‘Tunnel,’ ‘Boy Missing,’ ‘Chosen’ Screen at Madrid de Cine

Thrillers predominate at Spanish Screenings annual movie export mart

Al final del tunel
Photo by: Jacques Mezger

MADRID — Three much-anticipated Spanish titles — “At The End of the Tunnel,” “Boy Missing” and “The Chosen” — will play at the 10th Spanish Screenings-Madrid de Cine, Spanish cinema’s annual international market. “Boy Missing” and “At the End of the Tunnel” are Hollywood studio releases in Spain.

Unspooling June 27-29, the Spanish Screenings are Spain’s equivalent of UniFrance’s mid-January Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and the U.K.’s London Screenings. They also serve to debate the state of the industry and underscore its key trends.

One seems obvious at this year’s meet: an appetite for thrillers. From the turn of the century, Spain carved out a reputation for horror movies, such as [“REC”] or “The Orphanage,” which broke out to substantial box office in Spain and abroad. This year, it is thrillers, not chillers or gore, which predominate on the slates of Spain’s top international sales houses.

The move into thrillers is due, in part, to “a generation of directors who want to explore the genre — change it, play with it and develop it,” Latido Films’ head Antonio Saura said.

But there are hard-headed financial reasons as well. Unlike slasher films and gore-fests, thrillers can play in primetime TV slots. That is crucial in current Spanish film financing schemes where a broadcaster’s pickup can make or break a film’s financing.

“Thrillers function very well on Spanish TV and also abroad if, in the latter case, they have ‘quality’ auteur elements which set them apart from American-style action movies,” said Film Factory’s Vicente Canales.

He cited Alberto Rodriguez’s 2014 “Marshland,” a serial-killer procedural set in Seville in 1981 during Spain’s transition to democracy, which questioned the depth of political and social change in modern Spain. Distributed by Le Pacte, “Marshland” earned one of the biggest box offices in France — $2.3 million — for any Spanish film in the last few years, apart from “[REC]” movies and titles by Pedro Almodovar.

Thrillers can cut many ways. “At The End of The Tunnel” is a bank-heist tale from Spain’s Tornasol Films, Argentina’s Haddock and Telefe-Telefonica Studios, the Academy Award-winning producers of “The Secret of Their Eyes.” Sold by Latido Films, and packing twists in its early and late going, it earned Warner Bros. $1.4 million in Argentina after its April 21 premiere there.

“Boy Missing” by Mar Targarona, which is set for a Aug. 19 bow via Sony Picture Releasing, turns on a mother’s reaction to her son’s supposed kidnapper being set free. It reps the latest movie from Barcelona’s Rodar y Rodar, the company behind “The Orphanage,” “Julia’s Eyes” and “The Body.” Oriol Paulo, the last two titles’ scribe, wrote the screenplay. Film Factory (“Wild Tales,” “The Clan”) handles international sales.

“The Chosen” tracks the incredible but true build-up to the assassination of Leon Trotsky by Ramon Mercader, who volunteered to attempt the murder alone after an attack by 20 armed men had failed. The film is co-produced by Mexico’s Alebrije Cine y Video, which backed Eugenio Derbez’s “Instructions Not Included,” which grossed $99 million worldwide, $44.5 million of that in the United States. Filmax sells; Antonio Chavarrias (“Dictation,” “Celia’s Lives) directs.

In all, seven of the 14 titles screened at Madrid de Cine by major Spanish sales agents Film Factory, Latino and Filmax are thrillers, including Film Factory’s crime action film “Toro” and heist movie “To Steal From a Thief,” and Latido’s “Dirty Wolves,” which is set in 1942 at Nazi-run Wolfram mines in Spain’s Galicia, possibly the first Spain-set Holocaust background movie.

Two of Spain’s most anticipated upcoming titles of the year — Alberto Rodriguez’s true-life Spanish espionage expose “Smoke & Mirrors” and Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s serial-killer procedural “May God Save Us” — are thrillers.

Also screening in Madrid is “Money,” co-starring “Twilight’s” Kellan Lutz, a home-invasion crime thriller marking the feature debut of New York- and Madrid-based Martin Rosete, who caught attention with the 2012 Tribeca Fest-selected sci-fi drama “Voice Over.”

“Thrillers are and will be a comfort zone for producers, financiers such as private-sector TVs and international sales agents,” said Pau Brunet at BoxOffice.es. He noted that “To Steal From a Thief” and “Toro” rank among Spanish cinema’s biggest bows of the first half of the year.

These noirish films often question the ethics of an establishment, such as the collusion of Franco’s regime with Nazi Germany, Stalinism in “The Chosen” or the extraordinary corruption in the corridors of power in early 1990s Spain, described in “Smoke & Mirrors,” also on Film Factory’s books.

“Thrillers allow us to express doubts and questions which we make daily, explore all kinds of thoughts, reasoning,” said Targarona, director of “Boy Missing.”

That flexibility can allow arthouse and crossover filmmakers maintain the anti-establishment ethos of Spain’s arthouse tradition while reaching out to broader audiences in cinemas at home and abroad and on international OTT platforms.

Attended by 74 foreign distributors, including some notable buyers of Spanish movies – Antoine Zeind’s A-Z Films in Canada, Jose Ramon Ganchegui at Miami’s Somos TV – Madrid de Cine will offer a further opportunity to catch favorites from Cannes and beyond: Pablo Larrain’s Directors’ Fortnight hit “Neruda,” Oliver Laxe’s Critics’ Week winner “Mimosas” and Iciar Bollain’s “The Olive Tree,” sold by eOne Seville International, which grossed $1.8 million in Spain. Variety called “The Olive Tree” an “earthy, quietly stirring Spanish fable.”

Just how successful Spain’s international outreach has proved will be debated at two Spanish Screenings roundtables on June 29. One presents 2015 box office figures for Spanish movies outside Spain and announces a Fapae-ComScore Award for the Spanish film with largest international impact. A second panel discusses the globalization of Spain’s film-TV industry. Panelists include Lorena Gonzalez, director general of the Spanish film institute Icaa, who will talk about the challenge of the European Union’s plans for a unified digital market.