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‘Rough Winds’ hits Malaga

Herrero pic wins top prize at Spanish fest

MALAGA — The 9th Malaga Spanish Film Festival, Spain’s biggest showcase for local films, wrapped Saturday, with the winners in its two main sections going to films with a distinctly local, Andalusian flavor.

“Los aires dificiles” (Rough Winds), a sharply-plotted drama of sibling rivalry set on Spain’s turbulent Atlantic coast, was the surprise winner of best film for helmer/producer Gerardo Herrero.

In fest’s edgier Zonazine sidebar, Fernando de France’s lively flamenco item “Ar meno un quejio” (If Only a Lament) took top honors.

Among other awards, best director went to David Trueba (“Soldiers of Salamina”) for “Bienvenido a casa” (Welcome Home), a rites of passage comedy doubling as social satire.

Thesping awards were won by vet Juan Diego for his roles in two competition films, “El triunfo” (The Triumph) and “Re-make,” and to Silvia Abascal for “La dama boba” (The Idiot Maiden), Manuel Iborra’s lively verse adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Golden Age stage classic.

“Maiden” also took supporting actor and actress nods for Roberto San Martin and Macarena Gomez.

Debut helmers Daniel Sanchez Arevalo, for the darkly witty social crit item “Azuloscurocasinegro” (Darkbluealmostblack), and Carlos Iglesias, for the gentle period comedy “Un franco, 14 pesetas” (Crossing Borders), a fave with the local public, took six of fest’s competition section accolades between them, indicating that the 2006 harvest has supplied at least two new names of interest.

Fest highlights included tributes to screenwriter Rafael Azcona, helmer-producer Fernando Colomo and actress-singer Ana Belen.

The general consensus is that the quality of the competing films, which ranged across styles and genres, was an improvement on 2005, suggesting that fest may be clawing back ground on San Sebastian as a platform for new local product.

Fest inaugurated a Latin Territory sidebar, a showcase for Latin American features unreleased in Europe. Section winner was Claudia Llosa’s “Madeinusa.”

“Our growth strategy includes strengthening our relationship with Latin American cinema, opening a new door to Europe,” explained fest director Salomon Castiel.

Fest has accords with Latino fests Pantalla Pinamar in Argentina and San Francisco’s Intl. Latino Film Festival to exchange films.

As one of the most important meeting points for Spanish film business, Malaga Fest hosted several industry events. Second half highlights included a press presentation of new Spanish mutual guarantee fund Audiovisual SGR, including the first public appearance by financial exec Susana Serrano, its first general manager.

Backed by Spain’s ICAA Film Institute, producers rights collection society EGEDA and producers assn. FAPAE, SGR aims to underwrite Euros 70 million ($84.3 million) in bank credit over five years for companies in film and TV, production, distribution, exhibition and services.

Per Juan Manuel de la Ossa, Audiovisual SGR’s development director, SGR is now studying 25 projects, 85% of them comes from the film and TV sectors.

Running March 23-25, the 6th Malaga Market Screenings attracted 65 buyers from 27 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, Mexico and China, 10% more up on 2005.

Among 54 pictures screened, most-watched titles by buyers were “Welcome Home” and “The Two Sides of the Bed,” both sold by Sogepaq Intl., “Without You,” handled by Notro Films, Grupo Pi’s “Crossing Borders,” and “The Great Match,” distributed by The Match Factory.

Visiting execs praised mini-mart’s organization. Per buyers, it offered an above-average spread of Spanish pics this year.

“The market has one large advantage: being organized by the Malaga festival, many of its films are world preems which buyers can catch before Cannes or any other market,” Market Screenings director Carmelo Romero told Daily Variety.