Director to Watch: Rodrigo Cortes

Spaniard leaps to English-language films

With Park City player “Buried,” Rodrigo Cortes becomes the latest among the breed of Spanish directors crossing over to English-lingo pics.

The helmer caught the attention of critics with the award-winning “15 Days,” an ambitious 2001 short featuring 100 actors and 200 locations, which he describes as a “feature in miniature.” His first full-length feature, 2007’s “The Contestant,” was a prescient, postmodernist story of a lottery winner fighting back against a banking system set on bringing him to ruin. The film won plaudits for its technical daring and in-your-face digital-age visuals.

With the $3 million “Buried,” Cortes once again chooses a daring path. Shot in Barcelona with an all-Spanish crew from a script by Chris Sparling, thriller is the brutally down-to-earth tale — literally — of a civilian contractor (Ryan Reynolds) in Iraq who has been kidnapped and buried in a box with just a Zippo, a knife and a cellphone. Pic is set entirely inside a wooden coffin, with Reynolds the sole actor onscreen. The others — his boss, his wife, his kidnapper — are mere voices heard over the half-charged cellphone.

Small films can be big films,” Cortes says. Setting a film in a location no bigger than 3 feet by 6 feet, and in real time, was, he believes, the kind of challenge that his beloved Alfred Hitchcock would have enjoyed — “the chance to challenge common sense,” says the director, for whom making films is “ultimately a question of sleight-of-hand.”

I wanted to work with Rodrigo because I’d never before come across a director who has such control over all the different aspects of his work,” says “Buried” producer Adrian Guerra. “With Rodrigo, it’s all about how best to tell the story.”

The busy visuals of “Contestant,” which ran at one take per minute, led critics to assume that Cortes had an advertising background — he didn’t, but, ironically, off the back of its success, he now makes ads. He is working on “Red Lights,” which centers on a paranormal theme about “how the brain does not give a true picture of reality.”



Madrid and Barcelona

“Buster Keaton, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese — my pagan god — and Max Ophuls.”

REP: Agent: Keya Khayatian (UTA)