Cuenca preps ‘Canibal’

Pic is follow-up to Toronto player 'Oscar'

MADRID — Manuel Martin Cuenca, director of upcoming Toronto World Cinema player “La mitad de Oscar,” is set to direct intimist psychological thriller “Canibal,” a further addition to Spain’s burgeoning genre auteur canon.

Cuenca’s first venture into genre, “Canibal” reunites him with longterm co-scribe Alejandro Hernandez and d.p. Rafael de la Uz.

It freely adapts a short story by Cuba’s Humberto Arenal turning on a man who kills and eats men and women, until he discovers love.

“This is not a Hannibal Lecter. He knows what he does is wrong. But he just can’t stop,” said Cuenca.

“Canibal” is being written “in the vein of Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games,’ where you gradually discover the character’s real motives,” Cuenca said. Now on a second-draft screenplay, it will be shot in 2012 in a tourist-heavy region — possibly the South of France or Malaga.

“Canibal” is set up at La Loma Blanca, owned by Cuenca Hernandez and De la Uz.

It is one of a trio of projects as a producer or director for Cuenca, who caught attention with 2001 docu-feature “The Cuban Game,” then made waves with 2003 fiction feature debut “The Weakness of the Bolshevik,” which established Maria Valverde as one of Europe’s most sought-after young actresses.

Cuenca himself has mid-term plans for a docu feature “Sahara, The Country That Never Existed,” about a clutch of mid ’70s Western Sahara census takers employed just as Spain abandoned its colony, opening the way for its annexation by Morocco.

La Loma Blanca will produce a second docu feature, “Los ojos de Carlos,” about vet Spanish photographer Carlos Perez Siquier, by Felipe Vega (“Women in the Park”).

Following on 2005’s gritty social-issue ensembler “Bad Times,” “Oscar” is the third fiction feature from Cuenca whose films have enjoyed critical backing and kudos at home and abroad, sometimes translating into international sales. “The Cuban Game” currently sets the bar with 20 foreign territories sold.

“Oscar” focuses, as many of Cuenca’s films, he recognized, on a psychologically-damaged protagonist, this time round Oscar, a solitude-seeking security guard whose life is overshadowed by a personal tragedy which he shares with his estranged sister.

“The tragedy is gradually revealed, the film has shots of suspense,” Cuenca said.

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