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Spain’s Julio Medem Dips Toe Into High-Profile TV Drama with ‘Jai-Alai’ (EXCLUSIVE)

David Pablos, Gabriel Ripstein also attached to direct the project which is set up at Mexico's Panamericana Pictures

Julio Medem, one of Spain’s preeminent film directors (“Vacas,” “Sex and Lucia,” “Ma Ma”), is dipping his toe into high-profile TV fiction arena with Miami-set Basque ball game, crime series “Jai-Alai.”

The in-development project, whose first season will consist of 10 episodes, has also attached to direct award-winning Mexican filmmakers David Pablos (“Las elegidas”) and Gabriel Ripstein (“600 Miles”).

Based on an original idea by Medem and Mexican producer Eva Ruiz de Chávez, the series will take place over three decades. From the ’70s, when the Basque ball became one of the most profitable sports in the U.S. and the Miami Jai Alai, an excellent way to launder money from trafficking cocaine; its ’80s decline and its end in the ’90s.

With “The Godfather” as one of its major sources of inspiration, “Jai-Alai” will tell the story of Xalba, the patriarch of a pelotari dynasty who transfers control of his crime empire to Ategi, his reluctant son.

After his retirement from professional sport in Miami, Xalba builds a criminal organization, making business deals with promoters, gangsters, corrupt politicians, drug dealers and murderers. For his part, Ategi, the best pelotari in the world, lives a tumultuous love story. The bad decisions of the father will end up destroying their lives.

Set up at Panamericana Pictures, the Mexican production and management company run by Ruiz de Chávez and partner Gabriel Ridaura, “Jai-Alai’s” shoot is expected to start Jan. 2019 on locations in Miami, Mexico and Spain’s Basque Country.

Structured as a U.S.-Mexico-Spain co-production, “Jai-Alai” is one of the four TV projects selected for pitching at the Gabriel Figueroa TV development award, at Mexico’s Los Cabos Intl. Film Festival, whose 6th edition runs Nov. 8-12.

“’This is a project intended for premium channels or platforms such as HBO, Amazon, Netflix or Hulu. We are searching for co-producers that will add leverage to the project in terms of financing or a pre-sale to our targeted channels,” said Ruiz de Chávez, whose C,V. includes running the Mexican unit of Univision’s Story House Ent. and Netflix series “El Chapo.”

“Jai-Alai” aims to include characters from different nationalities such as Spaniards, Cubans, Colombians, Mexicans, Irish and Italian jews, “opening wide possibilities for co-producers,” Ruiz de Chávez said.

“We are trying to find a very diverse cast that goes from the best Spanish actors that have already worked with Medem, to the best Latinos that have equally worked with Ripstein and Pablos. Together with an American talent,” Ruiz de Chávez added.

A filmmaker with a deep curiosity about the darkest recesses of the human mind, with his first feature, 1991’s “Vacas,” Medem earned a Spanish Goya award for best new director. “Earth,” his  third movie, released in 1996, was selected for competition by the Cannes Festival.

Subsequent films, 1998’s “Lovers of the Arctic Circle” and 2001’s “Sex and Lucia” became huge box office successes in Spain, and the second earned a best new actress Goya for Paz Vega.

His most recent work, Penélope Cruz-produced and starrer “Ma ma,“ world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015 and was widely sold by eOne’s Seville Intl.

A sequel to Medem’s “Sex and Lucia” produced by DLO’s José Manuel Lorenzo is in the works, according to Ruiz de Chávez. “I am currently developing all Julio Medem’s projects as his manager and producer,” she said. This also includes “Assassin’s Amnesia,” a 20-episode VR thriller series.

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