BY Emilio Mayorga

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Pedro Almodóvar has put his considerable weight behind Spaniard Alauda Ruiz de Azúa’s first feature, ”Lullaby” (“Cinco Lobitos”) as it has initiated a spirited run at Spain’s box office.

“It is undoubtedly the best debut in Spanish cinema for years,” Almodóvar announced in a statement, describing the mother-daughter relationship drama as “a portrait of the role of women within the family, which is truthful, devoid of sentimentality and that does not exclude humor.”

“Life could offer another destiny for women other than caring for the whole family. [The film offers] very accurate interpretations, where Laia Costa stands out and I suppose will sweep all this year’s awards. You have to see it before the heat wave takes it away. Summer is the worst enemy of the theaters.”

Almodóvar’s advocacy is highly necessary as an exciting new generation of cineastes, often female, galvanizes Spain’s arthouse scene led by Carla Simón whose “Alcarràs” won Berlin’s 2022 Golden Bear, Pilar Palomero whose “Schoolgirls” scored a Goya best picture award last year and now Ruíz de Azúa whose “Lullaby” world premiered in Berlin’s Panorama and then really came to notice near sweeping the board at March’s Málaga Festival, winning best Spanish picture, actress awards for both protagonists, screenplay, audience awards and four non-official awards as well.

Sales company Latido Films has also clinched a first flurry of deals at Cannes Marché du Film. licensing to HBO Eastern Europe, China (Huanxi), Scandinavia (Lucky Dog) and the Baltic states (Filmstop).

Grossing €1.7 million ($1.85 million) from an April 29 bow, “Alcarràs” now ranks as the highest-grossing Spanish film in Spain this year. 

Bowed by BTeam Pictures on May 20, “Lullaby” made a lively bow, punching €92, 461 from a speciality 115 print-run, notching up the best per-screen average at €1,361 ($1,456) among that weekend’s openers.

During the following week, it rose to No.2 at the Spanish box office, bested by only “Doctor Strange 2.”

Extraordinary enough, after “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jujutsu Kaisen” opened on May 26 in Spain, “Lullaby” still ranked No.4 in Spain, according to Comscore.

But box office in Spain has sagged dramatically over recent weeks as late spring sunshine hits the country. Many arthouse patrons in Spain, as in other countries, have yet to return to theaters. Most recent arthouse titles have sunk without a trace. “Lullaby” needs all the support it can get.

In “Lullaby,” Laia Costa, who broke out in Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria,” plays a young mother overwhelmed by maternity when her partner goes away on business. She retreats to her family home in a Basque fishing village wherever mother’s matriarchal ways grate until daughter and mother come to understand each other better and what her mother, like so many members of her and preceding generations, had sacrificed to bring up a family.

Susi Sánchez, seen in Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In,” plays the mother. Ramón Barea (Icíar Bollaín’s “Rosa’s Wedding”) and Mikel Bustamante (“Money Heist”), lead a key cast whose performances have won much praise in Spain.

Produced by Encanta Films alongside Sayaka Producciones and Buenapinta Media, the feature was developed in 2019 at the ECAM Madrid Film School’s pioneering Incubator program, consolidating fast as one of Spain’s most prominent development labs. Ruiz de Azúa was selected by Variety as a 2021 Spanish talent to track.

John Hopewell contributed to this article.

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