Prolific Wanda Vision quietly produces fest faves

Co. behind two Oscar-nommed films this year

MADRID — Name the most productive, most modest production company in Europe. Weighing in in the Spanish corner: Wanda Vision. Owned by unassuming brothers Jose Maria Morales and Miguel Morales, Wanda doesn’t blow its own trumpet. It hardly blows its own recorder. But it co-produced two Oscar-nominated films this year — “The Crime of Father Amaro” and “Winged Migration” (aka “Traveling Birds”).

It’s also behind one of the biggest-budgeted Latin American pics of the year, Luis Puenzo’ s $3 million “La puta y la ballena” (The Whore and the Whale).

And, as most Spanish production scales down, nuked by slow pay TV sales, Wanda is ramping up with six films in production. Some are new, such as family reunion drama “El abrazo partido,” directed by Daniel Burman, line producer on Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries”; sibling drama “Whisky,” from helmers Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll (“25 Watts”); and “El nacimiento de una pasion” (The Birth of a Passion), a docu feature about the origins of soccer. “La puta y la ballena,” a Patagonia-set tale of a woman’s journey of self discovery toplining Aitana Sanchez-Gijon and Leonardo Sbaraglia, is lensing.

Two films are in post: Cuban Fernando Perez’s “Suite Habana,” a study of daily life in the city, which is tipped for a major fest berth; and “Perfecto amor equivocado,” Gerardo Chijona’s Woody-Allenish comedy about a Cuban writer’s late-ish life crisis.

Wanda typifies many Euro producers. It’s not aiming to grow and go public, or to be bought by a major: Production is more like a lifestyle option. “I like what I do and I’m lucky enough to have met a lot of interesting people,” Jose Maria Morales says.

But don’t underestimate the intelligence in Wanda’s method. It works the festival circuit, or make festivals work for it: “Whisky” won the NHK/Wanda/TVE/Canal Plus screenplay prize at Sundance, and “El abrazo partido” took a similar Canal Plus plaudit at the Havana Film Festival. A 2002 production, the three-parter “Historias minimas,” directed by Carlos Sorin, came out of the San Sebastian/Toulouse Films in Progress screenings.

Wanda also rediscovers talent: Before working with Wanda, Sorin had not made a film for 13 years, Puenzo for 11. It hones costs: Morales’ sales staff is himself. And he is fruitfully non-aggressive: By not asking an arm and a leg for “Historias minimas” abroad, he sold it to most of the world.

When the Morales brothers talk about “La puta y la ballena,” they’re as likely to talk about the right whales that frolic off Patagonia as they are about production strategies. Both have a certain joie de vivre: They holiday near Cadiz, which has some of the finest beaches in Spain; Jose Maria is fond of fine red wine. They like getting people together: A dinner at the Huelva Film Festival included Argentina’s Pablo Trapero and Matias Mosterin, actor Don Ranvaud, Cuba’s Camilo Vives, Toronto Fest rep Diana Sanchez, fun-loving thesp Sancho Gracia and some 10 others.

And, in choosing their projects, the Morales brothers simply seem to have good taste. That’ s the acid test for good producers worldwide, whether you’re John Calley, the Weinsteins or a film school grad.

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