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Straight-down-the-line genre films including thrillers, animation and horror as well as high-end prestige dramas are the most sought-after Spanish films by international buyers, according to sales agents attending Mafiz, the five-day industry programme of Spain’s Málaga Film Festival which runs from March 4-8.

“The way the market works currently means buyers tend to look for very definite genres, the ones that are understood as the safest: thrillers, action films, horror, and animation. Hybrids are harder to sell”, explains Iván Diaz, head of international sales at Filmax. 

“Theatrical releases are a challenge, and buyers want to play it safe. Of course, prestige dramas can work very well in the festival circuit and in their own territories. For example, we handle The Teacher Who Promised The Sea, by Patricia Font, which has worked very well in theatres in Spain. This helps when selling the film internationally.”

Mafiz offers buyers the chance to focus on the latest Spanish productions ready for the international market.

“Traditionally, Europe has been the most fertile territory in terms of market for Spanish productions but we are working to expand that towards the US and Asia, to further the reach of the Spanish industry,” says Malaga Film Festival director Juan Antonio Vigar.

For Díaz, “traditional territories for Spanish cinema like Latin America, Italy, Germany, North America work well” whereas for him,  “France has become a bit more complicated. The latter is an example of how the market has changed because it was a territory where it was easier to sell high-end festival features. Now, France tends to look for genre material.”

Two horror titles selling well for Filmax are The Chapel, Carlota Pereda’s follow up to Piggy, and Laura Alvea’s The Sleeping Woman, which is in official selection out of competition in Malaga. Filmax is also handling three films in competition at the festival: Pau Durà’s Pájaros, Andrea Jaurrieta’s Nina and Clara Bilbao’s We Treat Women Too Well.

Antonio Saura, managing director of Latido Films, has a different take on the French market.

“High-end productions in terms of filmmakers, established or strong new talents, and production value are easier to sell,” he says. “France is a key territory for these and it’s not surprising that French sales agents are getting more and more interested in dealing with this type of Spanish productions themselves.”

Carla Simón’s Alcarràs and 20.000 Species Of Bees both performed well in France.

“Asian territories like Korea, Japan and China tend to vary quite a bit,” continues Saura. “In Europe, Italy is growing, and Benelux, Eastern Europe and Greece are good territories for us. Germany has become less relevant, and the UK is the toughest, because English-language films, particularly American, have a very strong grip of the market there and leave little wriggle room for foreign language films. That said, we sold Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s The Beasts [to Curzon] and did very well on release. In fact, we sold it everywhere.”

The Latido Films team landed in Malaga with a line-up that includes three auteur dramas, all in competition: Saturn Return, from Isaki Lacuesta, two-time Golden Shell winner and director of Berlinale 2022 competition title One Year, One Night, and Pol Rodríguez; Little Loves, produced by Arcadia Motion Pictures (Robot Dreams) and directed by Celia Rico who premiered her first film, Journey To A Mother’s Room, in San Sebastián’s New Directors in 2018 winning a Jury mention and the Young Jury award; and Álex Montoya’s La Casa

Sayago Ayuso’s The Boys Are Back In Town, which has been selected in Malaga out of competition, is also in Latido’s line-up.

Luis Renart, CEO of Bendita Film Sales, based in the Canary Islands, deals with six to seven arthouse films per year. Among its recent films is Loïs Patiño’s Samsara, which premiered at the Encounters section at the Berlinale in 2023, winning the special jury award. “It sold very well to territories including UK & Ireland, Benelux, Netherlands, France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Poland, Taiwan, Brazil and Lithuania,” says Renart. “They were all-rights deals with theatrical release.”

The company’s Malaga slate includes Antonella Sudasassi’s Memories Of A Burning Body, a Spain-Costa Rica co-production, that won the Panorama audience award at this year’s Berlinale. “France and North America are our main territories, as well as Germany, Italy, Central and Eastern Europe, Benelux and Japan, South Korea and China in Asia,” Renart concludes. “We have Spanish and Latin American films, but also from other countries like the Netherlands and Italy.”

Berlin to Malaga

“This year the Malaga dates have turned out to be very close to the Berlinale so it’s been a bit more complicated for us,” says Latido’s Saura. “We haven’t had a breather, but the good news is we will hopefully be able to close deals started in Berlin.”

Filmax’s Díaz is equally upbeat. “We have seen a very positive shift in markets at the start of 2024, like the EFM, which has proved very good for us. We have had a number of meetings comparable to Cannes, and the reactivation of the market is clearly noticeable.”

Talks and deals started at the EFM will have now the chance to carry through in Malaga, together with any opportunity triggered by the Spanish Screenings, one of the key events for Spanish sellers and international buyers attending the Mafiz.

Part of the Spain, Audiovisual Hub of Europe plan, promoted by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, it has the support of Spain’s film body ICAA, the Spanish Trade Commission ICEX, and the San Sebastian and Málaga film festivals.

“Spanish Screenings is the biggest showcase of Spanish cinema, so we know the buyers attending the Mafiz are already interested in cinema made in Spain,” says Luis Renart, CEO of Bendita Film Sales outlet, based in the Canary Islands.

Sellers in Malaga say they’re very pleased with the results this initiative has so far offered. “The government support has improved a lot and the Spanish Screenings have been a great help,” notes Saura. “The two previous editions are proof of this, and hopes are up for the current one.”

Buyers attending the Mafiz come from a total of 42 countries, largely from Europe, with France, Germany and Italy topping the list, as with recent editions of Malaga’s industry programme. There are also a significant number of buyers from Asia, including Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and China, as well as South Africa, New Zealand and the US.

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