In 1995, Alex de la Iglesia directed his second feature, “The Day of the Beast,” which marked a milestone in Spanish cinema, yoking full-on U.S. genre tropes – a bloody against-the-clock search for an Antichrist – with a bathetic but very grounded Spanish reality, featuring a downbeat boarding house, a local metalhead and the tawdry star of an occult-themed trash TV show.
The film opened the floodgates for other directors, weened on VHS binging, to mix U.S. and Spanish realities. Now nearly 30 years later, De la Iglesia is at it again. A showreel of movies and series made by Pokeepsie Films, the shingle he founded with Carolina Bang in 2009, dazzled at a Next from Spain showcase panel on Monday at Berlinale Series Market. Standouts included the sheer visual boldness of excerpts, their pop out tones, – such as in Eduardo Casanova’s lush pink in “La Pietá” – or mixture of gore, high-production values and comedy, as in HBO Max series “30 Coins.”
Goya-nominated for best new actress for Venice winner “The Last Circus” and starring in “Witching & Bitching,” another big De La Iglesia title which helped take Spanish VFX to a next level, Bang, Pokeepsie CEO, already led a slew of productions including “The Heroes of Evil,” “Skins,” and “The Bar,” producing 17 movies or series since 2009 through to the Banijay acquisition.
With Banijay Iberia taking an equity position in Pokeepsie , announced in April 2022, Pokeepsie’s ambition is to “go bigger,” De la Iglesia said at the panel.
That cuts several ways. Backed by Banijay, De la Iglesia aims to continue to make movies and shows which yoke a European sense of auteurist voice with a scale and production ambition not so common on the continent, making premium horror and fantasy or comedy, or fiction which mixes both at one and the same time.
Pokeepsie is also branching out from its hallmark core, producing “Headless Chickens,” a soccer world dramedy presented on Feb. 21 in the Next from Spain strand at the Berlinale Series Market.
Variety caught up with the duo following the panel at which they spoke, Spanish Fiction Contents: New Releases & Financial Opportunities, part of Next from Spain.
Getting on for a year after the partnership with Banijay Iberia, what is the state of play at Pokeepsie?
De la Iglesia: For the first time in my life, I feel that I can control my job and have time to prepare. We can grow at an amazing speed. It was always an obstacle to produce. I love to write scripts and shoot. With Carolina as CEO, I feel safe. She’s so organized. I know things are working. We fix things. It’s not a drama. With Pokeepsie, I now know what I’m doing.
Bang: My focus is making sure that Alex can work really well.
What are your ambitions for Pokeepsie?
De la Iglesia: We are making fun films for adults. Not just teenagers and kids. If you work in Europe, you are doing something totally different to the U.S. Why don’t we make something from Europe but keeping it fun? Not just for kids. There shouldn’t be just intelligent movies for intelligent people or superhero films. We want to make something in the middle.
What are the benefits of working in Spain?
People work there with real passion. We are living an amazing moment. The industry is growing. Talent is growing. We are beginning to see many beautiful things. Something is being born.
What do you like about working with horror?
De la Iglesia: Its lack of prejudice. Horror is where you can be like Fritz Lang or Murnau. It’s free. People might think twice before watching an Italian comedy. In horror, it doesn’t matter if the film is from Australia or wherever.
Notably “Headless Chickens,” which you produce but isn’t written or directed by Alex, isn’t horror but weighs in more as a belated coming of age story.
Bang: It’s important to keep talent in our company. But we don’t want to put them in a box like that they can only do comedies with us. We want to let them grow.