Academy Awards 2018

Catalan-language film chosen to represent Spain at upcoming Oscars

Biographical drama from first-time director Carla Simón to compete for Academy Award

Summer 1993 – or Verano 1993 in Spanish, Estiu 1993 in Catalan – will be the Spanish representative in the race for the Oscar for 2018 Best Foreign Language Film. The movie, which was filmed in Catalan, answers two questions, according to its director Carla Simón: how do you explain death to a child? And how do you understand what’s happening around you, the silence and the gestures?

Laia Artigas and David Verdaguer in a scene from the movie.
Laia Artigas and David Verdaguer in a scene from the movie.

Simón, who is from Barcelona, lost her parents to AIDS when she was a child and went to live with her relatives in Ampurdán, in the northeast of Catalonia. At the time, the HIV virus seemed like an unbeatable enemy, and ignorance made the girl’s life even more complicated.

It should be normal for Spain to put up films in any of the languages we speak Carla Simón

“Unfortunately for my parents, the effective treatments came later, a year too late to save them,” says Simón. And while hiding her pain in the absence of her mother, she tried to “manage” her emotions. Simón did not cry.

“I’m not shy about it because after telling my story so many times, it starts to sound like just a story,” she says. “In fact, during the process of creating the film, I spent moments disconnected from the fact that it was my life, especially during shooting.”

The director, Carla Simón (right), and the producer, Valérie Delpierre, of ‘Summer 1993.’
The director, Carla Simón (right), and the producer, Valérie Delpierre, of ‘Summer 1993.’Jaime Villanueva

Simón is happy, but surprised, at the selection of her film for consideration at the Oscars, whose 90th edition will be held on March 4, 2018 at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. “I never thought we would go that far,” she says. “I think the [Spanish] Academy chose it because it excited them. Sometimes when you see a movie you are left with feelings, and I suspect that the universal themes in the movie also swayed the votes in our favor.”

Summer 1993 premiered in Catalan and has already been seen by more than 96,300 spectators since its June 30 premiere, grossing more than €600,000. As of today, it will be brought back to 16 theaters, dubbed into Spanish. “I thoroughly controlled the [dialogue] process and have done it with the same actors. I do not think that language affects the Oscars,” she says. “It should be normal for Spain to put through a film in any of the languages we speak, although the political atmosphere overshadows the selection,” she adds, in reference to the ongoing political battle for independence in the Catalonia region. For previous editions of the Academy Awards, Spain submitted Pa Negre, in Catalan, and Loreak, in Basque.

The film was praised at the last Berlin International Film Festival and won first prize at the festival. Subsequently, it took the Golden “Biznaga” prize at the Malaga Film Festival. The Spanish Academy chose the film over Pablo Berger’s Abracadabra and 1898, Our Last Men in the Philippines, directed by Salvador Calvo.

“The movie has been released in France, Holland, and Belgium, among 25 other markets, ­ and will soon be in the United States,” says Simón. “I think that the emotion reaches the whole audience, although in each country, the press puts the focus on different things. In France, they asked me more about the period of [Spain’s] Transition [to democracy], in Argentina about the psychology of the girl... All the clichés turn out to be true.” And now it's time for the campaign: “I know I have a lot of work to do.”

The last Spanish film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film was ‘The Sea Insidein 2004

The president of the Spanish Film Academy, Yvonne Blake, says it is a “precious and tender” movie that will be liked in Hollywood and tackles “very current” issues.

The last Spanish film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film was The Sea Inside, by Alejandro Amenábar, in 2004. Spain has been a nominee for the category on 19 occasions, and has won it four times, including: To Begin Again (1982), from José Luis Garci; Belle Époque (1993), from Fernando Trueba; and All About My Mother (1999), from Pedro Almodóvar.

Summer 1993 will enter a list of approximately 90 rivals, and in early January, a public pre-selection of nine films for this category will be made, before the five final nominations are announced on January 23.

English version by Debora Almeida.


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