Fresh faces at Malaga film festival

Spanish fest attracts first-time directors

MALAGA, Spain -- A bevy of first-time directors and a healthy dose of Spain's hottest twentysomethings will feature prominently as the 12th annual Malaga Spanish Film Festival kicks off Friday.

Billed as Spain's biggest showcase for homegrown talent, the festival -- which runs through April 25 -- has embraced its role as a platform to launch local fare and create buzz as it enters the world market.

"Winning a prize in Malaga opens the film's festival career to the international scene," said Iona de Macedo, whose Dama Films will debut Manuel Huerga's feature documentary "Un Instante Preciso," about Oscar-winning musician Jorge Drexler. "A good reception in Malaga also paves the way for a healthy domestic boxoffice draw."

Screenwriter and shorts director David Planell's feature debut, "The Shame," will open the official competition, vying with 14 other films for the Golden Biznaga, worth $79,000.

Eight films in the main competition are directorial debuts, including Fernando Gonzalez Molina's romantic comedy "Brain Drain," Lalo Garcia's thriller "7.5 steps" and Mar Coll's family drama "Three days with the Family."

Spanish sex symbol Hugo Silva, hot off the boxoffice success of his recently premiered "Sex, Party and Lies," will debut his drug-trafficking drama "Agallas," directed by Andres Luque and Samuel Martin, while Oscar Jaenada stars in Carles Torres' "Trash."

"Malaga is a must for anyone interested in the Spanish film industry as it's the first chance to see the season's harvest and gives a clear idea of where we stand in domestic production," festival organizer Fernando Mendez Leite said.

But it is not only the official competition that fuels the season's boxoffice.

A hallmark of the festival is the grouping of envelope-pushing filmmakers attendees find in the Zonazine section. Standouts this year are expected to include Patxi Amezcua's "25 Carats," Antonia San Juan's "Tu Eliges" and Manane Rodriguez's "Un Ajuste de Cuentas."

Another festival sidebar is the Territorio Latinoamericano, which will screen 14 films from Latin America that represent the latest trends in film from Central and South America.

Malaga native Antonio Banderas will present the Malaga Prize to actor and friend Juan Diego, while makeup artist Guillermo Ros will take home the Ricardo Franco award and producer Enrique Cerezo will be honored with a retrospective of his work.

This year, the festival, which operates on a $4.6 million budget, has opened new theaters for the public as well as set up a large screen in one of the town's central squares for special guests.