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The 27th edition of the Malaga Film Festival (MFF) opens today (March 1) with animated feature Dragonkeeper and a strong line-up of Spanish and Latin American world premieres. The festival is a popular annual meeting point for the Spanish film industry, attended by most buyers and sellers, and showcases the best in new Spanish-language filmmaking. 

The world premiere of Salvador Simó and Jian-Ping Li’s Dragonkeeper opens the festival, marking the first time Malaga has raised its curtain with an animated movie. A Spain-China co-production, Dragonkeeper is based on books by Carol Wilkinson, with an English-language voice cast that includes Bill Nighy and Mayalinee Griffiths. 

The closing feature is Joaquín Manzón’s comedy La Familia Benetón, with local star comedian Leo Harlem, whose credits include box office hitThe Kids Are Alright 2. Is is screening out of competition.

In total, 19 films will screen in the main competition — 11 from Spain and eight from Latin America — while 15 Spanish and three Latin American titles will screen in the official selection out of competition.

This year’s other Spanish competition entries include David Trueba’s The Good Man, about a couple seeking a friend’s advice on their separation; Celia Rico’s Little Loves, an intimate drama about a mother and daughter; and Antonio Chavarrías’ Holy Mother, a period drama based on the true story of a young abbess in 9th century Spain.

Isaki Lacuesta, who won Malaga’s best director, critics and special jury awards in 2016 with The Next Skin, returns with Saturn Return, inspired by iconic Spanish indie rock band Los Planetas and co-directed with Pol Rodríguez.

In addition, there are competition slots for Álex Montoya’s family drama La Casa, starring David Verdaguer; Andrea Jaurrieta’s Nina, starring Patricia López Arnaiz, a dramatic thriller that revolves about consent and revenge; Pau Durà’s Pájaros, a road movie not quite about bird-watching, starring Luis Zahera and Javier Gutiérrez; and Emilio Martínez-Lázaro’s comedy Un Hípster En la España Vacía, about a young man sent to a remote village in the hope of devising a policy to revive abandoned rural areas. Martínez-Lázaro’s credits include Spanish Affair, the highest-grossing Spanish film at the local box office of all time. 

The Andalusian event takes pride in promoting new talent. Of all the films submitted this year, 30% were first features, including two from Spanish directors in competition: Sonia Méndez’s As Neves, set in a small village in Galicia during a snowstorm and dealing with the disappearance of a teenage girl; and costume designer Clara Bilbao’s dark comedy We Treat Women Too Well, set in Spain in 1945.

Of the films in competition, six are by female filmmakers. According to festival director Juan Antonio Vigar, the total number of films directed by women in this year’s line up 5% to 37.6%.

There are eight Latin American titles in competition: Sebastián Borensztein’s Rest In Peace, an Argentinian thriller distributed by Netflix; Orlando Culzat’s debut Golán a family drama from Colombia focusing on masculinity; Alán González’s La Mujer Salvaje from Cuba; Rodrigo García Saiz’s Mexico City-set Rain; another first feature Verónica Chen’s tense thriller The Land-Plots  from Argentina; and Argentinian producer Vanina Spataro’s first film as director, Naufragios set in a coastal spa.

Malaga’s LatAm titles also include the Spanish premiere of Christopher Zalla’s Mexican drama Radical, about teacher trying to unleash the potential of his students in a Mexican border town, and the European premiere of Peruvian production Yana-Wara, a drama about gender violence.

The director, Oscar Catacora, who was behind the first Peruvian production shot in the Aymara language, died before shooting was completed aged just 34. The film was finished by his uncle, Tito Catacora.

The jury members for this year’s official section are Argentinian writer Claudia Piñeiro (president), San Sebastian Film Festival director José Luis Rebordinos, Chilean actress Antonia Zegers, and filmmakers Alejandro Loayza Grisi, from Bolivia, Javier Ruiz Caldera, from Spain, and Daniela Fejerman, from Argentina.

Malaga Competition 2024

Dragonkeeper (Sp-Ch) World premiere
Dirs: Salvador Simó, Li Jianping

As Neves (Sp) World premiere
Dir: Sonia Méndez

Rest In Peace (Arg) World premiere
Dir: Sebastián Borensztein

The Good Man  Sp) World premiere
Dir: David Trueba

Golán (Col) World premiere
Dir: Orlando Culzat

Holy Mother /La Abadesa (Sp-Bel) World premiere
Dir. Antonio Chavarrías

La Casa (Sp) World premiere
Dir: Álex Montoya

La Mujer Salvaje (Cuba) European premiere
Dir: Alán González

Lluvia (Mex) World premiere
Dir: Rodrigo García Saiz

Little Loves (Sp-Fr) World premiere
DirCelia Rico

The Land-plots (Arg-Urg-Braz) European premiere
Dir. Verónica Chen

Naufragios (Arg-Urg) World premiere
Dir: Vanina Spataro

Nina (Sp) World premiere
DirAndrea Jaurrieta

Pájaros (Sp) World premiere
Dir. Pau Durà

Radical (Mex) Spanish premiere
Dir: Cristopher Zalla

Saturn Return(Sp) World premiere
Dirs: Isaki Lacuesta, Pol Rodríguez

We Treat Women Too Well (Sp-Fr) World premiere
Dir: Clara Bilbao

Un Hipster En La España Vacía (Sp) World premiere
Dir: Emilio Martínez-Lázaro

Yana-Wara (Peru) European premiere
Dirs: Tito Catacora, Oscar Catacora

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