Javier Bardem Starrer ‘Sanctuary’ Bowing on Amazon, Movistar Plus

John Hopewell

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MADRID — Amazon Prime Video has secured global SVOD rights to the Javier Bardem starrer “Sanctuary,” a Toronto Festival world premiere which dispatches Javier and Carlos Bardem to the Antarctic to witness marine ecological devastation at first hand.

Set to be released by Amazon on April 10, “Sanctuary” also paints a bigger picture – a hallmark of award-winning director Alvaro Longoria (“The Propaganda Game,” “Two Catalonias”) – taking environmental filmmaking to another level by breaking down the key elements in save-the-planet campaigns as used by cutting-edge practitioners.

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In further deals, suggesting new models for distribution in the SVOD space, Movistar Plus, the SVOD/pay TV platform of telecom giant Telefonica, will also release “Sanctuary” in a few days time in Spain on its #0 channel. Rakuten TV. Apple TV Plus, Google TV, Vodafone TV, Huawei Video and Filmin, the upscale arthouse SVOD service backed by Spanish production houses, will also make “Sanctuary” available in Spain.

A good-humored documentary, despite the urgency of its cause, “Sanctuary” also says more about Javier Bardem as a person than hundreds of hours of photos, charting his large sense of humor, and comic timing before the camera, down time with brother Carlos – they belong to a close-knit family which has been important in Spanish cinema for three generations.

Produced by Morena Films and Bardem’s label Pinguin Films – the actor has loved penguins since a child, he says in the film – “Sanctuary” traces Javier Bardem’s character arc from ecological initiate who flies to a Greenpeace ship in the Antarctic and is taken down to the ocean bottom to smiling environmental ambassador glad-handing politicians in London and Berlin, with a conviction about his cause – to put pressure on governments to create the largest marine sanctuary on earth in the Antarctic Ocean.

The feature documentary also has moments of dazzlement, such as when Javier Bardem dove 900 feet off a Greenpeace boat to the Antarctic Ocean seafloor off the Antarctic Peninsula to see for himself and the film’s audience the extraordinarily variegated and colorful Antarctic ocean-bed world of corral and sponges.

Also screening at the San Sebastian, Zurich, Valladolid, Tulúm, Les Arcs, Sofia, Copenhagen, Suncine in Barcelona and Sedona Festivals, “Sanctuary” won the Honorary Green Oscar at the Cinema for Peace Foundation gala this year in Berlin.

“Sanctuary” marks one of the first, if not the first of Spanish features to skip the theatrical window and go direct to consumer via global and regional platforms. Facilitating that, the film, which climaxes at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an inter-governmental organization creating environmental ocean regulation, was made without a Spanish government incentives. Currently, Spanish features risk loosing such subsidies, worth up to around $1.1 million per title, if they do not have a theatrical release in Spanish cinema, which looks impossible for months to come.

Also president of the European Producers Club, Longoria signaled to Variety that he hoped Spain’s government would next week abandon such strict window chronology, following the example of many other European powers.

“All producers are demanding is a liberalization of regulation that were originally intended to protect independents and right now is doing the opposite,” Longoria told Variety.

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