Bucking a production slowdown sparked by growing uncertainty over the future of Spain’s film subsidy systems, helmer Daniel Monzon’s previously announced drug-trafficking drama “El Nino” looks like one of the few Spanish films with international ambition that will be produced this year.

Starring Luis Tosar (“Miami Vice”) and Sergi Lopez (“Western”), the “Traffic”-like “El Nino” has gone into pre-production as many industryites mark time in Spain, waiting for the government to pay promised subsidies and for news on further subsidy regs to be announced this year.

A hike in sales tax on cinema tax from 8% to 21% is also set to hit the biz.

“El Nino” is produced by Telecinco Cinema (which bankrolled “The Impossible”), Ikiru, Vaca Films and El Toro while Studiocanal will pre-sell it at Berlin next month. Such powerful partnerships are one of the few ways for ambitious Spanish titles to see the light of day.

Pic turns on an 18-year-old who smuggles drugs into Spain from Morocco via the Gibraltar Straits, making the sea crossing in a rubber boat.

“El Nino” will shoot from April 1 in Tangiers, Gibralta and the Spanish town of Tarifa, just across the narrow straits from Gibraltar, said Telecinco Cinema CEO Ghislain Barrois.