Barcelona production-distribution outfit Filmax is at this year’s L.A. Virtual Screenings with its most recent TV acquisition, Basque drama “Mouths of Sand” (“Hondar ahoak”) from leading regional film production company Txintxua Films, its first foray into TV production.
Originally commissioned by local Basque public TV broadcaster ETB, the series’ global rights were scooped by Filmax after episode one was buzzed up by critics and viewers on social media in its local market. The series fits nicely within the framework of high-end regional content coming from the northern Spanish community, which has had a large success in film production. Representative of that shift, “Mouths of Sand” is directed by Koldo Almandoz, winner of the Best Basque Film award at the San Sebastián Film Festival in 2018 with his debut feature “The Deer.”
In “Deer” and earlier short films, Almandoz developed a personal, poetic universe of ghost ships, wildlife and marshes, and immigrants and other people living on the big city margins. In “Mouths of Sand,” he mixes that world with the tropes of Nordic Noir, translated to an often spectacular and atmospheric Basque Country.
“Mouths of Sand,” in title and in theme, is based on an old seafaring legend which says that whoever tells the secrets of the sea on land will have his mouth filled with sand, because the words brought to land always leave traces. In the series, Inspector Nerea Garcia, played by Nagore Aranburu (“Flowers,” “Caronte”), is ordered to a small fishing village where she must investigate the disappearance of Josu, a boat captain, and the son-in-law of one of the town’s most powerful businessmen. There she is partnered with Alex, a local assistant played by rising Basque star Eneko Sagardoy (“Giant,” “Patria”). What starts out as a cut and dry case quickly turns sinister as secrets are uncovered and faceless forces work against the investigation.
The Basque Country’s seemingly omnipresent blanket of fog, dense forests and miles of coast overlooking the Bay of Biscay all give the series a distinct local Noir feeling that heightens the anxiety of the missing persons case and offer possible outcomes only limited by one’s imagination.
To best capture the surrounding countryside, “Mouths of Sand” recruited Javier Aguirre, one of the Basque County and Spain’s most decorated and hardest working cinematographers. In the last four years he has received three Spanish Academy Award nominations, winning one for his work on 2018’s San Sebastian Jury Prize and best Basque film winner “Giant.”
“This is Txintxua Films’ first foray into the fictional series format, and we’ve been able to tackle the challenge head-on, thanks to an outstanding cast and crew,” said Txintxua Films producer Marian Fernández. “The fantastic reception from both viewers and critics alike after the premiere in the Basque Country confirms that we have fulfilled our objective of producing a series that the audience connects with and that is hugely satisfying.”
“The backing that EITB [Euskal Irrati Telebista – Basque Radio-Television] has given fiction has been most relevantly displayed in the series ‘Mouths of Sand,’ in which the know-how of a movie producer has come together with an experienced director and the platform that EITB offers. What the critics have dubbed the new ‘Basque noir,’ is the start of a collaboration that EITB hopes will be long-lasting. Both teams are currently working on developing a second series,” said Eduardo Barinaga, director at ETB.
For his part, Ivan Díaz, head of international at Filmax, added: “We loved this series from the first moment we saw it. It is reminiscent of some of the best independent police thrillers that have been made in recent years. Much care has been taken over the style and aesthetic and we are sure that it has great potential to travel to other countries.”