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In times of dramatic change for the film-TV industry, Spanish auteur cinema is booming, goosed by multiple significant and high-quality titles, reaping prizes, critical praise and profile at international festivals.

Beyond the preeminent interest in established auteurs such as Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro Amenábar, J.A. Bayona, Isabel Coixet and Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Spanish sales agents and distributors celebrate the increasingly strong presence of young local film auteurs on the international scene. The big question is, however, how this profile can translate into box office impact and substantial sales. 

“We are living a very sweet moment in terms of the recognition of our cinema at international festivals, with ever more filmmakers who are creating dazzling works,” says Luis Renart, founder of Santa Cruz de Tenerife-based sales company Bendita Films. 

“There’s a generation of creators and producers who look to international auteur cinema when they build their projects, made with a European sensibility and a very marked identity, and backed by more international financing and co-production structures from the earliest  development stages,” thinks Álex Lafuente, co-founder of indie producer-distributor Bteam.

“New film regulation during the last government has allowed the production of markedly more audacious films with – a priori –  less potential for box official return but a larger one for festival impact. They are films favored by a bet on Spain’s non-majority languages, and especially those directed by a fantastic new batch of female directors,” argues Antonio Saura, Latido Films CEO.

“Due to their subjects, their undoubted quality and because they are not obviously commercial, these films are of more interest to festival selection committees,” he adds.

Led by José Luis Cienfuegos, the new management team behind the Valladolid Intl. Film Festival, the Seminci as it is known in Spain, has made a strong bet on Spanish art films, selecting a total 15 local features for its competitive sections.

“Spanish auteur film is booming and Seminci’s new direction has been able to capture it in a lineup with a markedly auteurist seal of a very high level,” adds Lafuente, the producer-distributor behind Paula Ortiz’s period drama “Teresa,” which world premieres in main competition.

“For those of us who are dedicated to Spanish film sales, it is very appreciated that important festivals focus on national films, which would allow us to better promote them. And even more so now, that we see Cannes and Venice with a clear commitment to promote their respective countries’ productions,” Saura says.

“These bets on the national, when the national quality is evident, later helps a lot to position films in an international context,” adds Saura, who handles José Luis López Linares’ docu “Rioja, la tierra de los mil vinos,” a Valladolid world premiere. Latido has also teamed with Embankment to manage Latin American rights to opening film, Lone Scherfig’s Spain-France-Chile co-production “The Movie Teller.”

“It’s crucial that the Seminci becomes an essential event for the best Spanish cinema, complementing the San Sebastián Festival programming as a key event for the presentation of Spanish film releases in the fall,” Lafuente says.

“Cienfuegos will surely know how to welcome those quality Spanish films that cannot find a place at September’s San Sebastian, but that also have values and elements to aspire to have a certain impact in the race for nominations and awards,” says Filmax head of international, Iván Díaz.

Recent international auteurist successes selected for the Seminci’s main competition take in Lois Patiño’s “Samsara,” winner of an Encounters Award at February’s Berlinale.

“The Seminci’s timing on the annual calendar is both its greatest challenge and its best strength,” says Díaz, who, at Filmax, handles international rights to three Spanish world premieres in competition: Manuel Martín Cuenca’s “Andrea’s Love,” Paula Ortiz’s “Teresa” and Patricia Font’s “The Teacher Who Promised the Sea.”

Sold by Bendita, “Samsara” is going beyond its intense run on the festival circuit, experiencing a formidable international sales career, with deals for commercial release in territories such as the U.K., Ireland, France, Taiwan and Brazil. 

A “Samsara” Dec. 15 theatrical release in Spain is planned by Galician distributor Atalante Cinema, counting on the impact of the film’s Seminci play.

To take advantage of Spanish auteurs’ international visibility and advance in exports, Renart says the challenge is “to strengthen coherent and ambitious promotion and support policies for international distribution, sustained over time, in addition to working on creating audiences at the domestic market.”

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