Malaga fest showcases Spanish flare


MALAGA, Spain -- Spanish audiences regularly complain about homegrown films. Spanish films usually snag only a sliver of the boxoffice pie with 13%-15%, though this year they're hovering around 20% thanks to a few high-profile hits.

But none of that grumbling could be heard at the 11th Malaga Spanish Film Festival this week, where lines stretched up the cobblestone streets as locals waited to get the first glimpses of this year's fresh crop of films and assess the fresh talent burgeoning in Spain. Mobs gathered to cheer twentysomething Spanish sex symbols and admired veterans.

Audiences laughed at the Spanish humor and cringed during the horror films that unspooled. They applauded movies that took on domestic issues -- perhaps one of few audiences who would understand the intricacies of them.

But this is Malaga, Spain's main showcase for its local industry to access domestic audiences and bolster its quota of the market by generating good word-of-mouth.

"The (Malaga) festival is nowadays the most important platform for promotion of our cinema along with the Goya Awards," festival director Salomon Castiel says. "We influence the domestic consumption in the only way possible, by promoting the product."

While Spain's Foreign Trade Institute and Federation of Spanish Producers energetically pursue means to increase exports, and producers decry their inability to recover investment in the domestic market, Malaga speaks to the country's filmmakers' needs to be seen and heard by their compatriots.

Ticket sales this year climbed an easy 10% from the 59,000 from last year, according to Castiel.

Seemingly in acknowledgment of the festival's raison d'etre -- but actually thanks to the reality that MIPTV takes place at the same time this year -- organizers moved the parallel TV and documentary markets to later in the year, coinciding with the Malaga Screenings Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

"Although it's undeniable that there is a relationship between the festival and the markets, they are independent," Carmelo Romero, head of the Malaga Markets, says.

But for sales agents, the separation isn't necessarily a good thing.

"The domestic promotion is one thing. The festival works fine. But moving the market is another. It's like amputating a leg," Filmax International marketing director Rafael Cabrera says. "The festival helps with sales because you have the immediate reaction of enthusiastic crowds and good reviews."

The move to separate the markets and the festival doesn't seem to have hampered the festival at all.

"Of course the festival is a big help for Spanish cinema domestically," says Maestranza producer Antonio Perez, who premiered Javier Gutierrez's directorial debut thriller, "3 Days," which generated good buzz. "There's a lot of coverage and it starts promoting the film."