Spanish director Ángeles Reiné celebrates family, neighborhood friendships and soccer in her a feel-good comedy “Héroes de Barrio” (“Football Heroes of the Block”).

The film, Reiné’s sophomore feature following 2019’s “Salir del ropero” (“So My Grandma’s a Lesbian!”), which screens at the Malaga Festival, follows financially-strapped Seville bar owner Luis, who seeks to impress his young daughter Paula by pretending to be pals with Joaquin, the beloved and charismatic real-life captain of the Real Betis football club. At the same time, he’s angling to get back together with Paula’s mom, the love of his life, who now lives with her new and much wealthier boyfriend.

Reiné says she set out to tell a story about the heroes of working-class people and those struggling to make ends meet. Her film also revolves around a 9-year-old girl who dreams not only of being a football player but also of her family being together again.

“That’s beautiful, to have a dream at the age of 9. I was thinking how nice it would be for all the girls who see this movie, to see that you need dreams to live,” the director says.

At the same time, she wanted to show how an underdog — who is regarded as a loser by those who cherish winning — becomes a hero for the love of his daughter.

Reiné imagined the story set in a working-class neighborhood “where people don’t have illusions because they have no time for illusions — they have to take care of their lives, pay their bills, those kinds of things.”

The neighborhood, in a suburb of Seville, is like a village, where everyone knows each other, she adds.

“I live in a village, but actually I used to live in big cities, in London, in Barcelona, in Madrid, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles – I was living in many big cities, and now I live in a small village in the south of Spain. I discovered that living in a small town, you can be more yourself because you know everybody. It’s good because you’re not alone; you don’t feel the loneliness of the city.”

Reiné decided on Alcalá de Guadaíra, a suburb located southeast of Seville, where she shot in a neighborhood beset by high unemployment and low-income households.

“The location was very real,” she notes.

Music plays a major role in the film — specifically the original rap music written by composer and musical director Alfonso Casado. “When I was writing the script I always had rap in my mind. Rap is a way in which you denounce what you don’t like about life. I can see that in this barrio, this neighborhood.”

Casado, she adds, “understood very well the movie and the story. We worked very well together.”

The story of a little girl striving to become a soccer player also reflects the growing popularity of women’s soccer in Spain, Reiné adds, noting that a Spanish woman, Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas, won last year’s Women’s Ballon d’Or soccer award.

“It’s starting. It’s going slow, but it’s starting. I also wanted to support female football players because women, we can do anything that we want. If we would like to play football, why not?”

She notes that while attending the London Film School in the 1990s she made a documentary about a female British boxing champion.

“I really believe in feminism,” Reiné stresses. “Feminism for me is just that we have to be equal.”

Reiné will continue to tell stories of talented women in her next projects, which include two features and a series, all currently in development.

One feature film project focuses on young immigrants from Mali, which she describes as a “feel-good movie” with social themes. It could be her next project.

“The other feature film is about female empowerment – about a woman who becomes the European acrobatic motorcycling champion.”

The series she is developing is set in the world of tattoo artists and follows a talented young woman from a humble background who gains fame in the industry.

“I’m very happy with both projects and also with the TV series.”

“Football Heroes of the Block” is produced by Palacios Gador AIE, Álamo Producciones Audiovisuales, Galdo Media and Spal Films. Madrid-based Latido Films is selling the film internationally.

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