Partnership in focus at San Sebastian

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SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- "Co-production" was the buzz word Tuesday at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, with several of Spain's regions strutting initiatives designed to foment partnerships with local filmmakers.

Spain's southern region of Andalucia announced a new €400,000 ($565,700) co-production fund to be split annually among three or four features and a handful of television projects.

The region, which already has a €4.3 million ($6.1 million) pot earmarked for project development and production, will call for projects in October.

"We want to give a push to our local productions and in this way we accomplish two different things -- we foment bigger budgets and give open our films to other territories," explained Benito Herrera, head of the regional government's audiovisual department.

Andalucia is home to Malaga's Spanish Film Festival and Huelva's Ibero-American Film Festival. Thanks to the region's assistance, Andalucia produced 12 feature films in 2006 -- up from three the year before.

Madrid was next to the plate as it presented its third annual bilateral co-production event with Paris' Ile de France. Producers looking to partner on 35 different projects met for lunch.

"In order to have a European market, there have to be ties that link the territories and help verify if a project has an opportunity," Ile de France general manager Oliver-Rene Veillon said. "This initiative helps to establish synergies between companies."

The initiative already has shown its first fruits. Javier Rebollo's "What I Know About Lola," is a co-production between Spain's Lolita Films and Malvarrosa Media and France's Lazennec Tout Court.

Presently in the works is the €13 million ($18.4 million) period drama, "La Conjura de El Escorial," starring Jason Isaacs and Julia Ormond and directed by Antonio del Real.

Germany's Rheingold Films, Italy's Settima Luna and Portugal's MGN Filmes join Spain's Mascara Films in the production, with Sony Pictures handling international distribution.

A €19 million ($26.9 million) film about surrealist painter Salvador Dali, with Antonio Banderas attached to star, was one of the bigger projects on the table Tuesday in San Sebastian. Produced by Madrid's MPC in association with Stonelock Pictures and Phyllis Carlyle, the film's foreign sales will be handled by Arclight.

Not to be outdone, Spain's northwestern Galicia region has signed a co-production agreement with Brazil and renewed its commitment to the Galicia Terra de Cine project, designed to showcase the region to filmmakers.

Earlier in the day, the Raices program -- which supports co-productions between Galicia, Andalucia, Catalonia and Argentina -- chose three projects to support from among 40 in development that were presented.

Elsewhere in the festival, Wiesner Distribution picked up Puerto Rican rights to Brazil's "El Bano del Papa," while Figa Films bought U.S. and Canadian rights to "Por Sus Propios Ojos," which is screening in the Latin Horizons section. Urban Films will handle international sales for "Julio la Masacre de San Patricio" and "Cuando Cosas Sucedan" from Mexico.
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