Frankfurt Book Fair honors Catalonia

Literary tradeshow showcasing Spanish region

Catalan culture will be the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair Oct. 10-14.

Regional events at the world’s largest literary tradeshow include a Catalan movie showcase and presentations of books seeking bigscreen makeovers, plus four film projects — based on Catalan novels — courting overseas co-production.

The print- and theater-to-screen flow is stronger in Catalonia than elsewhere in Spain.

Between 2002 and 2006, 39% of book adaptations came from Catalan authors. Madrid writers repped 30%, according to Catalonia’s CDA Center for Audiovisual Development, which organized the Frankfurt presentations and also backs Barcelona’s MIDA Ibero-American Audiovisual Rights market, a showcase for novels seeking bigscreen redos.

Launched 2006, MIDA has seen early success. The TV movie of Antoni Dalmases’ “Jo, el desconegut” is now in post for Jet Films, TVC and TVE. Also sold at MIDA, Francisco Perez Gandul’s “Celda 211,” a gritty prison jail-set thriller, now has a screenplay by Daniel Monzon and Jorge Guerricaechevarria, the helmer-scribe duo behind B.O. hit “The Kovac Box.”

In further deals, Barcelona’s Silvia Bastos literary agency sold “Pudor,” a novel, to actor Tristan Ulloa. The film, co-directed by Tristan and David Ulloa, grossed a solid $322,337 in Spain.

Madrid’s Gheko Films bought Juan Eslava Galan’s “La mula,” a Civil War dramedy, from Bastos. Michael Radford is attached to direct, with lensing beginning in early 2008.

Producers have picked up five other MIDA-moved titles.

At Frankfurt, movie-from-book presentations feature In Vitro’s bishop bio “Descalc per la terra vermella,” by Francesc Escribano, and Diagonal TV’s adaptation of Sergi Pamies’ multistory “Si menges una llimona sense fer ganyotes.”

Massa d’Or tubthumps Civil War drama “Pa negre,” by Emili Teixidor, and Mediapro unveils Assumpta Montella’s “Las madres de Elna,” an ambitious drama about three pregnant Republican women. Manuel Huerga (“Salvador”) directs.

“Producers are still looking for dramas, often women’s stories, followed by comedy, thrillers and crime novels,” says CDA director Pere Roca.

The print-to-screen transfer faces challenges. Most Catalan movies are microbudgeted around $1.3 million-$2.6 million. That limits options.

“Understandably, producers tend to steer clear of big historical novels,” says Bastos’ Pau Centellas. Graphic novels have seen few attempts at bigscreen redos.

The medium shift still exercises classic attractions.

For publishers, it’s a marketing platform.

“I’ve just been told by Gheko that ‘La mula’ could sell to France. We haven’t published the novel. So we’re delighted if the film gets wide distribution,” Centellas said.

Adaptations of tried-and-tested works lend comfort. Albert Espinosa’s directorial debut, the last-minute marriage nuptial-nerves comedy “Don’t Ask Me to Kiss You Because I Will,” is based on his own stage play.

“Each theater performance is like a movie test screening,” Espinosa says. “I can see what works.”

Makeovers also address what many movie execs regard as a central weakness of Spanish films: They’re high on concept but sometimes low on detailed development and characterization.

“We might find skills in literature which lessen certain faults in Spanish screenplays. Mixing its storytelling talent with cinema is one way forward,” Roca says.

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