Germany Joins 2021 Seville European Co-Productions Sidebar

Credit: Alvaro Gago

For the last 15 years, the Seville European Film Festival has built step by step to become now one of the three or four most important film industry events in Spain.

Growth has been driven by the ecosystem of Andalusia at large, currently one of Spain’s most dynamic regions for film and TV, and that of Seville’s industry events as well.

2021, the first SEFF edition with a near full post-pandemic onsite industry attendance, is no exception.

Three years ago, the festival launched European Co-Productions, a bilateral project-based meet with a natural production partner county for Spain. This year Germany weighs in as the guest country.

In 2021, Seville has added the first edition of Merci, its Independent Film Market, a mini–Spanish ShowEast-style convention running Nov. 10-12 which will see 25 movies from 13 independent distributors in Spain, grouped in its Assn. of Independent Film Distributors (ADICINE), pitched to exhibitors and small screen buyers.

The Seville European Film Festival can also look to the increasingly film-TV dynamism and institutional infrastructure of Andalusia itself.

Women in Focus, for example, will team with the Andalusian Assn. of Women in Audiovisual Media (AAMMA), to host this year two masterclasses delivered by Gloria Bretones, director of sales agency Begin Again Films and script consultant Ana Sánz-Magallón.

The festival has long had the support of European institutions. Lifting off Nov. 5 as the American Film Market winds down, the Seville European Film Festival will see some of Europe’s major industry orgs hail into the still sunny southern Spanish city for events. Europa International, Europe’s sales agent org, will hold its annual conference. Companies confirmed as attendees include Coproduction Office, Charades, Films Boutique, Les Films du Losange, New Europe Film Sales, The Match Factory, TrustNordisk and Wild Bunch.

Europa Cinemas, the continent’s arthouse theater network, will host an Innovation and Audience Development Lab.

A companion event to European Co-productions is EAVE on Demand Seville, which will serve to unveil new film projects by “Ane is Missing’s” David Pérez Sañudo, Toronto and San Sebastián regular Manuel Martín Cuenca and: Leire Apellániz, who comes with one of the most ambitious Basque projects ever in the making: “Zuria.”

All three new titles have to date been pretty much off the radar. The caliber of tiles at both EAVE on Demand and European Co-productions is high.

Some 300 execs and directors will attend industry events. “We address all the value chain from script development through to exhibition,” says Seville European Film Festival industry co-ordinator Olivia Pont.

Seville also tries to strike synergies between different events. In town for a film student mentoring program, which runs throughout the festival, producers and directors from the Madrid Film School’s Incubator, one of Spain’s top development labs, can also meet with sales agents at Europa International.

The possibility of doing so on a cafe terrace still lit by near summer sun by Northern Europe standards will facilitate networking.

Following a rundown on the 10 projects at European Co-productions:

“Die Gäste” (Stefan Butzmühlen, Cristina Diz, The Match Factory)

Produced by top European indie The Match Factory, this is not your typical road movie. Young widow Maura, suspected of witchcraft, leaves her native Galician village in the north of Spain and relocates to Germany, followed years later by her daughter. While there, the mother is involved in an accident at work and her daughter Iria, against her own wishes, is pushed to bring Maura back to Spain with the help of her boyfriend. Along the way, the differences in the couple become pronounced in a story described by Butzmühlen and Diz as being “about power relations that are inscribed in bodies, and about the structures that inextricably connect the living with the dead, women with witches, and the past with the present.”

“Electric Sheep” (Zeynep Dadak, Unafilm)

Titled to honor Philip K. Dick’s legendary dystopian cyberpunk epic which inspired the “Blade Runner” franchise, “Electric Sheep” unspools in the near future after an economic crisis has pushed a ruling elite to find new ways to exploit the working class, including a new technology that limits the amount of sleep needed in a day to three hours. The tech, however, also has a sinister secondary purpose, which the film’s young coder protagonist must uncover.

“It’s a Sad and Beautiful World” (Cyril Aris, Reynard Films)

Leipzig’s Reynard Films leads this Germany, Lebanon, (Abbout Productions) and France (Cinenovo) co-production which tells the improbable love story of the idealistic Nino and Soraya the cynic, set against a 40-year backdrop of Lebanese history. As a project there is already plenty of buzz around the project which has previously participated in the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, MIA Co-Production and nearly a dozen other labs.

“Sultana’s Dream” (Isabel Herguera, Fabian&Fred)

“Sultana’s Dream” marks the animation feature debut of Isabel Herguera. An animation/live-action hybrid, it’s inspired by a classic feminist tale from Bengali social activist Begum Rokeya, published in 1905, and follows a young animator living in India who forgets how to dream. Herguera was a Variety talent to track in 2017 and her latest is now backed by SultanaFilms, Gatoverde Producciones, Abano Producións Uniko and Fabian & Fred.

“The Arabic Interpreter” (Ali Kareem Obaid, Achtung Panda!)

Kareem Obaid’s feature debut, “The Arabic Interpreter” follows Hassan, an unemployed actor who becomes an interpreter for the German government during the recent refugee crisis. While assisting people fleeing war in the Middle East, Hassan comes across an individual who he thinks could be a jihadist and begins to relive his own nightmarish experience during the war in Iraq. The project was one of six Arab feature film projects selected to participate in the Red Sea Lodge program, launched in 2019 with the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“A la cara” (Javier Marco, Pecado Films)

Director Javier Marco earned a 2021 Spanish Academy Goya Award for his short film of the same name. For the feature, Pecado Films (“When Brooklyn Met Seville”) boards this award-winning project aiming to step up production and bring the story to a new format. When Pedro shows his apartment to Lina, he can’t possibly know she’s the journalist he has been bullying on social media. When, the next day, Lina disappears, Pedro becomes the last person who saw her alive, making him a central suspect to the police. “A la cara” will mark Marco’s sophomore feature outing after his debut , “Josefina,” played to an upbeat reception at San Sebastián.

“Diógenes” (Roger Gual, Funicular Films)

Director Roger Gual’s latest was co-created with Spanish actor Àlex Brendemühl, the two having met while working on “7 years,” a Netflix Original feature in 2016. “Diógenes” is a man on two quests, one to discover what happened to his mother, and one to track down his biological father. Raised by his mother, Diógenes struggles with how to move on after her death when he learns that his biological father is a person of influence.

“Manantial” (Manuel Muñoz Rivas, El viaje Films)

Director Manuel Muñoz Rivas is a recent Ikusmira Berriak – co-backed by the San Sebastian Film Festival – 2021 residency participant with this project, now backed by recently created production company Funicular Films (Aina Clotet, Jan Andreu, Marc Clotet and Marta Baldó). The film follows an elderly couple on a trip to find the source of the Guadalquivir River in Spain and the struggles, physical and psychological, along the way.

“Matria” (Álvaro Gago, Matriuska Producciones, Avalon PC, Ringo Media)

Another short-to-feature adaptation, 2018 Sundance short film Jury Prize winning director Álvaro Gago brings Ramona’s life-story back to the big screen. Galicia’s Matriuka Producciones, Madrid’s Avalon PC and Catalonia’s Ringo Media produce, with Warsaw’s New Europe Films Sales recently taking international rights to the film. In a Galician village, Ramona has sacrificed everything for her daughter but finds that perhaps there is more to life after a surprise arrival. The film was put through the Incubator program at the Madrid Film School (ECAM).

“On The Go” (María Gisèle Royo, Julia de Castro, Jur Jur Productions, Esperpento Films, Paola A. Filmproduktion)

Spain’s Jur Jur Productions and Esperpento Films join Germany’s Paola A. Filmproduktion on directors María Gisele Royo and Julia de Castro’s latest project. Unwilling to accept an artificial insemination donation from a faceless stranger, Julia recruits her friend Johnathan on a Grinder-selection process, hoping to score a hand-picked biological sample from a used condom. It’s a feat that proves harder than the two initially expect. Eventually the two meet up with international sex symbol La Reina de Triana and the three set out on a pan-Andalusian road trip full of music, dance and eroticism.