×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Alberto Rodriguez’s ‘Marshland’ Wins Spain’s Best Film Export Award

Fapae-ComScore Prize winner exemplifies a new phenomenon of powerful art films with large audience ambition

MADRID — An example of a new strain of powerful crossover Spanish-language movies, Alberto Rodriguez’s “Marshland” (“La Isla Minima”), distributed in Spain by Warner Bros., won the Fapae-ComScore Prize at the 10th Spanish Screenings-Madrid de Cine, Spain’s annual national cinema export market.

The kudo, like 2015’ plaudit for “Wild Tales,” serves as further recognition for a building phenomenon in Spain and Latin America: Powerful art films with more mainstream tropes and wide audience ambitions. Often, as with “Marshland,” they boast muscular broadcaster backing, multi-partner co-production structures, big fest play, vfx or action scenes, and sometimes use of genre not only to drive narrative but make larger social or political points.

A noirish serial killer procedural set in 1980 Spain, “Marshland” was produced by Atresmedia Cine, the film production arm of TV network group Atresmedia, as well as two of Spain’s most resilient indie production houses, Madrid’s Atipica and Seville’s Sacromonte Films.

“Marshland” has 125 sequences, some some elaborate one-shots, multi-shot set-ups, as when two cops chase a poacher across Seville’s flatlands in a kinetic three-minute take. Yet the film, for all its action, is a portrait of social stasis: a just post-Franco Guadalquivir flatlands which, despite Spain’s newly-won democracy, seems in some ways still sunk in near-feudal repression.

“Marshland” set out to be an “entertaining thriller” but it can “be read on many levels,” Atipica Films’ Jose Antonio Felez said Wednesday, accepting the award.

It was a commercial success with international audiences precisely because of depth, added its sales agent, Film Factory Ent.’s Vicente Canales.

Rodriguez’s fourth solo feature, but first to break through to substantial theatrical box office abroad, “Marshland” has earned to date a global  €19.74 million ($22.0 million),  €12 million ($13.3 million) of that outside Spain, including $2.3 million in France. In all, it sold to 12 of the world’s top 15 film markets, including a pickup for the U.S. by Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures. “Marshland” also ticked multiple other boxes, sweeping Spain’s 2015 Spanish Academy Goyas and the European Film Academy’s Audience Award and garnering upbeat reviews: Variety called it a “satisfyingly atmospheric thriller.”

The challenge for Spanish cinema, and indeed foreign-language movies at large, is that very few each year break out to robust theatrical performances outside their countries of origin.

Spanish nationality movies earned a total  €160 million ($177.8 million) in foreign box office last year, according to ComScore statistics presented Wednesday at the Spanish Screenings.

That figure compares well with the  €600 million ($666.75 million) scored by French movies abroad in 2015 – given that France boasts a film industry five-to-six times as large as Spain’s.

But, at least in 2015, much of Spain’s overseas box office reflects on the country’s ability to attract star-driven foreign shoots and co-produce them out of Spain, allowing them to tap into Spanish tax-breaks: Two of Spain’s top-grossing movies outside Spain last year were Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” with Christian Bale, which shot on the Spanish mainland and Canary Islands, and “The Gunman,” with Sean Penn and Javier Bardem, which lensed in Barcelona. “Wild Tales” and another strong international co-production of large artistic and commercial ambition, Pablo Trapero’s Venice best director winner “The Clan,” both figure in a ComScore list of 13 Spanish nationality films which tallied €1 million ($1.1 million) or more – sometimes much more –  outside Spain.

Five movies from Spanish directors also made the cut: Alejandro Amenabar’s “Regression,” with Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke, “Marshland,” animated feature “Meñique,” Cesc Gay’s brotherly love story “Truman,” starring Ricardo Darin, and “Automata,” with Antonio Banderas.

Nobody suggested at the Spanish Screenings that international could be a quick fix for Spain, which has one of Western Europe’s most cash-strapped movie industries. But it does offer some upside.

“Suffering from large competition, because so many films get made these days,” Spanish cinema’s international distribution isn’t easy, said “Marshland” producer Felez. “The offer’s larger than the demand,” he added.

That said, “little by little, we’re carving out a market abroad,” he concluded.

More Film

  • Nuri Bilge Ceylan in conversation at

    Shanghai: How Nuri Bilge Ceylan Sees the World so Differently

    At a masterclass on Thursday, Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan gave the initial impression of being an austere and unwilling participant. Wearing heavy glasses, keeping his coat on, and responding to questions rather than offering a class, his manner suggested that he was difficult. In China as the head of the Shanghai International Film [...]

  • SpiderMan Far From Home

    Hollywood Takes on Italy's Vacation-Heavy Summer Season With Blockbusters

    With upcoming movies such as “Toy Story 4,” “Men in Black: International” and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” Hollywood studios are finally taking the plunge this year and slotting their blockbusters in Italian cinemas during the summer, a time when residents traditionally hit the beach en masse. For decades, the studios withheld their [...]

  • Easy Money

    Netflix Orders 'Snabba Cash' Series Based on Hit Movie Franchise from SF Studios

    Netflix has ordered a six-part original series based on the hit Swedish crime franchise “Snabba Cash” from SF Studios. Based on Jens Lapidus’s bestselling novels, the series is set in Stockholm’s gritty criminal underground ten years after the events depicted in the “Snabba Cash” (“Easy Money,” pictured) movie trilogy. The society has become even more [...]

  • The Kings Man

    Film News Roundup: Disney Sets 'The King's Man' Spy Comedy for February

    In today’s film news roundup, “The King’s Man” and “A Kid From Coney Island” get release dates, and “Barry” star Anthony Carrigan joins “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” RELEASE DATE Disney has set its Fox spy comedy prequel “The King’s Man” for release on Feb. 14, 2020. Disney made the announcement Wednesday at its [...]

  • Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light

    Shanghai Film Review: 'Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light'

    The bombastic English title might sound like it describes some comic book sci-fi epic, but in “Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light” our hero does not wear a cape but a weathered cap, and the light he guards is not an interstellar death ray but the flickering beam of a battered old movie projector. Prominent Kazakh [...]

  • Wanda Film's Zeng Maojun

    Shanghai: China's Once-Mighty Wanda Casts Itself in Role of Survivor

    The soundtrack for the introductory showreel at Wednesday evening’s Shanghai press event announcing Wanda Pictures’ annual line-up was aspirational and strangely defiant.  It began with Nina Simone crooning, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good,” and then continued with “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. “You [...]

  • 'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Fashioned 1980s'

    'The Souvenir' Costume Designer Put a Decadent Twist on Opulent ’80s Style

    Set against the backdrop of London’s early-1980s cultural renaissance, British auteur Joanna Hogg’s exquisitely sculpted and critically acclaimed “The Souvenir,” which A24 has been widening in platform release for the past month, follows film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her gradually destructive romance with the magnetic Anthony (Tom Burke). “We didn’t want a film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content