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Telefonica Studios Furthers Drive Into Latin America (EXCLUSIVE)

Telco production house, Cactus, Mono co-produce Colombia-shot ‘Orbita 9,’ Hatem Khraiche’s anticipated debut

BERLIN – Telefonica Studios, the film-TV production arm of telco giant Telefonica, already a key player in Spain and Argentina, is taking another step into Latin America teaming with Cactus Flower and Mono Films on the Colombia-shot romantic thriller “Orbita 9.”

Part of Movistar Plus, which takes in Spain’s biggest pay TV and SVOD operation, Telefonica Studios has seen large success in Argentina, co-producing with El Deseo and Artgentina’s top broadcaster Telefe and K & S Films the country’s biggest-breakout titles: Oscar-shortlisted “Wild Tales,” a Sony Pictures Classics U.S. hit, and “The Clan,” Pablo Trapero’s 2015 Venice best director winner.

The anticipated debut of Hatem Khraiche, screenwriter of the Cactus Flower co-produced “The Hidden Face” and one ofbSpain’s most talked-up young talents, “Orbita 9” is totally Spanish. Its Colombia shoot, use of cash rebates and link up with Colombia’s top movie producer Dynamo, which provides services – as it did on “Narcos,” which it exec produces – reps one further step, however, in Telefonica Studios’ increased movie presence in Latin America, where it is already one of the region’s most important telcos.

“With Spain, Latin America is the natural territory of the Telefonica Group. Anything that touches or takes advantage of a presence in countries where Telefonica operates is for us always positive,” said Gabriel Arias-Salgado, Telefonica Spanish film production head.

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“For Axel Kuschevatzky [Telefonica film production head] and for me, ‘Orbita 9’ is an opportunity to explore co-production possibilities with Latin America,” he added, citing other examples as “The Clan” and Daniel Calparsoro’s “100 años de perdon,” both Spain-Argentina co-productions. “Other opportunities are being analyzed in Mexico as well.”

Written by Khraiche, and an intriguing addition to Spain’s young auteur genre output which takes in many of its highlights of 2016 – think Juan Antonio Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” with Liam Neeson, and Alberto Rodriguez’s “Smoke and Mirrors – “Orbita 9” turns on a young woman who is part of a massive scientific experiment, though she doesn’t know it. Her destiny changes when a young scientist makes her discover a new reality. But their love affair endangers the future of humanity.

Clara Lago (“The Hidden Face,” “Spanish Affair”) stars with Alex Gonzalez (“X Men: First Class”), Andres Parra (“Escobar, el patron del mal”) and Belen Rueda (“The Orphanage”).

“’Orbita 9’ is a propulsive romantic thriller which reflects on what we’ve done to planet earth,” said Khraiche. It is a “very high concept, surprising, dangerous love story between a scientist and his guinea pig,” added Cristian Conti, at Cactus Flower (“Out of The Dark,” The Vanished Elephant”).

It is tapping both Colombian federal cash rebates, tabbed at 20%-40% of spend, and complementary up-to-15% rebates in Medellin. 10 foreign film/TV projects shot in Colombia last year, including Tom Cruise starrer “Mena,” serviced by Dynamo, and James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.”

“Colombia is a go-to destination, skills are getting better because of the kind of movies that are being done and more and more movies are being done,” Conti said. “ It’s a great time to work here and because the peso is so devalued you can do far more with dollars or Euros.”

It also has extraordinary locations. One, a picturesque shanty working class barrio of Medellin, appears in “Orbita 9.”

Rolling from Feb. 8 in Medellin, production segues to a studio in Bogota, then to a futuristic building in Parque Alava, northern Spain, said Miguel Menendez de Zubillaga, at Mono Films, a Madrid-based film, branded content TV and commercials house.

“The locations of this film are spectacular and that gives magic to the film. It could seem sci-fi, but it talks about a point of no return for the earth, and that’s not futuristic, it’s real,” he added.

 

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