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IFF Panama: Potential B.O. Juggernaut ‘Spanish Affair 2’ Gears Up

Original opens the Panama Festival Thursday

The pieces are falling into place for the production of “Spanish Affair 2” (“Ocho Apellidos 2”), the sequel to the 2014 comedy which, distributed by Universal Pictures International in Spain, and opening March 14 last year, powered to an extraordinary €55.2 million ($59.6 million) in Spain, becoming the highest-grossing Spanish film of all time at hometurf wickets.

Doing so, it also underscored a business model which is revolutionizing the popularity of movies not only in Spain but in Latin America: the combination of a well-crafted film that touches a national nerve and has a huge marketing push from a big nationwide broadcaster, here TV network Mediaset España, which co-produced via powerful film arm Telecinco Cinema.

Other national film industries – in Argentina, for instance – have taken note. Backing from Televisa and Globo also explain, though only in part, the rise of local movies’ market shares in Mexico and Brazil respectively.

Underscoring the crowd-pleasing status of the original, “Spanish Affair” will open the 4th Panama Festival this Thursday. It will be presented by Telecinco Cinema managing director Alvaro Augustín, whose producer credits span many of the most successful Spanish films of the last decade, from Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish Civil War fable “Pan’s Labyrinth,” to Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Orphanage” and “The Impossible,” Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora” Daniel Monzon’s “Cell 211” and “El Niño” and Enrique Gato’s “Tad, the Lost Explorer.”

Helmed by vet Emilio Martin-Lazaro, and written by Diego San Jose and Borja Cobeaga (“Pagafantas”), the original “Spanish Affair” turned on Rafa (Dani Rovira), a dyed-in-the-wool Seville boy – slicked back hair, penchant for fino – who falls for Amaia (Clara Lago), an indomitable Basque. To conquer her, he travels to her hidebound village, or that’s what he thinks, pretending to be as Basque as they come, even to her seafaring dad, an equal stick-in-the-mud (Karra Elejalde) who assumes his beautiful daughter will marry a Basque of pure lineage.

Martinez Lázaro, the screenwriters, movie leads and Carmen Machi, who plays a simpática villager, will once more join forces with producers Telecinco Cinema, Lazonafilms and Kowalski Films for the sequel which is now in advanced development.

As Cobeaga has indicated, the “Spanish Affair 2” kicks off literally where the original left off with Amaia arriving in Seville to claim Rafa after his flees from her village. The first part of the sequel unspools in Andalucia, but a new element, Cobeaga said, will be Catalonia.

Mediaset España is naturally playing its cards close to its chest about more details on one of the most awaited Spanish releases of this year or next.

What is clear, however, is that “Spanish Affair” touched a national nerve. It may or may not be to the point that it comes four years after Basque separatist org ETA declared in 2011 an end to its killings, which may have encouraged Spaniards to regard all the more clichés about the Basque Country as laughably prejudiced.

“Spanish Affair” also benefitted from advertising and promotion across Mediaset España’s eight TV channels and insistent news coverage: “Affairs’” runaway success, a Malaga Festival gala screening, interviews with Basques in Andalucia, and vice versa.

Marketing muscle is just part of the equation, however, nor can its success be putdown entirely to a new zeitgeist.

“To launch a film you need great promotion, but for that promotion to work beyond the launch, you need a great film,” Telecinco Cinema CEO, Ghislain Barrois declared as “Spanish Affair” climbed from a €2,8 million ($3.9 million) opening weekend to a third-frame €5.4 million ($7.5 million) three-day trawl.

“Three weekends out, it’s simply the movie, which is working all on its own. The word-of-mouth is absurdly positive, there’s tremendous repeat business,” he added.

“It’s a fish-out-of-water movie but the backbone is in fact a romantic comedy. It’s a difficult balancing act to mix both registers, which Martinez-Lázaro masters beautifully, Barrois added at the time.

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