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10 Directors to Watch: Pedro Almodovar Backs Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales”

How the director of Argentina's short-listed Oscar submission caught Almodovar's eye and took Cannes by surprise.

Last spring at the Cannes Film Festival, nearly all the projects in competition hailed from directors already well-known on the Croisette: Mike Leigh, Jean-Luc Godard, etc. And then there was “Wild Tales,” a wickedly funny black comedy made up of four separate stories linked by a common theme — revenge — and directed by someone few outside the Spanish-speaking world had heard of: Damian Szifron.

Although many were stunned by the slick, studio-caliber omnibus film, the Argentine writer-director responsible is no neophyte. A lifelong cinephile, Szifron boasts an amazingly fertile imagination and loves fiction in all its forms. His filmography includes two features, beginning with the sly 2003 thriller “The Bottom of the Sea,” as well as a pair of popular television series: Sony Pictures TV Intl. acquired the rights for his award-winning “Los Simuladores” and licensed versions in Mexico, Chile, Russia and Spain. His second series, “Hermanos y Detectives,” inspired an even greater number of remakes.

While those projects flew below Hollywood’s radar, Szifron’s previous film, “On Probation,” managed to grab the attention of a powerful duo: Pedro Almodovar and his brother Agustin. After seeing the 2005 odd-couple action comedy, they called Szifron to compliment him, expressing their desire to be a part of whatever he did next. “Wild Tales” was produced under their El Deseo banner.

These days, U.S. producers are also eager to support Szifron. “I’ve had some good offers to develop my own stuff,” he reveals. Currently in the pipeline are the English-language Western “Little Bee,” a romance called “The Perfect Couple” and an ambitious, bilingual sci-fi trilogy, “The Foreigner.”

Nevertheless, Buenos Aires will continue as home base for the 39-year-old multihypenate, his actress wife (the model in “Wild Tales’ ” first chapter) and two young daughters. “I’ve got more ideas than time,” he notes without complaint.

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