PARIS — Paul Hudson’s L.A. based Outsider Pictures has boarded “1,200 Souls,” a fantasy thriller set in the high Pyrenees, and one of the highlights at the 10th Spain-Ile de France Small is Biutiful in Paris, a prestigious boutique Spain-France co-production forum which unspooled June 23.
Outsider Pictures is handling international sales rights on “1,200 Souls,” the latest movie from the Zaragoza-based producer-director tandem of Marta Cabrera and Pablo Aragues whose “Novatos,” also repped by Hudson, was a Netflix worldwide distribution pick-up.
In his first two features, Aragues tackled sects (“Vigilo el camino”) and hazing (“Novatos”). Backed by the Aragon Film Commission, “1,200 Souls” is set in a small town in the lap of the Pyrenees, to which a young woman, Carla, returns to scatter her mother’s ashes, only to be confronted by violence, deaths and the seemingly supernatural, such as spontaneous combustion.
A film about “a girl looking for her origins,” Cabrera told Variety, although the story in set in the present, it has “a background of refugees during the 1930s Spanish Civil War, which is a mirror [reflecting] the conflicts of refugees today, fleeing from horror.”
Cabrera is currently tying down a high-profile French actor to play the role of Jacques the Frenchman, the only villager who stands by Carla as she seeks to get to the bottom of events.
In another industry move on a Small is Biutiful title, New Europe Film Sales is in advanced negotiations to take international sales rights on “Las Niñas,” a drama charting the coming of age of an adolescent at a girls-only catholic school who begins to questions her received education.
“Las Niñas” marks the latest feature project from Valerie Delpierre, producer of two film titles which Variety described this Cannes as “two Catalan New New Wave milestones”: Berlinale 2017 Generation Kplus winner “Summer 1993,” which New Europe Film Sales sold robustly; and Laura Ferrés’ 2017 Critics’ Week short “The Disinherited.” A portrait of the origins of a critical conscience and the early shaping of a personality, “Las Niñas,” Palamero’s feature debut, has “multiple layers,” said Delpierre.
“It also talks about the priority parents give to schools, whether they value just their academic quality, whatever the results. There are many ways into this film,” she reflected.
“1,200 Souls” and “Las Niñas” were two of six projects pitched at Small is Beautiful. Allowing France’s quality film production, sales and distribution community, the largest in Europe, privileged access to young but established, up-and-coming or edgier talent from Spain, Small is Beautiful also showcased Jo Sol’s “The Maldoror Case,” Asier Altuna’s “Kilker, The Cricket Hunter,” Max Lemcke’s “Cosmetica del Enemigo” and David Martin de los Santos’ “That Was Life.”
A project which is better suited to be made out of France than Spain, “The Maldoror Case,” the fourth fiction feature directed by Sol (“Living and Other Fictions”), is produced by Bausan Films’ Loris Omedes, one of Spain’s most consistently-laureled producers, winning a 2004 Academy Award nomination for Cuban rafters docu-feature “Balseros” and a Spanish Academy Goya Award this year for eviction drama “At Your Doorstep.”
Also written by Sol, it explores the extraordinary figure and creation of Uruguay’s Isidore Luciane Ducasse. Alias the Count of Lautreamont, he was acclaimed by Andre Gide, who called him “amazing,” and the surrealists who discovered a writer whose phantasmagoric metaphors anticipated surrealism by half a century. Split into three time periods, “The Maldoror Case” combines a modern-day procedural, in which the monster on the loose is Maldoror, a diabolic superhuman created by Lautreamont; scenes set in the poet-novelist’s childhood in a Montevideo, under siege, and on his three-month boat-trip to France in the company of a disciple of the Marquis de Sade; a febrile Lautreamont in a Paris brothel writing his one work of fiction: “Les Chants de Maldoror,” before dying in 1870 at the age of 24.
“The Maldoror Case” will be shot in French, and ideally led by a strong French production company, Omedes said. “A savage hybrid,” said Sol, “The Maldoror Case” attempts to “meld the anguish of terror, the mystery of thriller and the hidden revelations of documentaries,” Sol added.
Catalonia’s film industry is on a rebound, fired up by a levy on telecom revenues and a new generation of producers and directors winning recognition outside Spain, though still plagued by a lack of financing from pubcaster TVC, once a driving film financing force.
Boasting larger ambition and higher profile than in the past, having broken through to competition berths at the San Sebastian Festival, Basque Country filmmaking is also consolidating as a small but vibrant European filmmaking power.
In line with Altuna’s “Amama,” which competed at San Sebastian in 2015, “Kilker” consolidates this status in a tale set between the Basque Country and Paris, asking about freedom to live and die and the values which must influence both. The fifth feature from Altuna, produced by Marian Ferandez Pascal, two of Basque cinema’s leading lights, “Kilker” kicks in with a father refusing an urgent heart operation, preferring to die at home, as he is invaded by memories from his childhood. His youngest daughter, a violinist in an orchestra in Paris, rushes home to try to persuade her father to have the operation. Her return is also an attempt to find herself, in touch once more with her Basque roots.
“Kilker, the Cricket Hunter” is a reflection on a [man’s] return to infancy, on how to die, and how to live the death of a loved one,” Altuna said.
An associate producer on Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and producer of “Treading Water” (aka “The Boy Who Smells Like Fish”), LikeDoMedia’s Juan Romero is producing another Small is Beautiful title, “Cosmetica del Enemigo.” Lemcke’s fourth feature, it marks a change of direction for a director whose prior features offered lacerating social critiques of corporate malpractice (“Casual Day”) and real estate speculation (“Five Square Meters,” which swept the 2011 Malaga Spanish Film Festival).
A psychological thriller, “Cosmetica del Enemigo” maintains, however, the pace and sense of nightmarish entrapment of Lemcke’s past work. Here, a man awaiting a delayed flight is buttonholed by a talkative fellow passenger whose conversation turns into a litany of ever bloodier murder accounts and macabre confessions.
Securing key bedrock Spanish financing on the project, Romero has tied down pre-buys for Spain on “Cosmetica” from pay TV service Movistar + and pubcaster RTVE – a promising financial start for any Spanish movie. Filmax will handle distribution in Spain.
A female friendship film, “That Was Life” is the latest movie project from Madrid-based Lolita Films, a production house set up in 1996 by Damian Paris, Javier Rebollo and Lola Mayo to produce cinema meshing wider audience appeal and carefully crafted mise-en-scène. The best-known results take in the Rebollo-directed “What I Know About Lola” (2006), “Woman Without Piano” (2009) and “The Dead Man and Being Happy” (2013). “That Was Life” turns on two Spanish women living in France who befriend each other in a hospital room. The younger one dies. Her much-older friend takes her ashes back to Spain and, on the way, experiences a rejuvenation.
Small is Biutiful is backed by the Ile de France Film Commission, Espagnolas in Paris, and the Cannes Festival’s Marche du Film and Cinando. It forms part of Diferente!, an annual alternative Spanish film festival organized in Paris by Espagnolas en Paris.