A Malaga Market Wrap, From Record Attendance to Deals, Buzz and Spain’s Animation and Big Shoot Surge

MADRID, Spain — Industry prizes will be announced on Friday, Festival awards one day later. Yet even by Thursday evening, as this year’s Malaga Festival’s Mafiz-Spanish Screenings Content headed into its home straits, Spain film and TV industry was sending strong signs of their consolidation as an international market power.

That cut multiple ways. Following, 10 provisional takes on this year’s event:

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The Biggest Malaga Ever, By a Head

Final attendance has blasted past last year’s 1,600, in itself a massive hike on years prior, ending up at 1,897 attendees from 64 countries at Mafiz, Malaga’s industry arm. Energizing Mafiz, and adding new initiatives such as an Animation Day and Short Films Corner, the Spanish Screenings Content alone account for getting on half of those accreditations. “The market’s been very good,” said Vicente Canales at Film Factory. “There’s been enough buyers, spending more time watching Spanish films. At Berlin and Cannes, they just don’t have the time. And Screenings attendance has been high.” Taking in a MAFF Co-Production Event and WIP strand for Latin American and Spanish films, Malaga now rates with Ventana Sur as the biggest Spanish-world film-TV industry forum in the world, both dominated in their latest editions by Spain. As Spanish movies and TV shows continue to hit big numbers on global streamers – think “Wrong Side of the Tracks” – that’s no insignificant fact.

The Market is Coming Back, But More for Open Arthouse, Thrillers and Genre

“The market is coming back, though sales cycles have slowed. We’re closing deals begun at Berlin here, and will close Malaga discussions at Cannes,” Antonio Saura, Latido sales head, said at Malaga. That said, the market seems to be coming back more for some sorts of movies than others. Animation, psychological thrillers and genre have led deals announcements and market buzz. It needs an event arthouse movie of the stature of Berlin’s best performance winner “20,000 Species of Bees” to parlay festival glory and great reviews into concrete sales, such as a just announced first major territory deal Curzon for the U.K. and Ireland.

Animation – Where It’s At

Some of the biggest deals announced at Malaga were on animation features as five works in progress, including the $28 million “Dragonkeeper,” a Spain-China co-production which ranks as one of, if not the biggest, of Spanish movies of 2023. Pink Parrot, for example, unveiled a bevy of pre-sales on comedy romp “4 Days Before Christmas,” led by deals with Germany’s Splendid and Kaleidoscope in the U.K. FilmSharks has closed Latin America with The Walt Disney Co./Star Distribution on “Dalia and the Red Book,” as well as Germany, Russia/CIS and Taiwan with the U.S., France, Japan, Spain and Italy in discussions. Open-market international sales for theatrical distribution have sagged terribly in the past two decades on all but standout titles. One exception, which can still deliver seven figure returns, is animation.

The Deals

Despite a slowing sales cycle, Mafiz and the Spanish Screenings Content still saw a dizzying slew of announcements. Following, a selection:

*In two big plays pointing to how the international market is trending, in the run-up to Malaga, Erik Barmack announced the launch of a Latin American movie finance completion fund and Sony Pictures International, María Ripoll and El Estudio a rom-com movie series, The Love Collection.

*Fathom Events and Spain’s Bosco are prepping a U.S. theatrical release in September for doc “Libres.”

*”Waiting for Dalí”  director David Pujol is lining up a new feature film, “Rehearsal for a Kiss,” and paparazzi series “The Flash Game.”

*On individual titles, Filmax swooped on sales rights to “Ashes in the Sky,” the true story of an anti-facist freedom fighter, new Victor García Leon comedy “One Hell of a Holiday!” and “Killing Crabs,” Canarian filmmaker Omar Al Abdul Razzak’s feature fiction debut which world premieres in Malaga’s Zonazine strand.

*”10.000 km” directed Carlos Marques-Marcet is readying “They Will Be Dust,” a woman’s euthanasia drama casta as a musical.

*Disney’s Star Distribution has acquired Latin American rights to Pablo Solarz’s Malaga main competition contender “I Woke Up with a Dream.”

*FilmSharks snapped up world sales at Malaga on Inés París’ period thriller “The Forgotten Killings.”

*Santiago Requejo is set to turn his Oscar-shortlisted short “All in Favor” into a feature film.

*”Sinjar” producer KaBoGa has boarded “Condensed Milk,” the next from Argentine auteur Anahí Berneri.

*Kattia G. Zúñiga and Alejo Crisóstomo, director and producer of SXSW player “Sister and Sister,” are re-teaming on women’s dance drama “Raging” (“Rabiosa”).

Money Talks: New Shoot Incentives 

The Mafiz-Spanish Screenings Content take place just two-and-a-half months after Spain powered up on Jan. 1 caps on tax relief for foreign shoots in Spain, to an enormous maximum tax relief of to €36 million ($38.9 million) available on a single film lensed there and €18 million ($19.4 million) per TV episode in the Canary Islands. The results have been pretty well immediate.

“The cap rise, and especially the increase of the return for TV series episodes, has started to unlock some big international projects. Productions that have not looked at Spain are beginning to do it, especially the big ones,” said Spanish Film Commission CEO, Teresa Azcona.

“We have significantly perceived a dizzying increase in the number of inquiries to know our tax incentives in depth,” said Agustín Atxa, co-ordinator at Bilbao Bizkaia Film Commission. The Basque province of Bizkaia announced last year an up-to-70% incentive for national and international co-productions of film and TV series shoots, also starting Jan. 1.

The Buzz Pics

Telecinco Cinema comedy “Co-Husbands,” with “House of Flowers” Paco León, has had “the best reception of any title we’ve ever screened at the Spanish Screenings,” said Filmax’s Ivan Díaz, who forecast he would close several key territories off Malaga. Gerardo Herrero’s “Under Therapy” bids fair to be Latido’s best sales prospect. Of Malaga competition movies, the best reviewed to date look like “20,000 Species of Bees,” a Berlin best performance winner for Sofia Otero, – a “gentle, humane Spanish drama,” Variety wrote –  “Sica,” a Galician coast-set coming of age drama gradually broadening its perspective to take in climate change and the region’s economic decline – and two entries also at SXSW: Panama’s family relationship drama “Sister and Sister,” and “Upon Entry,” a reportedly gripping psychological thriller in which a Spanish couple with U.S. residence visas is subjected to an aggressive second vetting by border guards at Newark Airport.

Works of Promise: Malaga’s Works in Progress

Backed by Aquí y Allí, behind San Sebastian top winner “Magical Girl” and “Life and Nothing More,” a 2018 Independent Spirits laureate, “As Neves,” the gender abuse-themed feature debut of Galicia’s Sonia Méndez, was one of the best received of titles at the Malaga WIP España. In Malaga WIP Iberoamericano, there’s good word on “En vos confío,” set in Tucuman’s Women’s Jail, produced by Argentina’s Magma Cine and the first non-fiction work of Agustin Toscano (“The Snatch Thief”).

Big Ambitions for the Smaller Screen

In TV, the two series which look to have made the biggest impact at Málaga are Movistar+’s “La Unidad Kabul,” the third season of the action thriller which drives into the origins of Jihadist terrorism; and the Buendía Estudios produced “Las Noches de Tefia,” a typically edgier Atresplayer Premium title, set in part in a ‘60s Franquist concentration camp for homosexuals. Its ‘60s scenes are shot in black-and-white, a more modern-day 2004 Spain in naturalistic color. But the series also includes in glorious color scenes from a Tindaya cabaret, as imagined by the camp’s inmates. Spain is gaining a reputation for the artistic ambition of its series. “Tefia” will not harm that at all.

The Spain AVS Hub: Not Done Yet 

In March 2021, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the government would plow €1.6 billion ($1.9 billion) into a Spain AVS Hub plan designed to turn Spain into one of the foremost film and TV hubs in Europe. The Spanish Screenings Content, the first leg of a four-prong initiative which takes in a Finance & Tech focus at San Sebastian, are one consequence. Part of the Spain AVS Hub’s finance has come from the €806.9 billion ($866.5 billion) NextGenerationEU stimulus package for the whole of the European Union, which is a temporary instrument. So in maybe the biggest news of Málaga, given the money it moves, a serried rank of on-stage government officials – taking in Spain’s Treasury, and its ICEX export and inward inversion board and ICAA Film Institute and Ministry of Migration, and led by Spanish secretary of state María González Veracruz, – made waves when  it affirmed a joint will for the Spain AVS Hub to continue. The Spanish government is currently in conversations with the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, for a €425 million ($454.75 million) loan facility, known as the Spain Audiovisual Hub Fund, which would figure in the addendum to the Recuperation Plan, González Veracruz said.

Spanish Remakes Thrive: A Spotlight

A decade ago, Spain TV shows sparked some of the most vibrant remake business in the world. Some of that vibrancy looks to be returning. This time in movies. Taking part in the MAFIZ Remake Day, Latido Films chief Antonio Saura, Iván Díaz, head of international at Filmax, and Pier Paolo Zerilli of Medusa Film discussed Spain’s increasingly outstanding track record when it comes to the sale of remake rights to local films.

Madrid-based Latido has sold remake rights to such recent films as Mariano Cohn’s thriller “4X4,” a U.S. version of which is set to star Anthony Hopkins; and Gastón Duprat’s art world comedy “My Masterpiece,” which was recently remade in India and other territories. The company had a huge hit with Javier Fesser’s “Champions,” whose remakes include Indian, German and U.S. versions, the latter starring Woody Harrelson and directed by Bobby Farrelly.

Cohn and Duprat’s award-winning hit “The Distinguished Citizen” is also now under consideration for a U.S. version.

A new Latido title, “Under Therapy,” by Gerardo Herrero, is screening in Malaga and Saura reckons it’s also a prime candidate for remake sales. “We want to sell the remake rights but first we want to sell the movie.”

For Latido, remake prospects are part of the company’s acquisition policy, Saura adds. “We see the potential.”

Barcelona-based Filmax, meanwhile, has also seen recent remake sales for its Cesc Gay’s award-winning comedy “The People Upstairs.” An Italian version, “Vicini di casa,” was released in December and it’s also been remade as a German-language version in Switzerland, “Die Nachbarn von Oben,” which hit theaters in February.

Remake rights for the film have sold throughout Europe and North America.

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