Art and culture

Spain Opens Attractive New Film Avenues to Reach the Global Market

Spanish cinema is expanding, opening up attractive film avenues to reach the worldwide market, driven by upscale commercial projects, blending of genres and a new generation of emerging female directors.

The country’s filmmakers landed three Oscar nominations: Juan A. Bayona with “Society of the Snow” (inter- national feature and makeup and hair styling); and Pablo Berger with “Robot Dreams” (animated feature). Also, four of Netflix’s top five most-popular non-English films ever are from Spain.

“The boom in talent is making for a unique and very diverse cinema,” says Guillermo Farré, Movistar Plus+ head of original films and Spanish cinema.

“The great foreign perception of Spanish cinema is driven by the productions’ quality and their international diffusion,” says Elástica Films’ María Zamora, producer of Carla Simón’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner “Alcarrás.”

 “Spanish cinema is evolving with the appearance of new voices especially female and new ways of narrating, breaking more and more borders,” says Javier Méndez, head of scripted at the Mediapro Studio.

March’s Málaga Film Festival underscored the strength of a newly emerging Spanish auteur cinema. Three of the most popular titles at the festival were first or second features from women: Celia Rico’s Latido-sold “Little Loves,” Andrea Jaurrieta’s “Nina,” handled by Filmax, and Sonia Méndez’s suspense drama “As Neves,” sold by Rosa Bosch.

Spanish films boast a winning sense of genre, hitting or very often subverting genre tropes. “Nina” channels both a Douglas Sirk melodrama and a classic Western story.

Isaki Lacuesta’s Málaga winner “Saturn Return,” which follows Spanish indie rock band Los Planetas, with its romantic subplot, makes a mockery of biopic clichés. Málaga also witnessed a demand for upscale commercial films.

“Spanish cinema may have changed. People are looking for upscale commercial titles, which have quality but market potential, with a focus on genre films over dramas,” notes Film Factory Entertainment founder Vicente Canales. “Local thrillers are more prestigious now,” adds Iván Díaz, head of international at mini-major Filmax.

“The great thing about Spanish cinema is that it has an enormous diversity of genres,” says Latido Films CEO Antonio Saura.

Event arthouse titles are gaining ground. In January, Movistar Plus+ unveiled its original film strategy with five projects with diverse genres and subject matter by established auteurs or emerging directors that have a distinct point of view.

Saturn Return

“Cinema, and specifically Spanish cinema, is of great interest to Movistar Plus+ viewers,” Farré explains.

Oliver Laxe (“Fire Will Come”) Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“The Beasts”), Alberto Rodríguez (“Marshland”), Icíar Bollaín (“Maixabel”) and “Cardo” co-creator and star Ana Rujas are slated to direct the Movistar Plus+ titles.

“Our main objective is to accompany talent by putting at their disposal the best tools. That includes focusing on launches to turn our original productions into events,” Farré says. “We want to promote productions that have an impact beyond Spain, but never sacrifice the elements that make each project unique and special.”

With both Spanish films and English-language international titles in its DNA, the Mediapro Studio (“The Good Boss,” “Official Competition”) has positioned itself as an essential player in film production, while expanding in Latin America with films such as Argentine Daniel Burman’s “Transmitzvah,” which screens at Cannes’ Cinema de la Plage.

The Basque Country and the Canary Islands are boosting their regional film businesses, building on some of the world’s most attractive tax advantages.

Offering up to 70% tax breaks, the Basque province of Bizkaia is growing dramatically as a production shoot hub, while neighbors Gipuzkoa and Araba launched their tax credits in January.

Five years after launching labs and subsidies systems for new homegrown production, a first flock of Canary Islands titles are taking flight, with Berlin Forum entry “Undergrowth” winning at Malaga and climate change animated feature “Black Butterflies” selected for Annecy. Spanish productions are traveling beyond its borders better than ever, but the industry still faces some obstacles. “The main challenge is to continue being competitive compared to our neighboring countries despite huge price inflation caused by over-production generated by platforms,” Zamora says.

Costs have soared 20% to 25%. Spain’s ICAA film institute managed a €95 million ($102.1 million) film fund last year. Despite some uncertainty, Kowalski’s Koldo Zuazua, president of indie producer organization PIAF, says, “We are confident that the fund will be practically the same.”

One main concern is theater attendance. Total 2023 admissions in Spain were still 24% down on pre-COVID numbers.

For example, Morena Films’ “Champions” was the No. 1 Spanish film of 2018, grossing €19.1 million ($20.5 million), but although its 2023 sequel, “Championext,” was still the local chart-topper, it only brought in €11.9 million ($12.8 million).

Also, some changes introduced by the new Audiovisual Law, operative since last year, obliges Spanish broadcasters to invest in films only made in the country’s official languages.

“Part of the obligation should be allowed to be fulfilled in European languages. It would favor lasting relationships between producers from different countries and facilitate undertaking more ambitious productions with a pan-European vocation,” says Jaime Ortiz de Artiñano, general director at Atresmedia Cine, producer of “La Familia Benetón” and “Valle de sombras,” two of 2024’s top three Spanish B.O. hits to date.

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