San Sebastian: Latin America, Post-Toronto News, a Basque Surge and Studio Coin

Filmax Takes ‘Operacion Concha,’ Jirafa clinches Italo co-pro deal on ‘Cow,’ Spain-Colombian ‘La Fianza’ gets cast

Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

SAN SEBASTIAN — Following on eOne Seville Intl., which announced last week its acquisition of world sales rights on Aritz Moreno’s “Advantages of Travelling By Train,” Barcelona-based Filmax has confirmed it has acquired international sales and Spanish distribution rights to another prime Basque film property, crime caper “Operacion Concha.”

Lead-produced by Bilbao’s Abra Produczioak, structured as a co-production with Mexico, and shooting in February, “Operacion Concha” is a film industry scam comedy set during the San Sebastian Festival, in the line of “Ocean’s Eleven,” said Abra’s Joxe Portela.

For Filmax’s Carlos Fernandez, the “Operacion Concha” pick-up forms part of the company’s bet on Spanish cinema, which paid off with “Truman.” Filmax, for example, has also taken Spanish and world sales rights to Patxo Telleria’s conniving bank manager comedy “Igelak,” which received a Basque gala screening at San Sebastian.

Both deals also confirm that the San Sebastian has opened up a third front for business.

That has traditionally cut two ways. Following on back-to-back with Toronto, San Sebastian allows sales agents to garner Euro press coverage of titles world premiering at the Canadian fest, then segueing to a competition berth in Spain. That still happens. Last Tuesday, Protagonist Pictures confirmed a slew of deals – U.K. (Altitude Film), France (KMBO), Australia/New Zealand (Sharmill Films), Latin America (California Filmes); – on “Lady Macbeth,” a Toronto fest breakout and now frontrunner, in Spanish critics polls at least, for San Sebastian’s  2016 Golden Seashell.

Second, launching Films in Progress, a pix-in-post competition, in 2002 and a Europe-Latin American Co-Production Forum 10 years later, San Sebastian has rapidly consolidated as a meet-mart Euro springboard for top Latin American arthouse fare. That was still the case in 2016. In top new deals, Rosanna Seregni at Italy’s Alba Produzioni boarded “The Cow That Sang Its Song About the Future,” the first feature of Francisca Alegria, lead-produced by Chile’s Jirafa Films, producer of Christopher Murray’s Venice competition player “The Blind Christ.” “A magical realist film, turning in part on technology, and very 21st century,” according to Jirafa’s Augusto Matte, “Cow” will now apply for a newly-created Chile-Italy co-production fund, Matte added.

But San Sebastian, for deals and business announcements, now has a third trading axis: International markets and its own Basque Cinema.

In a banner deal at the 64th San Sebastian Festival, ”2 Guns” and “Everest” director Baltasar Kormakur announced he will co-produce “Red Fjords,” a large scale crime thriller, set in 1616 Iceland, originated and produced by Bilbao-based Eduardo Carneros, teaming on production with  Madrid’s Tornosal Films, which backed Academy Award winner “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

Beyond “Advantages” and “Operacion Concha,” other international sales deals look likely to go down on new Basque movies, such is the singularity of their concept. Basque Fermin Muguruza confirmed he will direct “Black is Beltza,” an adult-targeting animated feature, inspired by true events, chronicling six months of tumultuous 1967 U.S. counterculture, seen through the eyes of a young Basque observer. Characters include Malcolm X, James Brown, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro.

Meanwhile, Moriarti’s Xabi Berzosa annouced that the nineteenth century-set “Aundiya,” turning on the Giant of Alzo, Europe’s tallest man, is tracking for delivery in March. And Telmo Esnal (“Go!”) will direct “Dantxa,” centered on Basque dances and set up at Txintxua Films, producer of Asier Altuna’s San Sebastian 2015 competition entry “Amama.”

Basque dealings isn’t the only burgeoning business illustrated by San Sebastian, however. Its biggest Spanish movie, J.A. Bayona’s “A Monster Calls,” with Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver, was sold abroad by Lionsgate. Two of the best-received of San Sebastian competition films this year, “Smoke & Mirrors” and “May God Save Us,” are both distributed in Spain by Warner Bros. At San Sebastian, FilmSharks Intl. announced it was handling international on band reunion comedy “Almost Legends,” toplining one of Spain’s biggest stars, Santiago Segura, co-produced by Telefe, the biggest broadcaster in Argentina and distributed in Latin America by Buena Vista Intl.

In other words, the picture painted by market deals and announcements at San Sebastian differs little from that of the international market at large: If governments carefully curate their national cinemas, which looks now like the case of the Basque Country, talent can come from almost anywhere: such is the surge in local industries, in and outside their countries of origin, that the biggest movie companies in the world, Hollywood studios and quasi studios, all want in.

Further business announced or clinched at the 64th San Sebastian Festival, which runs Sept. 16-24:

*Paris-based Films Distribution has acquired world sales rights to “Life and Nothing More,” Antonio Mendez Esparza’s follow-up to Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Aqui y Alla.” “Life” is set up at Madrid-based Aqui y Alli Films, producers of San Sebastian Golden Shell winner ‘Magical Girl,’ which FD also sold.

*Geraldine Gonard, at Madrid’s Inside Content, has taken international sales rights to Diego Galan’s “Manda Huevos,” playing as a special screening at San Sebastian. “‘Manda Huevos’ has been selected by a lot of Europe and Latin America festivals this fall, including Toulouse and Warsaw,” Gonard said.

At San Sebastian, Inside Content sold Ines Paris’ comedy “The Night My Mother Killed My Father” to Italy’s Exit Media.

*Chilean Sundance Grand Prix winner Alejandro Fernandez Almendras (“To Kill a Man”) will direct “A Work of Love.” A career departure, the dramedy will be shot in Czech in the Czech Republic.

*In another San Sebastian Co-Production Forum deal, Juana Acosta (“Vientos de La Habana”), Andres Parra (“Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal”) and Antonio de la Torre (“May God Save Us”) will topline Colombian Gonzalo Perdomo’s thriller “La fianza,” produced by Spain’s Producciones Transatlanticas and Colombia’s Laberinto TV, who met at last year’s Forum. Movie rolls by next year, said Trasatlanticas’ producer Jose Antonio Hergueta.

*Horacio Urban’s Madrid-based sales agency Urban Films has unveiled new pickups Included: Luis Vil’s Basque movie “Excision”; Antonio Savinelli’s immigration drama “In the City Without a Compass”; Agliberto Melendez’s “Colored Like the Night,” on racial discrimination, directed by Dominican politician Jose Francisco Peña Gomez; and Cuban Jessica Rodriguez Sanchez’s “Dark Glasses.”