Leading Spanish sales company Latido Films has snapped up international sales rights to Violeta Salama’s directorial debut, “Alegria.” Argentina’s Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Wild Tales,” “Pain and Glory”) joins a stellar European-Latino cast that includes Mexico’s Cecilia Suárez (“La Casa de las Flores”), Spanish actresses Laia Manzanares (“Merlí”) and Mara Guill (“Caronte”) as well as French-born Sarah Perles (“El Cid,” “Sofia”).
“’Alegria’ is one of the opportunities a sales agency just cannot let pass,” Latido’s Antonio Saura declared. “It’s a funny, sad, charming and totally enjoyable story that dwells on the personal past of the film director, which is told with the ingenuity and charm of someone that cherishes memories and has accepted the multicultural richness of the little-known Spanish city of Melilla, where the story unfolds,” he added.
Seville-based La Claqueta, producer of Spain’s submission to the International Oscars race, “The Endless Trench,” co-produces the comedy with Clara Nieto’s newly-founded Powehi Films.
Speaking from the set of “Alegria,” which began principal photography mid-February in Melilla, one of two Spanish enclaves in Northern Africa, La Claqueta co-founder Olmo Figueredo said: “This is likely the first film to show a different Melilla, which is an impressive city. In some ways, it reminds you of Gaudi’s Barcelona, as one of his disciples lived here.” The five-week shoot will include scenes in Andalusia, he added.
“Most projects made here have focused on the military installation and displayed a more masculine view of the city; this film speaks from a more feminine, humanistic point of view,” said Nieto, a former development executive at Apache Films where she executive produced Oscar-nominated short, “Madre,” and season two of “Paquita Salas” as well as Paco Cabeza’s “Adios” where she met Figueredo and Salama, then a script supervisor. Nieto participates in the Berlinale Talents program this year.
Co-written by Salama and Isa Sanchez (“321 Días en Michigan”), “Alegria” follows four women, one an atheist, and three others of different religions: Jewish, Muslim and Catholic.
Suarez plays Alegria who has rejected her Jewish faith and returns to the family home to find some peace and quiet. This tranquility doesn’t last long when her family moves in to organize her niece’s wedding to a young man from Melilla. The chaotic wedding preparations will bring all their differences to the fore but also make them realize that they have more similarities that bind them than separate them.
“Alegria” is based on Salama’s life in Melilla and was developed under the prestigious program Breaking Through the Lens, held at the Cannes and Toronto festivals. It was also a finalist for the SGAE Best Screenplay award in 2019.
“In order to build the universe of ‘Alegría,’ I wanted to escape the realism of a border city, a port, to take it to my own childhood universe. I would like to share the Melilla that I see, the one that I carry inside, and for that I have recreated moments from the different stages of the city where what’s important are those women who seem so different, but share the same problems and contradictions,” said Salama.
“I have tried to deal with both the similarities and the differences through humor, recounting very particular conflicts in a city like Melilla, but which are still universal,” she added.
“We have never seen movies about the life of a Jewish family in Melilla where Muslims, Christians and Jews have been living together for centuries,” Saura noted.
He added: “Traditions that come from the past combine with the day-to-day news of today’s world to create a number of exciting situations that force the characters to adapt if they want a wedding to be a success. In ‘Alegria,’ drama meets comedy and tradition meets a new world.”