Enrique Urbizu’s ‘Libertad’ Heralds Movistar Plus’ First Movie/Series Hybrid

Credit: Movistar +

In a novel experiment for Spain, Telefonica unit Movistar Plus will release its big new banner series, Enrique Urbizu’s historical adventure “Libertad,” day-and-date on March 26 on both its pay-SVOD platform and in Spanish theaters.

Theatrical distribution in Spain on “Libertad,” which is set in early 19th century Spain, in the wake of the French Revolution, will be handled by Adolfo Blanco’s A Contracorriente Films.

Beta Film has international distribution rights on the series, produced by Movistar Plus with Gonzalo Sálazar-Simpson’s LaZona, which also made Urbizu’s prior Movistar original series, “Gigantes.”

The theatrical release will not be nominal but “broad,” said Movistar Plus president Sergio Oslé. It will take advantage of Holy Week, which begins on March 26, and often sees a surge in box office in Spain, Blanco added.

The movie will run 135 minutes, the series bows as a five-part original of 50-minute episodes, which can be binged in its totality from March 26. The movie will be made available on Movistar Plus after Spain’s traditional four-month gap between cinema theater and pay TV play.

What’s new, Blanco pointed out at a virtual presentation of “Libertad” on Thursday, is not the creation of film and series versions of a title – Olivier Assayas’ Cannes showcased miniseries “Carlos” was sold to Germany as a feature and series, for instance – but the simultaneous commercial release of both.

The creation of a movie version has been made in part as a move to help boost Spain’s flagging box office, said Oslé.

As Europe’s top players battle with studio streamers, established and new, for the cream of the continent’s creative talent, the dual release is also a highly talent-friendly event for many series creators, especially when both the story and visuals of a series invite cinema theater play.

Such indeed seems the case of “Libertad,” if a two-minute trailer shown at the presentation is anything to go by. Shot with often wide-angled lens or drones and a 2:35 format which revels in the sweeping vistas of a mountainous Spain, “Libertad” also contains constant action and adventure as a mother and her son are released from jail after spending the first 17 years of the boy’s life in prison together.

The two just want to live in peace. Unfortunately, they find themselves caught in the crossfire between two bandit clans and the local governor, fighting over trade routes.

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“Libertad” Credit: Movistar +

“I remember seeing ‘Arde Madrid’ on the big screen at the San Sebastian Festival after watching it for a long time on a monitor and the screening was such a wonderful shock,” said Oslé, suggesting that series’ theatrical bow would depend on  the material they offer.

Rather than ramp up its number of series, which currently come in at about 11 new titles a year, Movistar Plus, like France’s Canal Plus, has focused on raising the artistic ambition, scale and indeed budget of many of its most recent titles, such as 2020’s anti-terrorist action-thriller “The Unit” and Alejandro Amenábar’s upcoming Spain-U.S.-set “La Fortuna.”

The key to Movistar Plus series, however, Oslé argued at the presentation, is their “distinctiveness.”

That certainly seems the case with “Libertad,” a series which is part Western, part daily survival drama as characters battle poverty, hunger, vast social inequalities and summary justice. It is set in rural parts of Spain and a period rarely visited by Spanish drama series, which fixate more on Spain’s 16th century empire or last century’s Spanish Civil War.

Inspired by the French Revolution, Spanish liberals proclaimed Spain a constitutional monarchy in 1812. The picture “Libertad” paints of Spain looks far more realistic, however, of a dirt poor land-laboring class fighting for the freedom of just staying alive.

Emiliano Granada contributed to this article.  

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“Libertad” Credit: Movistar +