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CANNES: Spanish Filmmakers Aim for Wider Audience with Genre Fare

This may well be a record year for Spanish-language cinema, fueled by booming Latin American pay TV sales, buoyant U.S. VOD, rising demand in Asia and Eastern Europe and synergies from Brazil’s 2014 FIFA World Cup.

But back in the Old World, Spanish producers are still struggling to finance their movies, with faltering subsidy and television funding and dwindling revenue streams due to vanishing DVD sales and widespread piracy.

Hedging their bets, Spanish producers increasingly focus on popular genres executed for the widest possible audience.

“What works now in Spain are comedies and romantic comedies,” says Imagina’s Geraldine Gonard. “People need to laugh. But these films are the hardest projects to sell abroad.”

A key test will be Spain’s all-time local blockbuster “Spanish Affair,” sold by Vicente Canales’ Film Factory.

“This is a unique phenomenon, like France’s ‘The Intouchables’ or ‘Welcome to the Sticks’,” Canales says. “We’ve been inundated with remake inquiries, but I’m convinced the film can also work abroad because it’s not a typical Spanish comedy — it has universal appeal.”

DeAPlaneta’s Gorka Bilbao is also enthusiastic, having sold CGI comedy “Millionaire Dog” to Latin America, France, Germany and Italy.

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“Spanish producers are now making comedies that work locally and also cross borders,” Bilbao claims.

Latin America is generating increasing revenues for Spanish films. Other growing markets include Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Nonetheless, sales agents consider the international theatrical market increasingly tough.

“To release theatrically you need big films with bankable elements,” says Marina Fuentes of 6 Sales and Dreamcatchers.

“There’s a very clear trend, with distributors and TV stations all looking for big titles — or something original, fresh and different. All the middle ground has gone.”

In recent years, Spain has upped its high-concept English-language productions with several repped by U.S., U.K. or French sales agents.

Recent examples include Alejandro Amenabar’s “Regression” (FilmNation), Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s “A Perfect Day” (WestEnd Films) and Juan Antonio Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” (Lionsgate).

English-language titles touted by Spain’s sales agents feature Mumbai-Barcelona pic “Traces of Sandalwood” and road movie “Night in Old Mexico,” starring Robert Duvall (both Imagina), Iran-set “Desert Dancer” (6 Sales), cryogenics drama “Project Lazarus” and sci-fi thriller “Prodigious,” the latter two handled by Dreamcatchers.

Animation is another international gateway. Film Factory is repping “Foosball” by Oscar winner Juan Jose Campanella and the $15 million 3D spy parody, “Mortadelo & Filemon: Mission Implausible.”

Horror/thriller also remains a prominent genre, despite diminishing DVD sales.

Film Factory has created genre label Fear Factory, which includes the thriller “Marshland” by Alberto Rodriguez (“Unit 7”) and “Damned Friday” from Paco Plaza (“Rec”).

DeAPlaneta is repping social-media thriller “Viral,” while Imagina has the psychological thriller “The Ignorance of Blood,” starring Paz Vega (pictured).

Agent 6 Sales is selling Mexico’s pioneering 3D shudderfest “Darker Than Night,” signaling a fresh appetite in Spain for Latin American product.

“Very good horror still travels,” Canales says.

Spanish auteur films are now scarcer, but include “Wounded” (Imagina) and “Marseille” (Latido).

Sales agents are keen to cherrypick Latin American auteur films and pics from other territories, such as 6 Sales’ spy thriller “Jack Strong,” which generated 1.3 million admissions in Poland.

Imagina is selling Toronto entry “Brazilian Western,” while 6 Sales is repping Mexico’s “Gloria Trevi.”

Latido’s line-up includes Chilean social drama, “Kite Adrift,” Uruguayan football documentary “Maracana” and Colombia’s “Seed of Silence.”

“Latin American filmmakers are used to working with limited budgets, which forces them to use their imagination and find stylish solutions,” says Latido’s Silvia Iturbe.

Despite rising competition from other countries, such as France, with more integrated public support, Spanish sales agents remain upbeat.

“Producers know the market,” says Vicente Canales. “We work from the beginning on projects, especially in terms of marketing, and people come to us because they know we’ll do the best for their film.”

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