marketing hook.

Sergio Oksman’s docupic “Goodbye, America,” which has a cigar-chomping Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster, reminiscing about his acting career and political activism, suggests some kind of U.S. niche distribution potential.

Perhaps the biggest new title, in terms of budget, at the Screenings was helmer-producer Ibon Cormenzana’s “The Totenwackers,” a proficient children’s horror film in which three kids battle adults’ evil deeds, persuasively personified by a poker-faced Geraldine Chaplin.

Cormenzana’s second directorial sally has sold all Latin American rights to Belgium’s CDC. Pic is repped by Filmax.

In unreported recent deals, Antonio Hernandez’s darkly elegant comedy “El menor de los males” (The Least of all Evils), another buzz title, has been picked up for international sales by 6 Sales and sold near straight-off-the-bat to LAPTV for Latin American pay-TV.

6 Sales has also taken international on Spanish 70s film shoot satire “Dias de cine” (Cinema Days), the latest film from David Serrano (“Football Days”).

Kevin William’s KWA sold “La caja” to Serbia’s MCF Megacom Film and pan-regional Latin American pay-TV rights on the same title to LAPTV.

LAPTV, one of the most steadfast of Spanish film buyers, also bought three films from Latido in Screenings deals: “The Gronholm Method,” “Viva Cuba” and “Los aires dificiles.”

Latido also closed Canadian all rights with Mongrel Media on Cesc Gay’s “Fiction” and Jose Luis Cuerda’s “The Education of a Fairy.” “Fados,” Carlos Saura’s sumptuous Portuguese song and dance film, went to Lev Films in Israel.

Most deals accelerated by the Screenings will close in upcoming weeks: the international market is tough, not just for Spanish-language films but foreign-language fare in general.

“But it’s precisely because the market’s tough that we need a Screenings,” said Spanish producer Jose Maria Morales.

Of bigger-budgeted pics, Lola did arrange a sneak screening for Adrien Brody-Penelope Cruz romancer “Manolete.” Filmax had a promo of Brad Anderson’s “Trans-Siberian,” currently in post.

6 Sales unveiled early footage from Miguel Bardem’s comic book adaptation “Mortadelo & Filemon. Mission: Save the Planet” to a generally upbeat response.

Mood at the Screenings, though realistic about the tough international market, was generally upbeat thanks to an in-the-works film law, approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers June 1, which raises tax breaks for Spanish film production from 5% to 18% of investment for purely financial investors.

Jonathan Holland, Emilio Mayorga and Maria Alvarez Rilla contributed to this report.

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