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Spain's Goya Ceremony Slammed for Overly Political Tone

Blancanieves

Sunday night's awards saw industry reps attack a sales tax hike and austerity measures.

MADRID - Two days after the Goya Awards ceremony that saw Pablo Berger's Blancanieves walk away with the top honors, tongues are still wagging about the televised gala that waxed political and suffered headline-worthy errors.

Everyone expected Javier Bardem -- well-known for his defense of the Saharawi people -- to speak about human rights in the Sahara from the podium upon receiving the Goya for Sons of the Clouds, his documentary about the issue.

And everyone expected the Spanish Academy president Enrique Gonzalez Macho to rail against the sales-tax hike, which saw tax on theater admissions jump from 8 percent to 21 percent, in his annual address at the ceremony.

But the posters protesting government cutbacks, a 15-minute monolog from presenter Eva Hache, that attacked a wide range of government austerity measures and alleged corruption, and a clear push from the actors guild to speak out, set a highly political tone.

Talk around the water-coolers of Spain about the Goyas had less to do with the quality of films like Juan Antonio Bayona's The Impossible or Berger's Blancanieves than with the fact that the Spanish movie industry feels compelled to publicly support left-leaning political causes.

"Everyone's talking about all the barbs they launched from the stage, not the films," wrote Gonzalo de Miguel in Spanish daily El Pais. "They use the podium to speak out against the issue of the day and then they complain that not enough effort is put into promoting their films domestically. Even at their own big celebration they put more into politics than in selling their own product."

Most of the critiques made during the ceremony came from the winners and were directed at the Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert, taking aim at cuts in the culture budget and the hike in taxes. But others were general complaints about austerity measures that Spain is experiencing as it tries to rein in debt.

"I watched my father die in a public hospital that didn't have blankets to cover him and water for him to drink," best supporting actress winner Candela Pena said as she accepted her honor. "And I gave birth to a child for whom I'm concerned what kind of public education will be on offer."

Wert, who was in attendance and was caught on camera only at the beginning of the ceremony, smiling and sitting next to Gonzalez Macho, responded to reporters that he accepted the political tone in good humor.

"In a democracy, you have to be open to all kinds of criticism, even if you don't feel it is justified. If it is done respectfully, it doesn't make me uncomfortable," Wert said. "It wasn't hard for me."

The president of the Madrid region, Ignacio Gonzalez, from the ruling center-right Popular Party, said he felt the Academy "should avoid using these kinds of events" as political platforms. "I personally find it a turn-off that they always get so political. And I don't think it's even that original or funny the way they say it," said Gonzalez, who watched the Goyas on pubcaster Television Espanola.

But the political tone wasn't the only thing to make waves in the Goya fall-out.

When Bayona received his award for best director, he jumped down from the stage to hand it over to Maria Belon, the mother of the real-life family upon which The Impossible is based. In doing so, he pulled his hamstring and ended up in the emergency room.

It speaks to the underdog tone of the film industry that upon receiving his award, Bayona -- whose film has broken box-office records -- felt compelled to defend himself and the ability to make commercially viable movies in Spain. "It's good to make big films. It doesn't mean you are arrogant. The Spanish industry needs big, medium and small films," Bayona said before limping backstage.

The biggest anecdote of the night, however, was when presenters Adriana Ugarte and Carlos Santos read the wrong envelope and called out the name of the winning original song -- and then changed it, saying there was a mistake and the winners were actually Chicuelo and Pablo Berger for No Te Puedo Encontrar, sung by Silvia Perez Cruz in Blancanieves. The look on the winners' faces as they glanced over at the team for Lineas Paralelas by El Nens Salvatges, which thought it had won and had started celebrating, spoke volumes.

"It [the win] tastes bitter now. I'm really sorry," Chicuelo said.