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San Sebastián: Film Factory Swoops on Witchcraft Thriller ’Akelarre’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Set from 1609, ‘Akelarre’ is shaping up as one of the highest-profile projects at this year’s San Sebastián C0-production Forum

SAN SEBASTIAN — In one of the early deals to be announced out of the 65th San Sebastian Film Festival, which bowed Sept. 22 with the European premiere of Wim Wenders’ “Submergence,” starring Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy, Film Factory Entertainment has swooped on “Akelarre,” a flagship Basque project at this year’s Festival.

Currently in development, “Akelarre” will be presented Sunday at San Sebastian’s 2017 Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum, where it weighs in as one of the Forum’s highest-profile projects.

A thriller, Akelarre is directed by Pablo Agüero, whose first short, “Primera Nieve,” won a 2006 Cannes Festival Jury Prize; “Salamndra,” his first feature, made the 2008 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight cut: “Eva Doesn’t Sleep” was selected for San Sebastián’s 2015 main competition.

Akelarre is produced by Sorkin Films, a new joint tax break investment vehicle launched last year by Koldo Zuazua’s San Sebastián-based Kowalski Films and Iker Ganuza co-headed Lamia Producciones, based out of Zarauz. La Fidèle, located in France’s Basque Country, co-produces with Marseille’s Tita Productions.

Avalon Films will distribute “Akelarre” in Spain. Backed by Basque public broadcaster ETB, “Akelarre” is set against the background of 1609-14 Inquisition trials of suspected witches which took place north and south of the France-Spain border and represented the single biggest drive by the Inquisition to eradicate witchcraft in the whole of its history. Set in 1609 in the Basque Country, “Akelarre” tuns on Amaia, a 20-year-old girl who attends her first festival in the night woods. At dawn, she is arrested. Questioned by Pierre de Lancre, maybe the Basque Country’s most famous interrogator, she finally enters the judge’s game, but, indomitable and cunning, gradually takes over the reins of an increasingly intimate duel, the synopsis runs.

“‘Akelarre’ is a unique project that I am sure will be very attractive to buyers. It turns on a well-known subject from a never-before-seen angle,” said Vicente Canales.

He added: “Sorkin Films has produced a considerable number of auteur films with strong runs at festivals. I am very happy to work with them.”

““Through popular myths and beliefs about witchcraft, ‘Akelarre’ offers a true reflection on the human condition,” said Zuazua.

“It is a historical drama that tackles the subject of witchcraft from a new, little explored angle in film. Witches—free and self-taught women—are the scapegoat in a society ruled by the interests of the powerful few, who justify their own evil through the existence of a demonic presence,” he went on.

Lamia Producciones produced “La buena nueva,” picked up for international by Filmax. Either producing (“Fernando Franco’s “Dying,” which plays in this year’s San Sebastián Official Selection) or co-producing (blockbuster “Spanish Affair”), Kowalski has positioned itself as both a key Basque producer and bridge to Madrid’s production scene, bringing often mainstream movies and now high-end drama, such as Movistar +’s “The Zone.” to the Basque Country and Northern Spain.

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