‘Riot Police’s’ Rodrigo Sorogoyen Brings ‘La Guerra’ Onto the International Market (EXCLUSIVE)

Rodrigo Sorogoyen, director of “As Bestas,” “Riot Police” and the Oscar-nominated “Madre,” is bringing onto the international market “La Guerra,” a six-part drama delivering a new vision of the Spanish Civil War which looks like one of the biggest Spanish series ever made.

Sorogoyen will direct all six episodes. Isabel Peña, Sorogoyen, and Eduardo Villanueva, “Riot Police’s”writing team, have fairly definitive version of three episodes with the rest at an initial phase. 

“La Guerra” was originally set up at Movistar Plus+. In an amicable settlement – Sorogoyen has gone on to direct and promote an episode of Movistar+ original “Offworld” at last week’s San Sebastián – after Movistar Plus+ pulled out of the series, Sorogoyen and Villanueva’s Madrid-based label Caballo Films have recovered the rights. 

The series is believed to be sparking large interest with potential partners in Spain. Unveiling “La Guerra” at Iberseries & Platino Industria’s Financing Forum, Sorogoyen and Villanueva now aim to attract overseas production partners to tie down completion finance and position the series with strength in the international market, Villanueva told Variety.

“La Guerra” catches Sorogoyen, Peña and Villanueva at a propitious time. Bowing in Cannes Premiere, “The Beasts” (“As Bestas”),” a Spanish modern-day Western-thriller starring Marina Fois and Denis Menochet has run up 310,000 admissions in France and won San Sebastian’s audience award for best European film on Friday. Movistar Plus+ collective series “Offword” (“Apagon”), whose first episode, “Denial,” is written by Peña and directed by Sorogoyen, was also big hit at San Sebastian. “Riot Police,” a thriller which talked about “themes which matter, relevant to Spain’s present – emigration, corruption, machismo – is still one of the most-watched series ever on Movistar Plus.

Caballo Films is a producer on near all Sorogoyen’s films, including “The Beasts,” “Madre,” “May God Save Us,” “Madre,”  plus “Riot Police” and anthology feature “En Casa” for HBO Max. Caballo scored last week at the San Sebastian Festival world premiering to applause “The Route,” an Atresplayer Premium original and artistically bold take on Spain’s Bakalao night club scene.  

In “La Guerra,” Sorogoyen aims to follow a similar line to “Riot Police,” he said, “making a tense, addictive but also relevant fiction.”

A college history major, Sorogoyen laments that the Spanish Civil War is not taught at schools. Give that, the possibility of using a 300-minute series on it was “not only fascinating but in a way an obligation,” he said. “A people that knows its history is healthier, freer and more modern,” he added. The Civil War, moreover, remains “tremendously alive.”

“La Guerra” won’t portray the famous, but have as its central characters anonymous people. “Historical facts will provide the context, the ideas informing each episode, but what we’re interested in are the stories of those who lived the War,” said Sorogoyen. 

The series will “revolutionize classic Civil War imagery, fleeing from a good-or-bad depiction of characters. “We won’t have just bloody executioners and innocent victims. Fiction is more compelling when it explores the grey areas of characters, and that’s more like reality.”

Rebelling against many established takes on the Civil War, the series’ frescoes to be the broadest possible, structured around six independent episodes exploring a different conflict in six corners of Spain. The series will also adopt “the newest view points possible,” said Sorogoyen, following a Rif mountain shepherd who fights in Spain for a pittance and vague promises of a future there, when Moroccan soldiers are normally written off as savages, he commented. 

Another episode looks set to be set against the background of the little known battle of Teruel, in the Winter of 1937, the coldest in 50 years, recounting the “personal vengeance of some Republican soldiers.”

Each story will have a direct relation with the present. As a lover of hyperrealism, Sorogoyen said, he’s not interested in “crafted images:” “I want audiences to have the sensation that the characters are being filmed by somebody who has a camera in that very place at that very time,” he concluded. 

“The Spanish Civil War didn’t just mark for ever the future of Spain but had a decisive impact on the rest of the international community,” said writer-producer Villanueva, who produces “La Guerra” for Caballo Films. 

So “La Guerra” is not just a Spanish series, he argued. “The human conflicts of its protagonists are universal. And, unfortunately, atemporal: We see them repeated time and again in present wars.”

“La Guerra” is Sorogoyen and Caballo Films’ most ambitious project, “ambition in scale, in relevance, repercussions and distribution strategy,” Villanueva added.

One instance of scale: The series will shoot in three blocks over one whole year to capture distinct seasons in different places in Spain, Villanueva said.