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

  • Woody Allen Developing Next Film With

    Woody Allen Teams with Spain’s Mediapro for Next Film

    MADRID — Woody Allen is re-teaming with Spain’s Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent film-TV companies, to develop his next film with an eye it seems to shooting in Spain. Mediapro co-financed and co-produced two of Allen’s highest-grossing movies, 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which grossed $96.4 million worldwide, and 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” which earned [...]

  • 'Stitches' Review: Berlin Film Festival

    Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches'

    An elegant hybrid of true-story exposé and slow-moving arthouse thriller, Serbian director Miroslav Terzić’s sober sophomore feature “Stitches” takes a familiar idea — a lone crusader taking on a corrupt system in pursuit of the truth — but delivers an unusually thoughtful, psychologically compelling character study. Taking its cue from Snežana Bogdanović’s eerily composed but fathomless [...]

  • Aruna and Her Palate review

    Berlin Film Review: ‘Aruna & Her Palate’

    When mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine and romance are on the table, “Aruna & Her Palate” is a bouncy crowd-pleaser. Less tasty is the backdrop of a suspected bird flu outbreak that brings a food-loving epidemiologist into contact with her secret crush. Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s 2014 novel “The Bird Woman’s Palate,” “Aruna” manages to overcome its [...]

  • 'Duke' Review: Two Fake Cops Patrol

    Film Review: 'Duke'

    If you can envision “Let’s Be Cops” reconstituted as a noirish psychodrama, you may be adequately prepared for “Duke,” an uneven but arresting indie thriller about two siblings who are driven to heroic extremes by childhood traumas. Co-directed by twin brothers James and Anthony Gaudioso, who also appear in strikingly different supporting roles, the film [...]

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content