Pedro Almodovar cranks up filming July 18 on his new movieVolver, a black comedy starring Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura, just one of aslew of new projects in the works from Spain's leading international talents.

The $11m Volver, has not yet closed adistributor in Spain but has been pre-sold to several territories including toSony Pictures Classics for North America. It will roll for 11 weeks in Madrid andthe director's native Castilla La Mancha.

Presenting Volver (literally, 'to return') in Madrid lastweek, Almodovar noted the many "returns" this film signifies for him: a returnto female-centered comedy, to his native region in Spain, to working with hisearly muse Maura and later muse Cruz, and to the rural world of his owndeceased mother.

He also revealed the first plot details: Maura plays a womanwho comes back as a ghost after her accidental death and gets actively involvedin the lives of her daughters (Cruz and Lola Duenas) and granddaughter (YohanaCobo).

"It is a comedy about death but it's not at all funereal,"Almodovar said of the story, which opens in a cemetery. Maura comes to help herkin solve the many problems they face - with each other, the absentee men intheir lives, village versus city life, etc.

Volver is just one of several new films in the works bySpain's leading lights, from Almodovar, Maura and Cruz to Banderas, Bardem,Vega and Verdu.

Banderas is preparing his second film as director, to shootin southern Spain this autumn. Based on the Antonio Soler novel and screenplay,El Camino De Los Ingleses tells the bittersweet coming-of-age story of a groupof young boys during the last summer of their childhood. The Malaga arm ofBanderas and Melanie Griffith's Green Moon is producing, and at least twohigh-profile Spanish companies are in talks to co-produce.

Bardem is set to star across Nathalie Portman in MilosForman's painter biopic Goya's Ghosts, rolling in Spain from September. Thefilm will reunite Forman with his One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest producer,Saul Zaentz. Spain's KanZaman is also producing while Hanway Films hasinternational sales.

Bardem also stars in a short film from director JulioMedem shot for the multi-country collaborative feature Paris Je T'Aime withSpain's Monfort Producciones co-producing.

Maribel Verdu and Sergi Lopez will star in Guillermo delToro's Spain-set mystery Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno). It is thefirst production of a new company set up in Spain by del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron,Frida Torresblanco and Berta Navarro and goes in front of cameras in Spain inJuly.

Paz Vega is on board to star with Viggo Mortensen andVictoria Abril this October in writer-director Ray Loriga's fantastical take onthe life of Spain's 16th century Saint Teresa, for Lolafilms, andshe will also take the title role next year in Maestranza Films' period pieceLa Roldana about a 17th century sculptress.

Meanwhile, Spanish producers are also attractinginternational talents, like Viggo Mortensen in $24m adventure taleAlatriste, in post-production; Timothy Hutton in Daniel Monzon's thriller TheKovak Box, now shooting for Filmax; Calista Flockhart in Jaume Balaguero'sVenice entry Fragile, also from Filmax; and Daniel Bruehl in two films -MediaPro's Salvador, about to start shooting, and alongside Peter Mullan inMorena Films' Cargo, currently in post.