May 18, 2024

The 49th edition of Huelva Ibero-American Film Festival, Spain’s largest confab for films from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, will honor Mexican star Cecilia Suárez with its City of Huelva Award.

With leading roles in Netflix’s “The House of Flowers” and HBO Latin America’s “Capadocia,” Suárez has also be seen in ABC’s drama “The Promised Land” and has worked on films by as Tommy Lee Jones (“The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”), James L. Brooks (“Spanglish”), Ernesto Contreras (“Párpados azules”), Antonio Serrano (“Sexo, pudor y lágrimas”) and Fernando Colomo (“Cuidado con lo que deseas”).

The new edition of Huelva runs Nov. 10-18. 

Andalusia’s oldest film festival, Huelva will also grant a Light Award to Spanish actress Natalia de Molina, a two-time Goya winner, delivering acclaimed performance in films such as David Trueba’s “Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed” and Juan Miguel del Castillo’s “Food and Shelter.”

Another Light Award will go this year to producer José Alba, founder of Malaga-based company Pecado Films, a symbol of the growth of Andalusia’s film industry behind two of Spain’s highest-profile titles of recent times: “Close Your Eyes,” the latest from Spanish master Victor Erice, and Patricia Ortega’s Sundance hit “Mamacruz.”  

For its current edition, suggesting a growing interest by Ibero-American creators in attending Huelva, the festival’s organizers received nearly 1,400 submissions, 10% up on 2022. 110 titles made the cut, with 12 of them being selected to play in the festival’s Official Section, vying for Huelva’s top Colon de Oro.

A representative portrait of Ibero-America’s current film scene, main competition titles have played Cannes, Berlin, Venice, SXSW, Tribeca, Biarritz, Havana, London, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Featuring auteurs and with seven titles directed the main competition was designed as a “melting pot of all kinds of titles, ranging from the most popular genre films to riskier proposals,” says director Manuel H. Martin.

Among them are Brazilian first-timer Lillah Halla’s abortion drama “Power Alley (Levante),” an M-Appeal pick-up which snagged a Cannes’ Fipresci prize and  “Adolfo,” Mexican Sofía Auza’s feature debut, produced by L.A., Mexico and Spain-based outfit The Immigrant, winner of a Berlin Generation 14plus Crystal Bear.

Venice Horizons contender “A Cielo Abierto” (“Upon Open Sky”), with Huelva honoree Cecilia Suárez in its cast, marks the feature debut of siblings Mariana and Santiago Arriaga, children of “Babel’s” Guillermo Arriaga.    

Huelva’s top competition sidebar will also host coming-of-age drama “Boca Chica,” by debutant director Gabriella A. Moses, a Sterlyn Ramírez production from Dominican Republic-based Selene Films, which won the Norah Ephron Award at Tribeca, the first win at the festival for a Dominican movie.

Further standouts take in Argentine Daniela Goggi’s “The Rescue,” a Paramount+ original film acclaimed in Venice and produced by Paramount Television International Studios, Rei Cine and Infinity Hill, and Felipe Carmona’s Chilean historical drama “Penal Cordillera,” a BFI London and San Sebastian player sold by Luxbox.  

The Rescue

Making the Official Selection cut are “Valentina o la serenidad,” Mexican Ángeles Cruz’s sophomore feature, screened at Toronto and Morelia; Juan Sebastián Torales’ fantasy drama “Almamula,” an Argentina-France-Italy co-production which premiered at Berlinale’s Generation 14plus, picked up by Bendita Films Sales; and veteran Mexican director Luis Mandoki’s “Presencias,” toplining Goya award winner Alberto Ammann, Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio and Angélica Peláez, a two-Ariel laureate.

Also in competition are Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza’s Portuguese-Brazilian hybrid doc “The Buriti Flower,” winner of Un Certain Regard Ensemble Prize; Argentine Tomás Gómez Bustillo’s “Chronicles of a Wandering Saint,” an Adam Yauch Hörnblower prize winner at SXSW, and comedy “La Suprema,” Colombian Felipe Holguín feature debut, who was selected at Toronto and Havana, where it won the Post-Production Coral Prize.

“Ibero-American cinema is constantly evolving. Now, it is very easy to find great films, if not in budgetary terms, then in artistic ambitions, as our programming proves,” Martín says.

Born during the pandemic, with the objective of offering film lovers with fest favourites offering new storytelling and a cutting-edge visuals 

Huelva’s Seismos Section maintains its virtual stage – Spain’s top indie film platform Filmin. It also presents eight titles in Huelva theaters.

This year, Sismos selection takes in Christopher Murray’s Sundance contender “Brujería,” Andrew Sala’s “La barbarie,” seen at a Cannes’ Marché du Film showcase, Sanfic Industria and awarded at Toulouse: and Kattia González’s “Las hijas,” a best Ibero-American film at Málaga, sold by Pluto Films.

Also in the Sismos mix: “Los océanos son los verdaderos continentes,” a film by Tommaso Santambrogio, launched by Italy’s Fandango Sales at Venice; Tana Gilbert’s Chile-Germany co-production “Malqueridas,” a best film at Venice’s Intl. Critics Week; the Berlin and Sitges-selected “Propiedade,” by Brazilian Daniel Bandeira; Carolina Markowicz’s “Toll,” screened in Toronto, San Sebastián, Stockholm and Rio; and Mauricio Calderón Rico’s Mexican coming-of-age “Todos los incendios,” a Locarno and Morelia player.

Observing solid tradition, Huelva has made a strong bet on short film programming, with titles previously selected at Berlin, Bafici and Seattle. 19 short films screen in the National and International Ibero-American Official Sections.

Aimed to nurture Andalusian filmmakers, a Talento Andaluz sidebar screen four Spanish premieres: Paco Ortíz’s “Anibal, el arquitecto de Sevilla”, Bernabé Bulnes’ “Fueron los días,” Ceres Machado’s “Reflejos en una habitación” and Silvia Moreno and Dani Llamas’ “Steven quiere conocerte.” 

Playing out of competition at Talento Andaluz are two Movistar Plus+ documentaries: Arturo Menor’s “Iberia, naturaleza infinita,” also backed by regional broadcaster Canal Sur and Acajú; and Alexis Morante’s “Bisbal,” produced alongside Dadá Films and Universal Music Spain.

Talento Andaluz adds this year a short film competition.Pantalla Huelva section offers eight shorts directed by Huelva filmmakers.

Martín took over the Huelva Festival in 2016. Over the years, he’s sought to establish a sustainable model that rests on three pillars: Meticulous programming, industry events and educational activities.

In terms of industry, the festival will highlight a rapidly emerging Dominican Republic film industry. As part of a two-year deal inked at Cannes, Huelva and the Dominican Republic film entity DGCine is organizing a pitching event featuring four Dominican projects in development which are looking for Spanish co-production partners.

A traditional launchpad for Latin American filmmakers in Spain and Europe, Huelva programs this year a special focus on Dominican cinema, with 12 standout titles available via Filmin over Nov. 3-19. 

“There are other festivals in Spain organizing co-production forums, which require higher budgets. So we decided to create something more focused, more careful, taking advantage of our sustainable design, which allows a tremendous proximity between all the attendees,” Martin says.

“We try to make everyone feel at home and that this facilitates the birth of new projects and industry deals,” he adds.

Huelva is also reinforcing its educational program, with the first edition of Primera Pantalla, aimed at school children, as it consolidates Ventana Cinéfila – offering titles on Filmin – and the Jóvenes Comunicadores Cinéfilos program, for young moviegoers.  

Encuentros, a TV format for the promotion of film and TV industry, will broadcast worldwide via social networks, interviewing honorees, film participants and further industry representatives.

Huelva’s opening gala will screen out of competition the doc feature “Sembrando Sueños,” about celebrated Andalusian playwright brothers Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero, helmed by Sevillian actor-director Alfonso Sánchez (“El mundo es nuestro”).

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