Germany’s Beta Film has picked up world sales on two tales of Spanish power women: Movistar Plus’ originals “Supernormal” and “Thou Shall Not Lie,” the latter created and directed by “The Red Band Society” helmer Pau Freixas.
Written by Olatz Arroyo and Marta Sánchez, head writers on Atresmedia hit “Down There,” “Supernormal” is directed by Emilio Martínez Lazaro, whose credits take in “Spanish Affair,” the highest grossing Spanish film of all time in Spain. A six-part half-hour, it stars Miren Ibarguren as Patricia, a hyper over-achiever who has it all: a top job at an investment bank, a loving husband and three children, a lovely house in a leafy Madrid suburb. But she wants far more, especial when battling rival Mauro for promotion in the man-dominated high finance world.
A six-hour crime drama-thriller, “You Shall Not Lie” (“Todos Mienten”) is produced by Filmax, the Barcelona-based production-distribution-sales studio behind Freixas’ “The Red Band Society” as well as a recent string of hits: “I Know Who You Are,” “Welcome to the Family” and Netflix’s “Three Days of Christmas.”
It features a topnotch Spanish and Spanish-Argentine cast led by Irene Arcos (“The Pier”), who plays Macarena, a highly respected high-school teacher in a posh Spanish coastal town who is captured in a video having sex with a student. When the video goes viral, she loses her husband (Leonardo Sbaraglia, of “Wild Tales” fame), friends and social respect.
The deal announcement follows fast on HBO Max’s striking a co-production deal for season two of Leticia Dolera’s “Perfect Life,” another Movistar Plus original distributed by Beta Film.
“Spanish power women” – a Beta Film phrase – cuts various ways. It could refer to the series female leads, which feature a next generation of Spanish female star power forged by a new SVOD platform reality.
Dolera, for example, won Canneseries best series and shared a special performance prize for “Perfect Life,” which she created, co-wrote and co-directed. Arguably, there is no more successful woman showrunner in Spain.
Arcos broke out in “The Pier,” an erotic women’s emancipation story, which marked the first platform original from Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato after “Money Heist.” Beyond starring in “Supernormal,” Ibarguren plays second lead Maite, a local cop, in “You Shall Not Lie.”
These will be three faces of international Spanish fiction in 2021. Spanish power women may also, however, describe the series characters.
In “Perfect Life,” Dolera plays Maria who begins the series about to sign a 35-year mortgage with her boyfriend and realize her childhood dream of a house husband and kids. But he bottles and walks out on her. Maria, best friend Cris, and sis Esther discover that they fail to meet, or be fully satisfied, by the dreams foisted on them in childhood.
Season 2, said Dolera, asks what happens after the friends’ lives have been turned upside down. The answer is that life will continue to throw them. Adapting to that they may reach some kind of maturity, she added.
As soon as “Supernormal’s” Patricia speaks to camera in early episode one on her formula for success and how to be someone in this world, they sense that she is riding for a fall. In “You Shall Not Lie,” a body at the bottom of some cliffs further incriminates Macarena. But she fights back – and begins to expose the realities behind the respectable facades of near everyone around her.
“The series also talks about glass cages, about a woman who’s achieved everything she dreamed about when young and suddenly realizes she’s not happy,” said Arcos.
Power women stories are not about powerful women but those who have the presence of mind and will to break with female stereotypes.
“‘Supernormal’ is a hymn to the right to fail, to not always be marvelous,” said Sánchez. “Empowerment is free will, being able to choose to be who you want. It’s not necessarily being powerful,” Arroyo added.
Power women are “not strong or successful women, but just women who are protagonists,” added Dolera. “Being worthy of being the center of a story is a form of power – that what happens to you is thought sufficiently relevant to form the basis of a story.
“There are now more projects with women who drive the action and are real women with all the contradictions that implies,” said Arcos.
“Streaming platform are looking for series which are more auteur not so four quadrant,” said Sanchez.
But some glass ceilings remain. In 2019, just 23% of Spanish films’ screenwriters were women, according to Spain’s Association of Women Cineastes and Audiovisual Media.
“The budgets that male directors handle are still far bigger than those for women,” Dolera noted, adding that she’d like to direct a thriller or sci-fi title in the future.
With Beta Film having sold “Perfect Life” to three of the biggest players in the world – RTL for Germany, TF1 for France and HBO Max for U.S. streaming rights – she may be better placed than any other Spanish woman to do so.