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Spain’s MLK finds German partners

Documentary-maker prepares three series

MADRID — Andalusian docu shingle MLK Prods. is forging a co-production axis with Germany.

MLK, which is headed by Jose Antonio Hergueta, has three series in pre-production or set to roll in 2010.

All have Teuton elements — in financing, subject or above-the-line talent. The three plumb the rich culture or history of Andalusia, and have a German — in front or behind the cameras — visiting the region.

Based out of Malaga, MLK has tapped co-production coin from the Potsdam-Rostock based Extra-Vision, German pubcaster ARD, Rotterdam’s Neon Media and San Sebastian’s Sincro Produccion de Imagen for “The Last Magnate.”

The one-hour docu tells the story of the armaments alliance — most specifically, the construction of an E-l U-Boat in 1934 — between German spymaster Wilhem Canaris, later an Admiral and rebellious head of Hitler’s Abwehr secret service, and Horacio Echevarrieta, the William Randolph Hearst of Spain.

The Euros300,000 ($437,000) special rolls February/March, directed by Hergueta.

MLK is also developing “Shulten’s Tartessos,” a two-part miniseries chronicling German archeologist Adolfo Shulten’s dig in 1924 near modern Huelva for the lost city of Tartessos.

Directed by Antonio Lobos (“Por un punado de suenos”), budgeted at $660,000 and shooting from spring, “Tartessos” has pulled down financing from Andalusia’s government.

Meanwhile, German Michael Meert (“Flamenco Clan”) will direct “Bajo Taurus y Orion,” a $735,000 docu-feature that chronicles the life of a bull and bullfighter up to their confrontation in the ring. Portugal’s Contra-Contea Producoes, headed by Francisco Villa-Lobos, co-produces.

In documentaries, it’s much easier to co-produce with France and German than the U.K.,” said Hergueta.

Documentaries are increasingly prestigious. But in the last five years, the offer’s increased and demand’s gone down,” he added.

If producers don’t finance upfront via co-production or pre-sales, it’s sometimes difficult — depending on the film — to recoup via sales, Hergueta argued.

Last year, MLK produced “The Mystery of the Magi” for Arte, the Franco-German culture channel. Directed by France’s Stephane Begoin, one-hour docu turns on the reality and artistic depiction down the ages of the Three Wise Kings.

One highlight of November’s Seville European Film Festival was a rough-cut screening of MLK’s “Out of Cordoba.” In it, U.S. writer Joseph Bender travels from New York to Cordoba, Fes, Paris, Venice, Cairo, Quatar, Palestine and Jerusalem to trace the lives and legacy of two 12th century Cordoba thinkers, Moses Maimonedes and Averroes, both defenders of religious tolerance.

Directed by Bender, “Cordoba” is co-produced by the New York Foundation for the Arts and Andalusian pubcaster Canal Sur. It will be ready for delivery in January.

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