Spain's Alquimia Cinema and France's Mandarin have signed a two-picture co-production agreement.

According to Alquimia founder and chief Francisco Ramos, the reciprocal agreement will encompass Alquimia's Swindled (Incautos), director Miguel Bardem's con-man tale starring Victoria Abril and Federico Luppi, and Mandarin's The Elementary Particles (Les Particules Elementaires), directed by Philippe Harel, based on the novel by Michel Houellebecq and also starring Abril alongside Jose Garcia.

Swindled is one of nine new projects currently in pre-production and development at Alquimia. The slate includes several international co-productions, underscoring Ramos' market-driven approach: "We have to stop measuring the success of movies by how well they do [locally]," he says. "We have to try to make movies that are more interesting for the international market, especially the Latin American market."

New projects in development at Alquimia with plans to shoot in 2004 include:

Thriller Satanas from director Maria Ripoll (Utopia, Tortilla Soup), based on the novel by Mario Mendoza; Ines, based on the vampire comic by Sergio Bleda, likely to be directed by Mexican DP Gabriel Beristain (S.W.A.T., Blade II); El Vengador Del Rif, a period serial killer piece set in Morocco for Kamchatka director Marcelo Pineyro; Manos Kelly, which Gen-X novelist Ray Loriga is adapting to the screen from the comic by Antonio Hernandez Palacios. No director is yet attached; and Accidente, a thriller from writing-directing pair Ines Paris and Daniel Fejerman (My Mother Likes Women).

Films in the works for production in 2003, in addition to Swindled, which begins shooting on January 27, include:

Award-winning short film director Luis Prieto's Condon Express, a comedic night-in-the-life of two Mexicans in Spain, planned for an April shoot with Mexico's Titan co-producing; Eduardo Mignogna's road movie Cleopatra, a co-production with Patagonik and Telefe, set to roll in Argentina in March; and likely French co-production Mientras Esperamos, Ramon Salazar's follow-up to Piedras, about two brothers and a sister who fall for the same woman;

Other recent international co-productions in which Alquimia has participated include Argentine Oscar nominee Kamchatka; London-set Dot The I; French co-production Janis & John; Gabriele Salvatores' kidnap drama I Am Not Afraid (Io Non Ho Paura); Bloody Mallory; Utopia; and Callas Forever, which premiered Sunday in Madrid.