Spain’s Oscar hopefuls announced

One of the three feature-length films, 'Loreak,' was shot entirely in the Basque language

Video: El País Vídeo
Gregorio Belinchón

Three movies have been pre-selected to represent Spain at the next Academy Awards in the Best Foreign-Language Film category – including one shot entirely in Basque.

Members of the Spanish Film Academy chose Felices 140 (or, Happy 140) by Gracia Querejeta, Magical Girl by Carlos Vermut and Loreak, a Basque-language film by Jon Garaño and Jose Maria Goenaga.

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The three pre-candidates were picked out among 54 feature-length titles, whose release dates range between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015.

The finalist will be announced by the Spanish Film Academy on September 29.

This title will then undergo further screening by the Hollywood academy, which will determine whether it becomes one of five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th edition of the Oscars on February 28.

The solitude of flowers

Loreak is two stories rolled into one, about three women whose lives are changed by flower bouquets that keep arriving mysteriously at the door.

“We feel that stories should preserve the language of their protagonists,” said the directors of Loreak, who tried filming a bilingual movie with their previous effort, 80 egunean. “We wanted to reflect our own reality, which combines two languages, but we stood to lose subsidies so it ended up being all in Basque. It was traumatic, and we lost an idea that seemed worth exploring.”

Both directors described Loreak as “a movie about lack of communication and solitude.”

How others see us

Carlos Vermut – whose real name is Carlos López del Rey – is currently in Tokyo to finish the screenplay for his third feature film. A cartoonist by trade, his short Maquetas was a hit at the 2009 Notodofilmfest, and he has pursued a film career ever since. His second try, Diamond Flash, a story of revenge that incorporates elements of Japanese cinema and of Luis Buñuel’s surrealist style, gained plaudits at the San Sebastián Film Festival last year and earned Bárbara Lennie a Goya Award for best actress.

And now comes Magical Girl.

“Each movie was born out of a necessity,” says the director. “Three years ago I was worried about a relationship, and Magical Girl emerged from that. Now I am deep into science and societies that are moved by passion, like the Islamic State or like current politics in Spain: we do not act rationally, we are always finding excuses for our own people. But my new movie focuses on public image: the way people see you has nothing to do with what you’re really like. And this perception is impossible to fight: don’t even try it on social media, because it’s a double-edged sword.”

Money brings happiness?

Felices 140 represents the third joint project by director Gracia Querejeta – who currently serves as vice-president of the Spanish Film Academy – and actress Maribel Verdú.

Verdú plays a woman who wins the lottery and throws a big party to celebrate her 40th birthday. The secret goal of the weekend bash is to win back her ex-boyfriend, who is now dating a much younger woman. But a tragedy and the problems that come with money end up ruining the happy occasion.

“We [co-screenwriter Santos Mercero and herself] wanted to explore the limits of friendship,” says Querejeta. “To do that, we needed to introduce the elements of money and betrayal: how far would you betray a friend over the promise of a better future offered by money?”

Last year’s submission to represent Spain was David Trueba’s Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed which did not receive an Oscar nomination. The winner of the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Award was the Polish drama Ida.

English version by Susana Urra.

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