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San Sebastian: Movistar +, Basque Standouts Bring New Energy to Spanish Fest

‘Pororoca,’ ‘My Tender Matador,’ ‘Rust’ score deals in later fest pacts, announcements

SAN SEBASTIAN — Competition frontrunner “Pororoca,” Co-production Forum standout “My Tender Matador” and Films in Progress winner “Rust” led later trading at a vibrant 65th San Sebastián Festival graced by considerable star wattage – headed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Alicia Vikander.

Schwarzenegger rolled into town to tubthump “Wonders of the Sea 3D.”Glenn Close arrived Thursday, hitting the fest circuit for “The Wife”; Alicia Vikander talked the press through Wim Wenders’ romantic drama-thriller “Submergence”; Antonio Banderas accepted a National Cinema Prize; Penelope Cruz will present “Loving Pablo” on Saturday; James Franco triumphed with “The Disaster Artist,” leading a Spanish critics’ poll with just two movies left to screen in competition.

The highest-profile world premiere at San Sebastián, and also critically lauded- “Constantin Popescu’s study of a missing-person crisis hits with direct emotional force,” Variety announced – “Pororoca” has sold to Hualu in China, Barton Films in Spain, Discovery Film (Former Yugoslavia territories) and Mirada Distribución (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay) in unannounced deals. Rights for Latin America and four more European territories are under negotiations, Wide president Magneron said at San Sebastián.

A big screen makeover of cult Chilean novel, starring Pablo Larraín regular Alfredo Castro and produced by Chile’s Forastero (“The Maid,” “Aurora”), “My Tender Matador” has scored a Mexican co-production deal with Diego Martínez Ulanosky’s expanding Caponeto. Argentina’s Rizoma is already on board.

A searing indictment of misogyny, illustrated by a sexting scandal, “Rust,” the second feature from Brazil’s Aly Muritiba (“To My Beloved”) swept San Sebastián’s Films in Progress, scoring distribution for Spain and also world sales via Film Factory Ent.

In further deals,  Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures/Todo Cine Latino has acquired U.S. TV/DVD rights to Jorge Thielen Armand’s part fiction, part doc “La Soledad,” set during Venezuela’s economic crisis; Under the Milky Way has digital rights. “It’s important at this time to support Venezuelan filmmakers,” Hudson said.

Closing Saturday with the European premiere of “The Wife,” the 65th San Sebastián Festival will go down in history on several count; the first screenings of two original series from Telefonica’s Movistar +, which promises a pay TV/OTT revolution for the Spanish TV-film industry and maybe Latin America; the consolidation of the Basque film industry as one of the most vibrant of Spain’s regional cinemas; further signs of growth at top Latin American production houses; a new European mindset in subsidies which far more emphasis being placed on development.

In industry terms, the world premiere of the most important title at San Sebastián this year still has to take place, and it isn’t even a film.

Playing to the general public Friday night, Alberto Rodríguez’s “The Plague,” a slice of Spanish historical noir, set in a dazzling but corruption-infested late 17th century Seville, is a six-part TV drama which marks the flagship Original Series of Movistar +, as Telefonica becomes the first telecom in Europe to drive massively into high-end content.

A second series, sitcom “Spanish Shame,” a cringe-inducing portrait of a maladroit Spanish couple which begins as farce and ends as tragedy, played in its entirety at San Sebastian.

If they click – which means Spaniards subscribing in mass to Movistar +’s two new pay TV channels, rolled into temptingly priced bundles of TV, broadband and mobile telephony – Telefonica will continue driving hard into high-end TV drama in Spain. It will also be encouraged to do the same with high-end movies and more original series in Latin America where SVOD subscribers will near double by 2022, according to Digital TV Research.

Reviews won’t be in until “The Plague” and “Spanish Shame” bow in January and November respectively. Socila media reaction to “Velvet Collection,” Movistar +’s first series out, bowing on Sept. 22, suggests huge audiences for the “Velvet” sequel.

Consolidating as a production force, the Basque film industry saw deals further its next strategic goal: a domestic and international market presence: At San Sebastián, Vicente Canales’ Film Factory Ent. announced international rights deals on Fermín Muguruza’s adult animation feature debut “Black is Beltza,” to be brought onto the market at the Berlinale’s next European Film Market, and to Pablo Aguëro’s witchcraft thriller “Akelarre,” a Co-production Forum winner.

Meanwhile, companies in Latin America and Spain announced  strategic and co-production moves, acquisitions, key cast and commissions:

*Fabula, one of Latin America’s high-profile producers, run by “Jackie” and “Neruda” director Pablo Larraín and producer Juan de Dios Larraín announced the launch of a U.S. company in L.A. to make English-language movies from its directors and filmmakers from Latin America and Europe. Fabula will go into production in two months time on its first full-on U.S. project, a remake of Sebastián Lelio’s “Gloria,” starring Julianne Moore and directed by Lelio himself.

*Madrid-based Latido Films and Colombia’s 64-A Films pacted for Latido to take world sales rights on two anticipated films from top Colombian director Carlos Moreno, “Lobos Perdidos” and “Lavaperros,” both scheduled to shoot in 2018, and produced by 64-A Films, headed by Diego Ramírez.

*Brazil’s Gullane revealed at San Sebastián that it is joining Italy’s IBC Movie, Kavac Film and RAI Cinema, Germany’s The Match Factory Production and France’s Ad Vitam to produce Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor.” Michael Weber’s The Match Factory will also handle international sales rights.

*In another Brazilian film partnership with Europe, Glaz’s Andy Malafaia, producer of Fabio Baldo’s “Sweet Hell Throughout the Galaxy,” which was pitched at the Co-production Forum, closed in San Sebastián a co-production pact with Jean Christophe Reymond’s French company Kazak, producer of New Directors sidebar-competitor “Le prix du success.”

*Based out of Buenos Aires, New York and now Lausanne, KAF  recently acquire “Clementina” by Jimena Monteoliva, “Mario On Tour” by Pablo Stigliani, both for worldwide sales, and “Weekend” by Moroco Colman for Latin America. At San Sebastián, it acquired “Cetáceos” by Florencia Percia, which is produced by Brava Cine and was negotiating“La Fuerza del Balón” from Panama’s Alberto Serra.

*Aly Muritiba revealed at San Sebastián that his Grafo Audiovisual production house is moving into distribution in Brazil.

*Montevideo-based, Mutante Cine is fortifying its distribution operation and launching an international sales unit.

*Of casting announcements, Emma Suárez, star of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Julieta” and Michel Franco’s “April Daughter,” is attached to headline “Irene,” from Argentina’s Celina Murga (“The Third Side of the River”).

*Alfredo Castro and Luis Gnecco (“Neruda”) will star in “The Saddest Goal,” from Chile’s Manufactura de Películas.

*In unannounced distribution deals for Spain, Vercine has acquired Spanish rights to “Au revoir là-haut” (See You Up There); Surtsey Films distribute competition player “Beyond Words.”

*Spanish pubcaster RTVE confirmed Thursday pre-buys to date this year on 30 feature films and 29 documentaries. Highlights include Alice Waddington’s feature debut “Paradise Hills,” produced by “Open Windows’” Yadira Avalos, and “Miamor perdido,” from director Emilio Martínez Lázaro (“Spanish Affair”).

Jamie Lang contributed to this article

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