“Stay in the van. I’ll handle this,” grizzled family patriarch Abraham Guerrero instructs his two young sons at the beginning of “Gigantes,” Movistar Plus’ latest original series.
His eldest son, Daniel, hands him a wooden club. Across the street, under torrential rain, a man gets out of the car. Abraham hits him on the shins and back, and passes the club to Daniel, who lays into the man, now sprawled on the tarmac, as Tomás and Clemente watch on.
“Gigantes,” directed and co-written by Enrique Urbizu, was produced by Movistar + and Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson’s Lazona Producciones (“Spanish Affair”) and one of the banner titles that sales agent About Premium Content will launch at October’s Mipcom. It is a brutal crime-clan saga about the Guerreros, who control Spain’s cocaine trade.
But “Gigantes” is no straight mob melodrama; it focuses, as Abraham’s brutal lesson in punishment suggests, on family, how values are passed on from one generation to the next, and how emotional wounds roil for decades — themes that resonate in contemporary Spain.
As of late August, very little of “Gigantes” had been seen: Just 14 minutes comprising five scenes from episode one, including Abraham’s instructive drubbing, showcased at April’s MipDrama Buyers’ Summit in Cannes. Movistar also dropped a 30-second trailer in late May.
Together, however, they’re enough to confirm that “Gigantes,” which world premieres on Sept. 28 at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival, is one of Movistar Plus’ flagship new premium series. Its ninth show to date also demonstrates just how far Telefonica’s pay-TV unit has come as an original series producer.
Movistar Plus has turned to movie directors for most of its series. Few, however, bear such clear cinematographic ambitions and origins as “Gigantes.”
Urbizu, who co-wrote “Gigantes’” and directed its first three episodes, won six Goya awards, including best picture, for his latest movie, 2011’s “No Rest for the Wicked.” His co-writer on that movie, Michel Gaztambide, is also a writer on the series, along with Miguel Barros and actor Manuel Gancedo.
“Gigantes” is shot in 2:35 aspect ratio and with anamorphic lenses — an immediate widescreen declaration that this is no run-of-the-mill TV series, capturing the sense of characters whose values, as in autumnal Westerns, belong to a bygone age.
Rather than using a multi-camera TV set-up and shaping the series in the editing suite, shot lengths were calculated “millimetrically” before lensing, Urbizu says.
“Gigantes,” as with other Movistar + series, is grounded in Spain. Few settings are as colorful as that of “Gigantes,’” however, taking in Madrid’s Rastro flea market, its rambunctious Lavapies multi-ethnic melting pot, and upscale Serrano art-gallery district.
Co-directed with Jorge Dorado, “Gigantes” underscores Movistar’s drive for production value, setting it apart from other series made in Spain. According to Urbizu, “Gigantes” used more locations in its first episode than the whole of “No Rest for the Wicked.”
A four-minute dinner scene showcased at MipDrama Screenings features 62 shots — to drive home Abraham’s bloody-minded tyranny and his three sons’ brewing dissidence.
Above all, as the number of high-end dramas rises exponentially in international markets, “Gigantes” shows Movistar + “learning to take riskier formal decisions,” says Domingo Corral, director of original fiction. “The public’s increasingly sophisticated. You can’t make series like you did even four years ago.”
Gancedo wrote the original scripts and they were “highly suggestive, very attractive,” but “required a new episode one, which wasn’t written, turning on the regime of devastation that Abraham installs in his sons,” Urbizu says.
Episode one of the series now works like an origin story set over three time periods, featuring Daniel’s attempted murder of Tomás’ wife, Sol, and detention by the police. The real serial kicks off 10 years later with episode two. Here, Daniel comes out of jail, and encounters a dazzling modern Madrid.
But he and Tomás still seethe for revenge.
Times change, “Gigantes’” temporal transitions appear to be saying. But people change more slowly.