Small is Biutiful: ‘Karmele,’ ‘Estela,’ ‘Paramedic’ Make 2018 Selection

MADRID — Asier Altuna’s “Karmele,” Liliana Diaz Castillo’s “Estela” and Carles Torras’ “The Paramedic” feature among six projects to be pitched at the 2018 Small is Biutiful forum, a highly popular Paris-based Spain-France networking event run now entering its 11th edition.

Small is Biutiful takes place Wednesday, June 27, run by Espagnolas en Paris and the Ile de France Film Commission.

Torras’ film is a welcome thriller. Beyond that, the five other projects take in, through personal stories, some of the biggest forces forging the past and present world: Political exile, disaffected youth, immigration, domestic abuse and globalization’s destruction of traditional rural ways. Notably, four of the films feature women looking to recreate their lives, families or communities after past suffering. Some do so with epic sweep down the decades, others in smaller stories. The female protagonists and large social forces endow the projects with undoubtable larger resonance.

Txintxua Films-produced “Karmele,” featured at Cannes’ BS2B0 (Best Seller to Box Office), is an adaptation of Kirmen Uribe’s Basque novel “The Hour of Waking Together.” The story follows a woman and her family and how they are impacted by Spain’s 20th century, the Spanish Civil Guard, political exile, the Franco dictatorship and the financial consequences of exile, its longline runs.

“Kirmen Uribe, the writer of the book and a great friend, spoke to me one day about a fisherman from his village Ondarroa on the coast of the Basque Country,” Altuna told Variety.

“In the 1940s, he burned his own tuna-fishing boat. The image stuck with me for its visual and symbolic strength. When I read Kirmen’s last book, ‘The Hour of Waking Together,’ where that passage is related, the history of the Urresti family exceeded all my expectations. I felt that in the book there was a story that had to be told in the movies.”

Produced by Barcelona’s Boogaloo Films and directed by Liliana Diaz Castillo, “Estela” is the story of a Colombian immigrant who moves to Spain to look after an elderly widow named Monserrat. The two form a bond that energizes them, and Estela gains the strength to face problems she couldn’t before.

The film is not autobiographical, but draws heavily from Diaz Castillo’s own story.

“I wrote the film inspired by my personal experience as an immigrant woman confronted with everyday relationships with the bourgeoisie,” she explained, “so different socially and culturally, yet equal and close in feelings and weaknesses.”

“The Paramedic” from director Carles Torras is a thriller set to star Bruna Cusí, one of Spain’s hottest actresses having won the 2018 Spanish Academy Goya award for best new actress for her role in Carla Simón’s “Summer 1993.” The film is produced by Barcelona-based Zabriskie Films. A revenge tale, the film follows Angel, a paramedic who is confined to a wheelchair after an accident and dedicates himself to getting even with those who, in his eyes, have betrayed him.

Alberto Arriza is set to direct “Volare,” which will star Raúl Arévalo, who has seven Goya nominations having won three for both directing and acting. Sara Sálamo co-stars, and although her CV is more recent, she has had an impressive output over the last five years and featured in Asghar Farhadi’s Cannes Festival opening film, “Everybody Knows.”

The film follows Bruno, a ten year-old boy who lives with his alcoholic father on an itinerant fairground. At one of their stops Bruno meets Mara, recently moved from Madrid, and the two spark a close friendship. Mara, having learned that she is unlikely to have kids of her own after being the victim of domestic violence, tries to foster Bruno when things get especially bad with his father, but hurdles stand in their way.

“My goal is to shoot a powerful, realistic film that shows family violence in children, highlighting the important work of social workers and educators with victims,” Arriza told Variety, calling the film “an immersion into the problem from an anthropological perspective, with some allegorical poetic licenses in a feature film script structured in three acts.”

En Buen Sitio producer Jokin Pascual will be pitching “Espárrago” (Asparagus) from writer Roberto Goñi and director Julio Mazarico. The film follows Pepa, a divorced single mom who lives in a small town which depends heavily on an asparagus canning plant. When Yao – a Chinese businessman who intends to close the plant and sell the machinery therein – shows up, things get off to a rocky start. The villagers convince Yao to let them have one last canning season to help raise a bit of money. While waiting for the time to pass, Yao discovers daily life in the village and forms unlikely bonds with its people.

“I think the stories of strong women working in the rural world should be told,” Mazatico told Variety. “Our history also talks about how globalization affects people everywhere, even in a small town in the Ribera de Navarra.”

Finally, La Claqueta will feature “Secaderos” (Tobacco Barns) from writer-director Rocío Mesa, who has previously worked in documentary. “Secaderos” is her fiction feature debut.

The film will follow three young people and their different relationships with the rural Spanish landscapes full of large and mysterious tobacco barns. The three spend the summer uncovering the sometimes mystical secrets of these structures in a little town which means something different to each of them.

A model for co-production forums, attended by the rump of France’s arthouse sales agent and distribution community, Small is Biutiful received 44 project applications this year. It has a knack of homing in on projects and producers who go on to punch far above their budgetary weight, scoring berths at big festivals or co-production and distribution in France. Past projects selected include “Carmen and Lola,” a hit at this year’s Cannes Directors Fortnight, Cannes Critics Week winner “Mimosas,” and San Sebastian winners “Magical Girl” and “La Herida,” plus “La Novia,” a break out hit at the box office in Spain.

John Hopewell contributed to this article