Pics play at first Catalan Screenings in Paris

PARIS — Pau Freixas’ “Heroes” and Agusti Villaronga’s “Black Bread” drew buyer attention at the first Catalan Screenings in Paris.

Set in the 80s in a pristine village on Catalonia’s Costa Brava, “Heroes” was an unabashed hymn to first love and the last summer of infancy, similar in tone to “Stand By Me,” and a candidate for some sort of Berlinale berth.

A plush period coming-of-ager, unspooling in a Catalan village in 1943, four years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, “Bread” was seen in 20-minute excerpts. It came across as a large art film with major fest selection potential.

Spanish pubcaster RTVE hold worldwide rights outside France.

“Bread” reps an “opening up in style” for Villaronga (“In a Glass Cage,” “The Sea”), producer Isona Pasola said in Paris.

“Heroes” and “Bread” are the first fruits of the Catalan government’s drive into higher-bracket productions with larger commercial heft. “Heroes” drew down Euros1.7 million ($2.55 million) from the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries and pubcaster TV3, said producer Luis de Val.

Organized by Catalan Films and TV, and held Dec. 3-4 at the Club Marbeuf, a chic screening room just off the Champs Elysees, the Screenings underscored the breadth — and sometimes depth — of contempo Catalan filmmaking.

A family film portrait, producer Luis Minarro’s left-of-field directorial deb, “Family Strip,” seen at Karlovy Vary Film Fest, records his own parents chatting about love and sex in a deeply Catholic 1940s Spain, as they sit for a family painting. What paintings are supposed to do — deliver a telling take on their subjects — the film does also achieves.

Minarro revealed excerpts from Jose Maria de Orbe’s upcoming “Aita,” set in a deserted family house, and a teaser from Agusti Villa’s family comedy, “The Mosquito Net.”

Other Screenings ranged from Ramon Termen’s “Dark Buenos Aires,” an Argentine-set corruption thriller, to identity drama “Station of the Forgotten,” “E.S.O,” a straight-arrow high-school schlock pic, and the off-beat “Drifting,” from Catalonia’s most established auteur, Ventura Pons.

An actors’ director, Pons’ “Drifting” is driven by the lead actress’ perf as an NGO worker in Africa who, disillusioned by humanity, returns to Barcelona to seek only noncommittal relations. That, however, bucks human nature.

Sold by Latido Films, “Drifting” features unabashed nudity. Other films in Paris did nothing to deflate Spanish cinema’s reputation as one of the most liberal — and sometimes libertarian — in Europe.

Laura Mana’s laugh out loud comedy, “Life Begins Today,” another major screenings draw, follows the rejuvenated lives of two members of an over-65s sex class: One is transported to heaven, in both senses, when her vibrator falls into the bath.

“Ingrid,” a fiction film/mockumentary from Eduard Cortes, portrays the crash-and-burn life of its heroine, a performance artist and wild child of Barcelona’s ultra-hip alternative art scene. In one show, Ingrid’s hangs herself by her own flesh.

Featured in a teaser, Luis Gaiter’s “Caracremada,” a fiction film set in Catalonia’s mountains, is based on the real life of the redoubtable Ramon Vila Capdevila, a French resistance hero and the last of the anti-Franco Spanish maquis. Pic again suggests festival potential.

“O.W. Kenosha,” from indefatigable cineaste Carlos Benpar, portrays Orson Welles’ early life in his birthplace, Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Docu short includes Welles’ last recorded — and premonitory — words, spoken on radio three weeks before his death, where he reads Charles Lindbergh’s diary of his end to his flight from New York to Paris: “It seems a shame to land with the night so clear and so much fuel in my tanks.”

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