14th Malaga Spanish Film Festival to Kick Off Saturday

Spain’s main showcase for homegrown talent packs a powerful punch of premieres from edgy first-time directors and seasoned veterans in its lineup.

MADRID -- When the 14th Malaga Spanish Film Festival kicks off Saturday it signals the beginning of a new film season for Spain -- as the festival packs a powerful punch of premieres from edgy first-time directors and seasoned veterans in its lineup.

Spain’s main showcase for homegrown talent, Malaga has firmly established itself as the debut of most of the local industry’s solid product.

A parade of Spanish industry faces accompanies such a lineup every year and this year is no different. Aside from Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde and Film Institute director Carlos Cuadros, directors Santiago Segura and actresses Maribel Verdu, Goya Toledo and Maria Valverde are all due in town.

But the real measure of the festival, which takes place on the red carpet outside the Cervantes Theater, is the frenzy of local support and enthusiasm that not only maintains the festival as a key tent pole for homegrown product in Spain, but reinforces TV-generated sex symbols’ glamour and star power.

“Malaga is what I call a hormonal red carpet,” said Spain’s ubiquitous film industry photographer Pipo Fernandez, who has covered the Malaga Film Festival for 14 years. “If Liz Taylor came back and showed up for the opening night, no one would recognize her. The fans are 14-17-year-olds and are passionate about their current heartthrobs.”

This year, Spanish sex symbols Mario Casas, Hugo Silva and Miguel Angel Silvestre will sweep in to Malaga to thrill crowds.

True to form, the lineup at this year’s festival spotlights 18 world premieres and showcases new Spanish talent, with the vast majority of competition titles being first or second feature films.

The official section is book-ended by Tom Fernandez’s second feature What’s a Bear For? starring Malaga constant Javier Camara at the opening and Maxi Valero’s directorial debut El Hombre de las Mariposas, about an old Soviet general living in Spain.

Other competition titles include: Enrique Otero’s road movie Crebinsky, Frank Spano’s opera prima about a 1999 Venezuelan flash flood Hora Menos, Alberto Gorritiberea’s Arrilla, Max Lemcke’s Cinco Metros Cuadrados and Carles Torras’ drama of an overwhelmed night watchman.

The Spanish national soccer team’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and a heartthrob in his own right, has a cameo in David Marques’ soccer-based comedy, Offsides, with Ricardo Darin, Hugo Silva and Fernando Tejero.

Telecinco Cinema backs Borja Manso and Marcos Cabota’s comedy about three old friends in Amigos.

“Malaga is a snapshot of the Spanish film industry at a particular moment,” said festival director Carmelo Romero. “It’s representative of what’s available right now. There are plenty of unconventional storytelling techniques and fresh talent.”

The Eloy de la Iglesia award, which recognizes filmmakers working outside established formulas, will go to director Isaki Lacuesta, while the Ricardo Franco Award for career achievement will go to Spanish photographer Jose Luis Alcaine. Malaga will also honor director-producer Jose Luis Borau and actor Luis Tosar.

Alternative filmmaking is grouped in the Zonazine section. Standouts this year are expected to include Bueno Aires, Cuatropuntocinco, Miss Tacuarembo and Brutal Box.

The festival, which operates on less than a €2 million ($2.8 million) budget, will screen 11 of the “most representative” Latin American films of the season in its Latin American Territory sidebar.

The festival will also host a round table discussion to include ICAA’s Cuadros, Filmotech’s Rafael Sanchez, Telefonica’s Ignacio Fernandez and Perro Verde’s Manuel Cristobal, among others --highlighting new paths for commercializing Spanish film.

Malaga runs on Spain’s Mediterranean coast from March 26-April 2 this year.