'Traffic'-style thriller one of Spain's most ambitious productions for 2012

Pan-European production-distribution powerhouse Studiocanal has boarded “El nino,” a “Traffic”-style action thriller set against the Gibraltar Straits drug trade and one of the most ambitious films going into production next year in Spain.

Announced at Toronto by Harold Van Lier, the deal has Studiocanal putting up substantial co-financing for “El nino.” Its minimum guarantee will gap-finance “El nino,” effectively greenlighting the project.

Spanish director Daniel Monzon, helmer of Spanish sleeper “Cell 211,” will direct from a screenplay co-penned with Jorge Guerricaechevarria (“The Oxford Murders”).

“Nino” is “an epic story somewhere between ‘Gomorrah’ and ‘Scarface,'” Van Lier, Studiocanal head of international sales, told Variety. It turns on a small-time drug-trafficker, nicknamed El Nino, who traffics across the Straits in a speed boat, dodging Spanish coast guards. His filmed exploits turn him into an Internet hero but raise the ire of Spain’s anti-narcotics brigade and big drug cartels.

Budgeted at more than $9 million, “El nino” is in the new high-bracket range for film finance-starved Spain. Telecinco Cinema, Spain’s biggest production company and producer of “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Orphanage” and “Agora,” is co-financing. It also produces out of Spain with Barcelona-based Ikiru Films, headed by Edmon Roch and Jordi Gasull.

“El nino” is skedded to shoot early April with delivery by early 2013.

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