Selhami, Samper join ‘Carnival’

French, Spanish talent team up on horror film

MADRID — Strengthening a nascent France-Spain genre pic axis, France’s Talal Selhami is teaming with Barcelona’s Martin Samper on bogeyman chiller “The Carnival of Illusions,” one of the latest additions to Spain’s powerful auteur genre pic tradition.

Screenplay is by Selhami and France’s Cyril Rolland, who recently wrote “The Pack.”

With shades of Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Orphanage,” “Carnival” turns on a teacher who takes his 11-year-old daughter Liz to a summer boarding school in a quiet Alsace village.

Liz begins to hear what seems to be the voice of another student, who’s lying in semi-coma. Meanwhile, her father investigates the death of the teacher he’s replaced.

Skedded for a second-half 2010 shoot, “Carnival” will be structured as a France-Spain co-production, said Samper, a former Filmax exec.

Moroccan-French Selhami, who turned genrefest eyes with his 2006 short “Sinistra,” will shoot “Carnival” when he comes off his feature film debut, chillfest “Mirages,” which is set up at Nabil Ayouch’s top Moroccan production house Ali n’ Productions.

Selhami said his influences, which will likely be seen in “Carnival,” run from 80s horror to the romanticism of “Orphanage” and HBO series “Carnivale.”

The move to produce “Carnival” out of Spain partly reflects the challenges posed to Gallic scarefare directors and producers by the French market, where acclaimed horror pics — “Martyrs,” for example — have underperformed.

The Spanish market — where “Orphanage” grossed Euros 25.1 million ($33.4 million) and “REC” $10.9 million — offers far better B.O. potential, Samper said.

Led by Wild Bunch, which sold “The Orphanage,” French companies have been increasingly drawn to Spanish genre talent.

“Pack” co-producer La Fabrique de Films is co-producing Luis Berdejo’s project “Jennifer Can” with Spain’s Versus and Notro.

France’s Les Films d’Antoine and Tobina are lead-producing Spaniard Juan Carlos Medina’s debut thriller “Painless,” which has rung up strong pre-sales for Paris’ Elle Driver.