a gun in each hand

Paris meet showcases latest from Spain’s indie arthouse scene

MADRID — Jordi Cadena and Judith Colell’s “Evil,” Pedro Aguilera’s “Sister of Mine” and Paco Roca’s “Memorias de un hombre en pijama” figure among six projects featuring Friday at Paris’ Small is Biutiful co-production/distribution meet.

Also in the mix: Alberto Morais’ “La madre,” Paco Torres’ “Blue Guitar” and “Siete horas,” from Chema Rodriguez.

Organized by Espagnolas en Paris as part of its annual June Different! Festival, SIB is a unique international platform for edgier indie Spanish movie projects, in this case those seeking co-pro partners, sales agents and distribution out of France.

However boutique, Small is Biutiful has attracted multiple Spanish backers and two of the biggest of French institutional players: the Ile de France Film Commission and Cannes Festival’s Marche du Film.

Unspooling at Paris restaurant Le Patio, this year’s 7th SIB is fully subscribed by reps from 33 French companies.

That’s a sign of an efficient and sybaritic structure – focused 15-minute meetings between the projects’ Spanish producers/directors and a table of potential French partners over an extended lunch.

It also underscores the hiked attractiveness of projects coming onto the international market via SIB, a sign of increasingly financing problems in Spain.

Per Espagnolas en Paris’ Jose Maria Riba, Small is Biutiful received 50 project applications, 21 from Catalonia, where arthouse production remains most resilient, 10 from Madrid, seven from the Basque Country, six from Valencia, two from Galicia, and one from Castille-Leon, Ireland, the Canary Islands and Andalusia.

Arthouse production has born the full brunt of austerity cuts in Spain. Some art pic directors have moved abroad: Torres lives in Ireland. Many now look to international for substantial co-funding for projects which only five years ago could have been very largely or fully-financed out of Spain.

That shows in Spain is Biutiful’s line-up. Four of the six projects are from directors now on their third (Aguilera, Torres, Morais), fourth (Colell) and even eleventh (Cadena) fiction feature. Many have distinguished track records. Aguilera’s first feature “The Influence” played Directors’ Fortnight; Torres’ debut, the mother- leukemia-victim daughter tale “The Magic of Hope” – was reviewed positively by Variety for its “distinctive mix of grit and lyricism.” “Elisa K.,” another Cadena/Coll collaboration, won San Sebastian’s jury prize in 2010.

Two thirds of SIB’s 2014 projects are also set outside Spain, increasing their attractiveness for potential French partners, observed Alain Coiffier, president of Espagnolas en Paris.

Reprising a two-part structure that paid large artistic dividends in “Elisa K.,” “Evil” unspools in two industrial cities: Maybe Berlin and Paris. Both tales turn on sexual awakening: Two teen girls set up a blind sex date; another 15-year-old girl, the victim of a rape attack, seeks out her aggressor. The narratives alternate but never converge and are told in different film languages.

Turning on a small boy’s relation with his adopted mother and another boy, and set against the background of Guatemala’s horrific civil war, “Siete horas” aims to shoot in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes Highlands and Mexico’s Chiapas.

Backed by County Wicklow’s Epos Film and Dublin’s Grand Pictures, plus Lord Entertainment, “Blue Guitar” unspools in Antibes, near Cannes, where a guilt-ridden Palestine strikes up a relationship with a Jewish boy and a woman looking to remake her life.

Animated/live action feature “Memorias de un hombre en pijama” marks the directorial debut of Paco Roca, whose comic book “Wrinkles,” Spain’s 2008 National Comic Prize winner, received a high-profile big-screen makeover from Ignacio Ferreras.

“La madre,” Alberto Morais’ follow-up to “Los chicos del puerto,” tracks 14-year-old Miguel, who battles at all costs to be reunited with his feckless single mother and not be sent back to a center for minors.

SIB projects were chosen from those which had at least some financing from Spain, said Coiffier. Project budgets have dropped significantly – none cost more than €1.6 million ($2.2 million). But the adoption of digital technology aids high-quality low-budget filmmaking, Coiffier added.

The Marche du Film’s Cinando video library will allow potential partners to screen prior films by selected directors and producers from this week and for a month after Small is Biutiful.

Screening at the now Haut et Court-owned Luoxor picture palace, one of Paris’ hippest indie hardtops, Different! 7, an alternative Spanish film fest, hiked notably its ticket sales this year, Riba said.

Film playing Different 7 include titles which first saw the light of day at Small is Biutiful, such as Fernando Franco’s “Wounded,” a San Sebastian Special Jury Prize and actress winner, and “Cannibal,” which was selected for Cannes’ Atelier after being presented by Manuel Martin Cuenca at SIB in 2011 and subsequently snagged French co-production.

Unveiled at SIB in 2011, and opening Different 6! Cesc Guy’s “A Gun in Each Hand” (pictured) was bought for French distribution by Daniel Harroch’s Zylo Films after he met with The Match Factory’s Brigitte Suarez at Different’s mini-mart, Rendez-vous a l’Opera!

Spain’s ICAA Film Institute, Catalonia’s Catalan Films and Generalitat government, Galicia’s Agadic and Xunta and Etxepare Basque Institute have backed the 7th Small is Biutiful.

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