Spanish auteur PedroAlmodovar hinted yesterday that his next film will likely be BadEducation (LaMala Educacion) a "profoundly anti-clerical movie" abouttwo boys in a Catholic school forced to contend with sexual abuse by thepriesthood.

The highly chargedsubject-matter is liable to present yet another public relations headache forthe Catholic hierarchy which has spent the past year condemning films such asMexico's box office sensation The Crime OfFather Amaro and Venice Golden Lion winner The Magdelene Sisters for what it regards as unduly negative screen portrayals of its Church.

Father Amaro depicts priests having affairs with parishioners and taking money from drug traffickers, while Magdelene Sisters, directed by Scotland's Peter Mullen, is a hard-hitting denunciation of a convent-prison run by cruel Irish nuns. The Catholic Church wasfurther challenged at this year's Berlin Film Festival with the showing of Costa-Gavras'Amen, which dramatizes the Vatican's failure to speak out againstHitler's Final Solution.

Speaking at a pressconference hosted by the New York Film Festival, which selected his latest film Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella) to close its 40th edition this coming Sunday, Almodovar made absolutely clear his ownfeelings about the religious indoctrination he faced as boy.

"In the film that Iwill probably do next, Bad Education, I portray a world I have known very well - religious educationin my country is a world in which children are taught by priests between theages of 30 and 50, many of whom sexually abuse those children. It's asituation I denounce."

"It's a veryanticlerical movie in spite of the fact we have now a new Spanish Saint for hiswork with Opus Dei, in which I don't believe at all," continuedAlmodovar. He was referring to the recent controversial canonization by thePope of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of thestrict Opus Dei movement whose 84,000 members take vows of piety and practisefasting and flagellation as a method of 'self-mortification'.

This will not bethe first time that Almodovar, seen by some as the natural cinematic heir tothe famously sacrilegious Luis Bunuel, has portrayed Catholicism in his films.The authoritarian mother figure in his 1985 film Matador was also an adherent of Opus Dei, whilenuns have been key figures in films such Dark Habits (1983) and his Oscar-winning AllAbout My Mother .

Bad Education will, however, be the first film to relate directlyto Almodovar's religious upbringing. Aftermigrating to a village in Spain's bleak Extremadura region when he was eight,Almodovar went to elementary and high school with the Salesian and Franciscanfathers, who tried to instill a fear of God in him. However, their sexualtransgressions and repressive regime only taught him to lose faith inCatholicism - and helped turn his movie-going into an escapistcompulsion.

Despite the autobiographicalelements, Almodovar insisted yesterday that any particular events that happenedto him would not be the ones portrayed. However, Bad Education is set in the same Franco-ruled 60s era of hisadolescence and Almodovar did include Extremaduraamong the locations he scouted in before casting difficulties persuaded him tosideline the project in late 2000 in favour of Talk To Her.

Bad Education is one of three directorial projectsthat Almodovar's production outfit El Deseo has in active development with aview to shooting one sometime next year, once Almodovar has returned from hisUS promotional tour for Talk To Her (The film, which will be released in the US through Sony Pictures Classics, is hotly tipped to be Spain's Oscar submission alongwith Intacto).

The two otherprojects currently on the boil are a comedy being referred to as Women AndAirports (Mujeres YAeropuertos) and Tarantula, based on an obscure French novel abouta plastic surgeon in the year 2010 or 2015 who takes revenge on hisdaughter's rapist by giving him a forced sex-change operation. Justrecently, Antonio Banderas reiterated his interest taking a starring role in thatfuturistic film noir, declaring a 2004 availability in his own busy actingschedule to reunite with the director that helped kickstart his internationalcareer.