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10 Spanish directors on the verge

Young helmers making waves in film

DANIEL BENMAYOR

Commercials director Benmayor’s debut, “Paintball,” world preemed at the recent Tribeca Film Fest; it turns on a company weekend whose fun and games end in a bloody, nonfunny murder. It’s “an unusual horror thriller shot in broad daylight with a profusion of sequence shots,” he explains. His next movie will be equally groundbreaking: the Catalan-language “Bruc,” “an 18th-century ‘First Blood,’ a brutal manhunt of an innocent man,” he says. Ikiru Films produces.

FERNANDO CORTIZO

Made with latex figures, Cortizo’s doll toon feature “The Apostle,” which bows in July, is an offbeat mystery horror story about a fugitive on the run. “It will be a toon version of ‘Dance of the Vampires’: a lot of color,” Cortizo says. Philip Glass is onboard for the soundtrack, according to production house Artefacto.

BORJA COBEAGA

Shortlisted for best live-action short at the 2007 Oscars with “One Too Many,” Cobeaga saw first feature “The Friend Zone” preem at April’s Malaga fest. A critically acclaimed comedy, which is almost an oxymoron for Spain, “Zone” — a screwball laffer with a poignant touch — has drawn comparisons with Judd Apatow and Spain’s Rafael Azcona. Next: the Telespan-produced “Delayed,” an airport-set “wild comedy with a dose of ’24,’ ” Cobeaga says.

LUIS BERDEJO

After making acclaimed shorts “For(r)est in the Des(s)ert” and “Limoncello” and co-writing Spanish hit “REC,” the Basque helmer made his feature debut directing Kevin Costner in New Line’s “The New Daughter.” Next up is English-language thriller “Jennifer Can,” “a free, nonconventional love story that I’ve had in mind for more than a decade,” Berdejo says. “Jennifer” turns on a woman forced to live in a water tank because of illness. A seminal figure in Spain’s genre boom.

GORKA GAMARRA

Gamarra is another example of Basque talent and one of Spain’s few globe-trotting young documakers. Living in Rwanda, he shot “Umurage,” bearing witness to its reconciliation process after the Tutsi massacres in 1994. Interviewing murderers and victims, forgiving or not, sometimes together on camera, “Umurage” is arresting, collective psychoanalysis. “Cinema is an ally, meaning certain things don’t remain under wraps,” Gamarra says. Next stop: Belfast, for another reconciliation doc.

DAVID GONZALEZ

Gonzalez is part of the latest talent crop pushed by the Kimuak factory, a state-backed Basque program for new helmers. His standouts include two well-acted 35mm shorts, “El relevo” and “El tiempo prestado,” about an old man’s last days, shot from his p.o.v. “Having spent time on social-issue pics, I’d like to dabble with fantasy elements,” Gonzalez says.

KIKE MAILLO

Maillo is an alum of Barcelona’s Escac film school, a talent hothouse where he now teaches directing. After two shorts, “Pavlov’s Dogs” and “Freud’s Goats,” he gave up on animals to make what is billed as Spain’s first robot movie, “Eva,” starring Daniel Breuhl. Wild Bunch just signed on for international. Maillo calls “Eva” a “sci-fi melodrama.” Other projects include “a ’50s-set thriller with nonhuman characters.”

JUAN CARLOS MEDINA

Medina’s debut, “Painless,” was picked up for international by France’s Elle Drive even before it was shot. Co-written with Luis Berdejo (“The New Daughter”), film turns on “a very rare genetic syndrome affecting a group of kids during the ’30s in Spain. It’s a psychological thriller about pain narrated via two timelines,” Medina explains. Wild Bunch already has taken French distribution, another sign of the film’s perceived potential.

OSKAR SANTOS

Santos’ “El mal ajeno,” a medical drama, is one of the most-awaited feature debuts this year. That’s natural given its backing: It’s godfathered by Alejandro Amenabar; written by another highly regarded young helmer, Daniel Sanchez Arevalo (“Dark Blue Almost Black”); toplines Belen Rueda (“The Sea Inside”); and is produced by Mod and Telecinco. “Mal” is “a thriller with fantasy elements and even comedy touches, but it’s mainly a character-driven movie, as are all of Daniel’s scripts,” Santos says.

SANTIAGO ZANNOU

Feature debut “The One-Handed Trick” scooped Goyas for new director and breakthrough performance. “Trick” delivers a colorful, socially committed portrait of life on the edge. “It’s a film made by young people that adults like,” says Zannou, who’s reteaming with producer Media Films for a pic about “the road, alcohol and prostitution.” “Films are too expensive to just talk about UFOs and Martians,” he argues.

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