Telefonica’s Movistar Plus+, Spain’s biggest pay TV-SVOD operator, is set to co-produce new movies from Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Iciar Bollaín, Alberto Rodríguez, Óliver Laxe and Ana Rujas. It’s a move which sees the high-end Spanish TV powerhouse become one of Spain’s most significant movie players.
Titles in the slate are backed by top Spanish producers such as Agustín Almodóvar and Esther García at El Deseo – backing Laxe’s next – and Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo at their high-flying new production house Suma Content, producing what will be Rujas’ debut feature as a director.
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The acclaimed “La Mesías,” the latest series from Los Javis – as Ambrossi and Calvo are known – will have its international premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where it will the only European series at this year’s event.
In a fillip for Spain’s box office, still 26% down on pre-pandemic levels, Movistar Plus+ will bow all five movies in cinema theaters and co-produce them with independent producers, Domingo Corral, Movistar Plus+ director of fiction and entertainment, said at a presentation in Madrid on Thursday. It aims to make five-to-six features a year, he added.
Movistar Plus+ has co-produced two of the highest-profile movies of distinction among recent Spanish cinema: Alejandro Amenábar’s Toronto premiere “While at War,” and Rodríguez’s “Prison 77,” a San Sebastian opener.
The five new projects rep, however, Movistar Plus+’s first movie slate and marks, or continues, its association with leading lights on Spain’s vibrant crossover movie scene.
Rodríguez co-wrote and directed big historical conspiracy thriller “The Plague,” Movistar Plus’ first sign of the huge production values that it and production partners, here Atípica Films, could bring to high-end drama series; Sorogoyen also co-wrote and directed “Riot Police,” acclaimed at 2020’s San Sebastián as one of Movistar Plus+’ best series ever.
All five directors are festival, critics’ and awards darlings, Bollaín winning 2003’s San Sebastián Golden Shell with “Take My Eyes,” Laxe’s three features to date all winning major awards at Cannes topped by an Un Certain Regard Jury Prize for 2019’s “Fire Will Come.” Rujas created, co-wrote, and starred in “Cardo,” hailed as a voice of a next generation of TV creatives in Spain and selected by Variety as one the top international TV shows in 2021.
Sorogoyen will direct “El ser querido,” which he describes “our most ambitious movie to date,” though he has declined to enter into many details.
Bollaín’s “Soy Nevenka,” the first into production, turns on the real life case of Nevenka Fernández, a member of the Ponferrada City Council who became the first woman in Spain to win a court case against a politician – Ponferrada mayor Ismael Álvarez – for sexual abuse.
Described as an action movie, Rodríguez’s new movie turns on a professional diver on the Andalusian coast who employs his skills as a drug courier.
Laxe’s next movie chronicles a rights-of-passage trip of a group of young friends looking for the ultimate rave.
Rujas’ “El desencanto” turns on a controversial theater director preparing a play and, in the process, when an incident makes her remember her own humble origins, exposes the still roiling class gulf between an elite and workers.
Movistar Plus+’s drive into movies coincides with a new Audiovisual Communication General Law which obliges TV service providers to invest 5% of annual turnover in European films and series and 40% of that in movies made with independent producers.
The pay TV’s move into cinema, however, is not for any legal requirement, Corral said at the press presentation on Thursday.
One of the pay TV’s most crucial concerns is to retain talent when most of its top directors make both movies and series. It now can satisfy both desires.
Co-producing movies, Movistar Plus+ can offer a solution to one of the Spanish film industry’s biggest movie problems: How to make movies at a scale, when required, which can compete in international markets. Beyond international co-production of global streamers, Spain offers currently few other answers.
Describing Movistar Plus+’s cinema investment as a “determined and ambitious bet,” Corral said the type of features it was looking for reflected the same auteurist vision and artistic ambition of its Spanish series, “stories from here, our history, laces, people and culture. If we make them with production values and their conflicts are universal, these films can travel like our series.”
Theatrical bows will not be “technical, on four or five screens. Made just to qualify for incentives. Films will be screened in exclusivity on Movistar Plus+.
“We’re investing in cinema for two reasons,” Corral continued. Spanish cinema is highly successful, and Telefónica, our parent, and Movistar Plus+ want cinema to be culture and want to support culture. We’re convinced that good films and culture make us better as a society,” he added to applause.
“We want Movistar Plus+ to be the house of talent, supporting creators to make their stories in the best way possible,” said Guillermo Farré, Movistar Plus+ director of original and Spanish cinema. “Today we present five very different projects, with very personal styles and creative universes, but which share a will to make a different kind of cinema, transcending not just the local but international markets.”
More on the Five Filmmakers and Their Projects:
“El ser querido,” (Rodrigo Sorogoyen)
Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts,” his latest movie, won best foreign film at France’s 2023 Cesars, beating out Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness,” after sweeping the 2023 Spanish Academy Goya Awards in Spain and selling out pretty much worldwide for Latido Films. “The only way to understand this profession,” Sorogoyen said, “is to try to learn from every project, demand the most from ourselves to tell a story in different ways from what we had done before.” Co-written with Isabel Peña, his longtime co-scribe, the new film reflects their desire to explore new places, tell other stories, exit our comfort zone and takes risks,” he added. The film is set up at Madrid-based Caballo Films , which Sorogoyen co-founded.
“Soy Nevenka,” (Iciar Bollaín)
The memorable young star of Victor Erice’s “The South,” Bollaín has gone on to pursue one of the most consistently acclaimed careers of any director in Spain, her movies rating between 88% and 100% of critical acceptance in Spain. 2002’s “Maixabel,” Bollain’s latest movie, a powerful Basque conflict reconciliation drama, scored 100%. Produced with Kowalski Films and Feelgood Media, and written by Bollaín and scribe-helmer Isa Campo (“Offworld”), tghe same team behind “Maixabel,” “Soy Nevenka” rolls from February. “The key is not just that Fernández won her court case, but that the abuse took place in public – everybody saw what was happening and looked the other way – and advised her against taking legal action,” Bollaín said at the press presentation. When she won, Fernandez was ostracized, pilloried in the press and ended up working abroad
Untitled Alberto Rodríguez Project
Sweeping Spain’s 2015 Goyas with “Marshland,” Rodríguez co-created one of Movistar Plus +’ biggest, boldest and earliest series, “The Plague,” while shooting a standout episode in 2023’s “Offworld” (“Apagón”). “The brutal mix of nature and industry has always powerfully attracted me,” Rodríguez said. His new feature “talks about the end of the capacities of an almost amphibious man, someone who begins to understand that his time has passed and that he’s not special, nor different, just one of a crowd,” he added, saying the film would be “character-driven.”
Untitled Oliver Laxe Project
In his new film, Laxe returns to Morocco, the setting of his 2016 Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Mimosas,” to portray a “disaffected young generation, searching for freedom and transcendence in a world of a crisis in values, in total collapse. Their hazardous flight, passion for constant movement, takes them to a mysterious desert which will test all of them, a sand mirror reflecting the faith of an orphan generation.” He imagines the film being “very hypnotic, and very sensorial,” he added.
“El desencanto,” (Ana Rujas)
Rujas film tilts its hat to 1976’s “El desencanto,” an iconic doc feature made during Spain’s transition to democracy charting the enduring influence of dead Francoist poet Leopoldo Panero, a famed drunkard and brothel frequenter and authoritarian father on his three sons. “If the Paneros’ ‘El desencanto’ talked about the decadence of the Francoist regime and the hypocrisy of the family institution, our ‘Desencanto’ focuses on the perpetual class distinction which exists between the elite and the proletariat,” said Rujas. ”We want to depict the social-political decadence of our times, which has consequences in an increasingly politicized artistic scene, and on ourselves. Our protagonist embodies the fantasy of wanting to be someone she isn’t.”
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