Malaga fest to host 22 Spanish premieres

13th edition heralds beginning of a new film season for Spain

MADRID -- When the 13th 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 Ignasi Guardans, director Carlos Saura, Nacho Velillo and Juana Macias, producer Andres Vicente Gomez, actors Lorenzo Balducci and Javier Camara, among others, are expected.

And that's just the first weekend.

This year's official section is bookended by two of Spain's most international auteurs: Carlos Saura with his Mozart-driven "I, Don Giovanni" and Julio Medem with the sexy "Room in Rome." Both screen out of competition.

True to form, the festival features two TV-backed comedies from successful directors: David Serrano's "One hour later in Canaries" and Nacho Velilla's "Que se Mueren los Feos" (literally, "Let the Ugly Die").

"The lineup is an accurate reflection of the present reality in the Spanish film industry," said festival director Carmelo Romero. "Always using quality as the pre-requisite, we hold up a mirror to the industry and this year we come out with 22 Spanish premieres."

A handful of hard-hitting, social-statement films include Vicente Molina Foix's "God of Wood," a love story with the backdrop of illegal immigration, Laura Manas' sexagenarian sex therapy tale "Life Begins Today" and Sebastian Cordero's follow-up to "Cronicas" -- "Fury," in which an immigrant workers' anger grows following his accidental killing of his boss.

Four first-time directors debut in the official competition, including award-winning scriptwriter Juan Macias' "Plans for Tomorrow" intertwining stories of four women's life-changing moments; David Pinillos' "Bon Appetit" about friends who kiss and cross the line of friendship; Manolo Gonzalez's "Known Strangers" and Rodrigo Rodero's "Impossible Language."

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

A hallmark of the festival is alternative forms of filmmaking, grouped in its Zonazine section. Standouts this year are expected to include Jo Sol's explicit and philosophical "Fake Orgasm," Carlos Martin Ferrera's "Suspicious Minds" and Oriol Ferrer's fantastical portrait of the imaginary world of a lonely man in "The Night that Elvis Died."

The festival, which operates on less than a €2 million ($2.7 million) budget, has cut costs by shortening the event by one day and axing the food vouchers for attendees, other than guests. Malaga also cut the Latin American Territory showcase by half this year, scheduling eight of the "most representative" Latin American films of the season.

Two years ago, the festival decided not to host a market parallel to the festival, recognizing the complications of being sandwiched between MIPTV and the Spanish Film Screenings in Madrid in June.

However, knowing that buyers find the festival -- famous for its large turnout of local audiences -- valuable, the festival will offer English subtitles on competition titles for the first time.

"There are always buyers that come every year to Malaga to see how audiences react to the films," Romero said. "This year is just a practice run with the subtitles. Next year, we will expand it."

The festival will also take advantage of the recently remodeled Cine Albeniz, following a €2 million ($2.7 million) facelift to modernize the screens and seating and enhance the sound system. The night before the festival's inauguration, the theater will reopen after the renovation with a 3D screening of "Alice in Wonderland."

Malaga runs this year on Spain's Mediterranean coast from April 17-24.