Laura Mana has signed on to direct ambitious 17th century biopic La Roldana for Spain's Maestranza Films.

Seville native Paz Vega (Spanglish, 10 Items Or Less) has expressed interest in taking the lead role of the talented sculptress in the vibrant 17th century setting of Seville who defied her family's wishes in marriage and craft.

Maestranza chief Antonio Perez is presenting the $9m (Euros 7m) project to potential co-producers in the Berlinale Co-Production Forum. 'Without international co-production it is impossible to take on such risk. Spanish financing could cover 50-60% maximum.'

The film will enter pre-production next fall for a spring 2008 shoot under actress-turned-director Mana, who is best known for her 2000 festival hit Compassionate Sex (Sexo Por Compasion).

'This story calls for a woman director,' added Perez, who also currently has two other projects in early stages of development from female directors: Maria Ripoll's multilingual Buddha Mary about a flamenco-loving Japanese couple; and Chus Gutierrez's Morocco-set El Retorno De Hamsala.

First on Maestranza's 2007-2008 slate is Manuel Iborra's $3m (Euros 2.3m) French-language Childhood In A Harem, based on Moroccan-born, US-educated writer Fatima Mernisi's auto-biographical novel Dreams of Trespass: Tales Of A Harem Girlhood.

Perez has signed on co-production from Morocco's Videorama and is closing a French partner on a project he compares to sleeper hit Monsieur Ibrahim. Casting is getting underway in Casablanca and Paris for an autumn 2007 shoot.