European debuts on tap for first Filma Madrid fest

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MADRID -- Six films, including a handful of European premieres, will participate in the official competition of the inaugural Filma Madrid International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday and runs through April 5.

"Shake Hands with the Devil," Roger Spottiswoode's spotlight on Rwanda's violent ethnic war through the eyes of a U.N. peacekeeper and Satoshi Isaka's "Zo-No Senaka" are two of the films that will vie for the top Filma Madrid Award.

The non-cash prize, awarded by festival organizers the CIM & ART Foundation, also secures Spanish distribution for the winning film. None of the competition titles has a distributor in Spain.

Also competing for the top prizes are Peter Askin documentary "Trumbo"; Juan Pablo Villasenor's domestic drama, "Espereme en el Otro Mundo"; (Wait for Me On the Other Side), Shoaib Mansoor's examination of Pakistani Muslims, "In the Name of God"; and Anjan Dutt's drama about culture and identity, "Bow Barracks Forever."

The Madrid festival, which started as a private initiative, but has since received backing from public institutions, kicks off with a gala inauguration Friday night that will be attended by Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon and the cultural attaches of embassies from the various films' respective countries.

"This is Madrid's first international film festival and I hope it becomes a showcase for everyone in Europe," festival director Maria de Kannon Cle said.

Despite the swanky inaugural party planned at Madrid's most famous club, the festival prides itself on not getting sidetracked by festivities and focusing on talent.

"We are paying a lot of attention to people doing great work without worrying if they're well known or not," de Kannon Cle said.

Spanish director Antonio Hernandez ("City of Limits") will chair the international jury, which also includes Hungarian director Livia Gyarmathy, American film journalist James Ulmer, MEDIA Salles secretary general Elisabetta Brunella and Spanish film editor Jose Maria Biurrun ("Horas de Luz").

The festival also boasts a directorial debut section that promises the winning director a free ticket on the production of the second feature.

"We think that's much more important and valuable than a cash prize," Kannon de Cle said.

Filma Madrid also will offer retrospectives showcasing the work of David Lynch -- who will be present via a video recording -- and Gyamathy.

A sidebar featuring seven recent productions from India, including Megna Gulzar's "Just Married" and Subrata Sen's "Bibar," pays tribute to modern cinema from the subcontinent.

The Madrid International Film Festival will grant its first International Honorary Award to Vilmos Zsigmond and the National Honorary Award to Julio Sempere. Both have confirmed their presence in Madrid for the occasion.

An American of Hungarian origin, Zsigmond earned an Oscar for cinematography in 1977 for Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." More recently he has worked with directors like Brian de Palma in "The Black Dahlia" (2006) and Woody Allen for "Cassandra's Dream" (2007).

Spanish production manager/assistant director Julio Sempere has worked with some of the most important directors of the international film industry, including Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, Anthony Man, Vincent Minelli and Nicholas Ray.

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