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International Insider: Spanish Spotlight; Oscars Go International; Argentina Deep Dive

Good afternoon Insiders, Max Goldbart here bringing you all the news and analysis from another busy week, during which we have been to Spain through Argentina via Berlin. Oh, and there was the small matter of the Oscar noms. Read on, and sign up here.

Spain In The Spotlight

Secuoya’s scale and pace: Diana Lodderhose kicking things off here and I had the pleasure of going to Madrid before the holidays to take a look at the impressive Secuoya Content Group’s headquarters, which hosts Netflix’s European Production Hub, located just 17 miles north of Madrid. After a lengthy chat with its owners and founders Raul Berdonés and Pablo Jimeno as well as James Costos, president of its TV and film fiction arm Secuoya Studios, what became quickly apparent is the scale and pace at which this company is moving. “We’re not your traditional production company,” Berdonés said. “We are really a global studio and that’s what we are focusing on.” The company counts international heavyweights Ted Sarandos and former HBO, Starz and Legendary Television exec Albrecht among its array of international friends. Last summer, in a bid to spread its tentacles to the U.S., it partnered with Albrecht and Jane and the Virgin producer Jorge Granier’s newly formed Rubicon Global Media with an eye to bridging Spanish and U.S. storytelling.

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‘Zorro’: Secuoya Studios, meanwhile, is coming off the back of launching its most ambitious production to date: the anticipated modern take of Zorro, directed by Money Heist helmer Javier Qintas and starring Miguel Berardeau as the dashing vigilante created by Johnston McCulley, which debuted on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and Latin America last week ahead of its launch on the streamer in Spain, Andorra and Portugal this week. It’s touted as Spain’s biggest television production to date, sitting at $4M per episode.

Nobody expects the Spanish Prime Minister: Deadline even got a chance to speak to Spain’s Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez about how integral Secuoya and its sprawling Madrid Content City, a complex with 10 soundstages (and counting) and a university to train upcoming talent, is in cementing Spain’s role in the global audiovisual industry. “Our goal is to consolidate Spain’s prominent role in the global AV industry as a platform for innovating and training to attract global talent, thus creating jobs and promoting economic prosperity. Madrid Content City stands as a good example of this transformation.” There are plans to extend the studio model in Biscay, Portugal, Mexico and Columbia and the ambition is quite something to behold. Take a look at the full article here.

Oscars Go International

Sandra Huller interview
Sandra Huller interview

Strong showing: International films put in another strong showing at the American Academy Tuesday, with the unveiling of the 2024 Oscar nominations. Out in front were Justine Triet’s contemporary courtroom thriller Anatomy of a Fall and Jonathan Glazer’s innovative holocaust drama The Zone of Interest, which both netted five noms. The Academy confirmed with Zac and Andreas on the day that this is the first time two international foreign-language movies that have been nominated for Best Picture in the same year — quite the feat — and the first time that two foreign-language movies have received five Oscar nominations apiece in the same year. With the inclusion of Celine Song’s English- and Korean-language Past Lives, also in Best Picture, this is the most international Best Picture category in a while, and the world is better for it. Other foreign-language films to score nominations today outside of the international category include Spanish-language Society of the Snow, Japanese pic Godzilla Minus One, Robot Dreams, Miyazaki’s The Boy And The Heron and Pablo Larrain’s El Conde. And in an Oscars stunner, two films considered a lock for nominations failed to be recognized Tuesday morning in the Best Documentary Feature category: American Symphony and Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. Instead, a group of five internationally-focused documentaries earned nominations: National Geographic’s Bobi Wine: The People’s President, The Eternal Memory, Four Daughters, To Kill a Tiger and 20 Days in Mariupol. “We live in a world where everything is linked, so people are interested what happened in Tunisia and Uganda [where Bobi Wine takes place]. It’s just amazing,” Kaouther Ben Hania, the Tunisian director of Four Daughters, told Deadline following her nom. “It proves that we live in a world where people are more curious, more international, more open.” Ben Hania’s theory would appear correct.

It’s been coming: Following Parasite’s groundbreaking wins in 2020, international movies like All Quiet on the Western Front and Drive My Car have cruised to Oscars success. What’s more, Triet, Glazer and Song’s movies were also made squarely outside the U.S. studio system in a boon for independent cinema. Elsewhere, Chris Nolan’s Oppenheimer clocked a leading 13 nominations, including all major categories. The film’s commanding haul was a contrast to the performance of its twin feature Barbie. The Academy is rarely ever receptive to big box office comedies, and the pic was bested by Poor Things in the comedy categories at the Golden Globes, signaling its position with awards voters was less secure than many expected. A bigger surprise from Tuesday’s noms was perhaps Todd Haynes’ May December being completely shut out. The Oscars take place March 10. Jimmy Kimmel is hosting again. That’ll be his fourth go at it. Maybe this year he’ll be funny.

Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina

President of Argentina Javier Milei.
President of Argentina Javier Milei.

“Devastating” reform plan scrapped: The election of far-right Argentinian leader Javier Milei was met with widespread shock and condemnation worldwide last year, although the appointment of an anti-establishment former TV pundit dubbed ‘El Loco’ (‘The Madman’) felt strangely in keeping with the times and drew comparisons with a certain someone who may well be back in power 12 months from now. But what of Argentina’s film industry? Up until Wednesday, when Zac published an excellent deep dive on the sector, things were not looking good, with Milei pushing through a bill that planned to gut state support for local films, like the brilliant, Oscar-nominated Argentina 1985. “It would be the end of Argentinian cinema as we know it,” said that movie’s producer, LA-based Axel Kuschevatzky. “It’s as simple as that.” Sighs of relief were therefore palpable just a few hours after Zac’s story was published, with Milei walking back the plans as part of a last-minute amendment to his controversial and wide-reaching ‘Omnibus bill.’ Read the analysis here, and more on the U-turn here. Well worth your time.

Stars In Berlin

Kristen Stewart, Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Cillian Murphy
Kristen Stewart, Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Cillian Murphy

Declaration of discussion: Not content with the Oscars taking all the limelight, this week was Berlinale lineup. The fest may be having some difficulties this year, but tell that to the A-listers that will be heading to Germany next month for what is looking like its starriest edition in years. Kristen Stewart, Adam Sandler, Cillian Murphy, Lena Dunham, Sebastian Stan, Amanda Seyfried and Rooney Mara are among the talent headed there and many will have films in competition, including Mara, whose La Cocina pic is one of 20 competing alongside the likes of Mati Diop’s Dahomey and Hong Sangsoo’s A Traveler’s Needs starring Isabelle Huppert. Ahead of the unveiling of the 74 edition’s competition list, departing co-heads Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek read out a statement in the wake of demonstrations at the Sundance Film Festival, expressing concerns at anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim resentment across the country and around the world, and declaring the need for an open fest. “Festivals provide a space for artistic expression and enable peaceful dialogue. They are places of encounter and exchange and contribute to international understanding,” the pair said. “We believe that through the power of films and open discussions, we can help foster empathy, awareness, understanding, even and especially in painful times like these.” In the coming weeks they will no doubt have to tread a tricky path between balancing that freedom of expression and not allowing things to go too far, a road many are having to tread at present. Later, Chatrian, a popular figure, sat down with Mel to talk about his final bow. “I have a positive feeling, not one of melancholy. I’m not sad,” he said. Read on for what has been a busy old week in the run-up to one of the biggest festivals of the year.

Baz Kicks Ass

Matthew Vaughn 'Argylle' interview
Matthew Vaughn 'Argylle' interview

Double trouble: What’s better than a week with a Breaking Baz? That’s right, a triple helping of Baz. Our roving International Editor-at-Large sat down with Matthew Vaughn, Sexy Beast‘s Sarah Greene and Sarayu Blue, the star of Nicole Kidman series Expats, to fill your inboxes with insight. As ever, there were revelations aplenty. Vaughn revealed he had received “flattering” offers to sell Marv Films — the production company he runs with wife Claudia Schiffer that is behind the Kick-Ass and Kingsman franchises — last year. His biggest mentor, whom he would not name, swooped in to save the day, cautioning, “There’s no money in the world which would make it worthwhile for you having a boss.” More here. If you’re not aware of Greene’s work, then you probably will be once you’ve digested this one, in which the Normal People star talks about being at the center of a high-stakes “love triangle” in Paramount+’s Sexy Beast prequel, along with doing oodles of research into the murky yet sometimes empowering world of pornography. But Baz wasn’t done there. He also nattered with Blue, one of the standouts from Kidman and Lulu Wang’s new Prime Video series Expats, to talk about her career and the challenges of being an Indian-American working in Hollywood.

The Essentials

🌶️ Hot One: Gillian Anderson has joined Jared Leto, Jodie Turner-Smith and Past Lives breakout Greta Lee in Tron: Ares.

🌶️ A second: Netflix has committed to two more Harlan Coben adaptations following the success of Fool Me Once.

🌶️ Heat is the spice of life: Game of Thrones star Kit Harington is producing a “very British Western” with New Pictures.

🏕️ Festivals latest: Rotterdam bosses talked to Mel about Christopher Nolan and woman-of-the-moment Sandra Hüller.

🏆 Awards: Anatomy of a Fall and The Animal Kingdom took top prizes at France’s Lumières.

Merger off: The long-gestating coming together of Sony and Zee Entertainment Enterprises in India is no more.

🖖 Where no man has gone before: Star Trek icon Jonathan Frakes is directing a series based on novel and audio book Deathlands.

🚪 Exiting: Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s CEO in the UK and Ireland, after nearly two decades. He won’t be replaced.

🕺 New hire: VMI Releasing, the North American distribution arm of VMI Worldwide, snapped up Dan Fisher as Executive Vice President.

🍿 Box office: Liz had the exclusive on a record year for the Indian box office.

🖊️ Signed up: Israel’s Girl from Oslo director Ofir Lobel signed with Black Box.

🎄 Feeling festive?: Bend It Like Beckham’s Gurdiner Chadha is making a Christmas movie about an Indian Scrooge.

📜 Op-ed: Jake analyzed why the UK government’s claims about the “bias” BBC were misleading.

🌎 Global Breakout: Italian women’s rights drama There’s Still Tomorrow is shaking Italy’s box office out of its post-pandemic torpor.

🎥 Trailer: For Eternal, Danish director Ulaa Salim’s sophomore feature that follows an obsessive, young climate change scientist.

Zac Ntim and Diana Lodderhose contributed to this week’s Insider

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