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Spain ramps up docs

Art Mood's slate includes 'Guernica Generation,' 'Tapies'

MADRID — Spanish sales agent Art Mood, which licensed last year’s Oscar-nommed docu “Balseros” (Cuban Rafters) nearly worldwide, has added nine docus to its slate, joining Slot and Ermedia at the forefront of Spanish docu sales.

Spain produced 26 feature-length docs in 2004, a huge jump from six in 2000. Its expansion underscores not only the opportunities but also the challenges facing the genre in the wake of “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Spanish filmmakers have a penchant for social realities (think “Death of a Cyclist,” “Poachers,” “The Holy Innocents” and “The Sea Inside,” a real-events-based meller). In industrial terms, however, Spain docupic boom may be a sign of weakness as much as strength. Whammied by depleted state aid and falling TV finance, many producers turned to lower-budget productions.

Budgeted from E350,000 to E1 million ($455,000-$1.3 million), a docu feature can source central and regional aid, and Spanish or overseas TV co-production equity, lowering potential downside. Art Mood itself is prepping one production, “Mothers of the Disappeared.” But shoestring production inevitably delivers irregular results.

Art Mood’s slate does tap Spanish productions: Steve Bowles’ Civil War child exile “The Guernica Generation”; “Maletilla,” profiling child wannabe bullfighters; profiles of an abstract artist, “Alphabet Tapies,” and a Cuban crooner, “Machin, the Boleros King”; and “Mafia, the Dirty Side of Italy.”

But Art Mood has also just closed on Dutch Rotterdam fest player, “The Echoes of War,” about war-traumatized kids. Peter Kerekes’ “66 Seasons” is Slovak, “Cardboard Days” Argentine, Holly Mosher’s “Hummingbird” American-Brazilian.

Art Mood founder Maria Jose Solera pinpoints five exacting criteria for acquiring a docu: it’s cutting-edge or controversial, “The Corporation” style; has great home-turf B.O./ratings; it must boast high production values; it should win fest prizes.

The last factor makes docu sales much of a crap game. Docupic vendors dream of landing primetime deals with first-market giants, which can bring in $65,000 a piece. But these giants are scarce: PBS, HBO, Canada’s CBC and Documentary Channel, BBC, Channel 4, Arte, ZDF, NHK, Australia’s SBS and ABC. Secondary markets — cable/satellite, territories in Eastern Europe — may bring in as little as $1,300-$4,000 a deal. So Art Mood is complementing doc sales by acquiring classics — “The Big Blue,” “Nikita” — or more contempo fare — “Kiss the Bride” — for TV/DVD or sometimes all-rights in Spain.

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