Psychological thriller set up at 'Operation E' producer Tormenta

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain

Helmer-scribe Juanma Bajo Ulloa, a San Sebastian Golden Shell winner with “Butterfly Wings,” is prepping his English-language debut, psychological thriller “El Mal.”

“El Mal” is set up at Madrid-based Tormenta Films, whose first production, Miguel Courtois Paternina’s “Operation E,” with Luis Tosar, world preems at San Sebastian on Tuesday.

Set in an unidentified western city, “El Mal” is a “disquieting story plumbing the darkest side of the human soul, making us question our ethical roots,” said Tormenta’s Cristina Zumarraga, who line-produced Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” movies.

“El Mal” is currently casting.

Bajo Ulloa is a leading light of a generation of Spanish directors who broke through in the early 1990s.

“El Mal,” like “Operation E,” which was shot entirely in Colombia, confirms the international slant of Tormenta Films, founded by Zumarraga and Marisa Castelao in late 2008. That overseas bent is hardly surprising. Zumarraga has worked extensively as a line-producer for Morena Films, one of Spain’s most international producers.

“Operation E” is co-produced by Tosar’s Galicia-based Zirkocine and France’s Ajoz Films, owned by Ariel Zeitoun, exec producer on “Colombiana” and producer of “Bandidas”. Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp distributes in France; DeAPlaneta bows “Operation E” in Spain on Dec. 14, and DeAPlaneta Intl. sells international rights. Natixis Coficine cash-flowed the production.

Based on true events, “Operation E” stars Tosar as a small-time Colombian coca cultivator pursued by FARC guerrilla forces and Colombia’s police after he’s falsely accused of kidnapping the baby of a FARC hostage.

“This is the story of how armed conflict, anywhere in the world, can end up destroying the life of many innocent people,” Zumarraga said.

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