Spanish fest honors thriller, 'We're All Invited'

MALAGA — The 11th Malaga Spanish Film Festival closed Saturday, with the spread of prizes confirming that, though nearly all international buzz about Spain is focused on thriller titles like “The Orphanage” and “Rec,” there’s a range of other equally valid fare coming out of the country.

Nonetheless, top pic prize went to F. Javier Gutierrez’s “Before the Fall,” which rolls together a psycho killer and apocalypse into a high-energy sci-fi whole.

Special jury prize and critics’ awards went to Manuel Gutierrez Aragon’s critically well-received “Estamos todos invitados” (“We’re All Invited”), a provocative political drama about life in Spain’s politically delicate Basque region.

Silvia Munt repped an unusual Spanish fest triumph for a femme helmer, taking best director for her intimate marriage breakdown drama “Pretexts.”

Thesping nods went to popular thesp Javier Camara for his precision-engineered perf as a gay chef in Nacho Garcia Velilla’s crowd-pleasing comedy debut “Chef’s Special,” which also garnered the audience award.

Actress was won by Ana Fernandez as a ruthless femme exec in the grueling, misanthropic satire “Welcome to Farewell-Gutmann,” which also took music for Mikel Salas.

The top prize in ZonaZine, fest’s low-budgeter sidebar, went to Irene Cardona Bacas’ immigration drama “A Fiance for Yasmina,” while principal kudos in Malaga’s Latin Territory sidebar was for Mexico’s Enrique Begne’s superb-looking “Two Love Stories.”

Best docu went to Argentine helmer Andres Di Tella for “Fotografias,” an intimate exploration of the helmer’s family history.

“14 Fabian Road,” 81-year-old Jaime de Arminan’s return to film, won screenplay. The perceptive rural revenge drama was scripted by Arminan with his son, Eduardo de Arminan.

Most obvious genre film in Malaga competish was punchy identity crisis thriller “Proyecto 2.”

Ana Diez’s earnest Uruguay-based family drama “Paisito” made a near lone attempt to tie up past politics and their consequences, once a strong Spanish cinema artistic trend.

Carlos Carcas’ Tribeca-selected “Old Man Bebo” proved an enjoyable trawl through the long life of Bebo Valdes, one of Latin jazz’s greatest performers, as well as providing a heavily-researched history of 20th Cuban music.

Local critics’ take was that the general quality of competish films at Malaga most probably fell a touch short of last year’s 10th edition, which boasted notable debuts by a clutch of young Spanish filmmakers.

But Malaga’s overall level of quality this time round was probably higher.

Announcing its picture award for “The Fall,” Malaga jury prexy Guy Braucourt stressed the jury had chosen a pic of true cinematographic value.

This year’s films were heavy on TV influence, from the use of Spanish TV stars as key cast to the directors’ career origins — before lensing “Chef’s Special,” Garcia Velilla directed top sitcom “7 vidas” — and also small screen finance.

Due to the obligation to hit local quotas, Spanish broadcasters invested a huge $151.9 million in local pics in 2006, driving film production in Spain.

One film that may break with the TV style trend — in screenplay rather than cast — is “Mi dieta mediterranea,” a romantic comedy triangle tale presented at Malaga. Directed by Joaquin Oristrell whose “Unconscious” garnered good notices and foreign sales for Latido, “Dieta,” which rolls in June, is produced by Marta Esteban for Messidor Films.

While being a rough-and-ready bellwether of the Spanish industry’s artistic vitality, Malaga can’t guarantee commercial success, even for its standouts. However, two pics bowing Friday have fared above par.

Released on an ambitious 235 copies by Warner Bros., the efficient “Chef’s Special” took a first frame $1.5 million, an excellent result for a first-time director, even with Javier Camara toplining.

“Todos estamos invitados” grossed a highly creditable $432,174 — given its hard-nosed social criticism — for a $4,002 average off 111.

Fest ran April 4-12.

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

THE WINNERS

GOLDEN BIZNAGA
“The Fall” (F. Javier Gutierrez)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Todos estamos invitados,” (Manuel Gutierrez Aragon)

CRITICS AWARD
“Cowards” (Jose Corbacho and Juan Cruz)

DIRECTOR
Silvia Munt (“Pretexts”)

ACTRESS
Ana Fernandez (“Welcome to Farewell-Gutmann”)

ACTOR
Javier Camara (“Chef’s Special”)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mariana Cordero (“The Fall”)

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Oscar Jaenada (“Todos estamos invitados”)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Jaime de Arminan and Eduardo de Arminan (“14, Fabian Road”)

AUDIENCE AWARD
“Chef’s Special” (Nacho Garcia Velilla)

ORIGINAL SCORE
Mikel Salas (“Welcome to Farewell-Gutmann”)

CINEMATOGRAPHY
David Omedes (“Pretexts”)

COSTUME DESIGN
Pepe Reyes (“Crazy”)

MAKEUP
Anabel Beato and Yolanda Pina (“The Fall”)

SPECIAL JURY MENTION
“Cowards”

ALMA FIRST SCREENPLAY PRIZE
Juan Velarde and F. Javier Gutierrez (“The Fall”)

SHORT
“Alumbramiento” (Eduardo Chapero Jackson)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Fotografias” (Andres Di Tella)

DOCUMENTARY SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains” (Gonzalo Arijon)

LATIN TERRITORY
“Doz abrazos,” Enrique Begne

ZONAZINE
“A Fiance for Yasmina” (Irene Cardona)

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