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The Spanish Film Academy on Wednesday unveiled a shortlist of three titles that will compete for the country’s nomination to the international feature film category at the 92nd Academy Awards.
The selection bets on two previous Oscar winners in directors Pedro Almodovar and Alejandro Amenabar. The third is a more unusual selection in the form of animated film Buñuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles. The Spanish Academy has been pre-selecting a three-film shortlist since 2001. The final pick will be unveiled on Sept. 5.
Pain and Glory is Almodovar’s semi-autobiographical tale of an aging film director, played by Antonio Banderas, who won a best actor prize at Cannes for his work in the film. Penelope Cruz stars in flashbacks as the director’s mother.
While at War, set during the first months of Spain’s Civil War and focusing on the evolving stance toward the war of distinguished Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno, marks Amenabar’s first Spanish-language feature since his 2004 foreign-language Oscar winner The Sea Inside. It is screening next month in both Toronto and San Sebastian.
The Spanish Academy’s third choice is a bold one: animated feature Bunuel in the Labyrinth of Turtles, which has earned multiple accolades on the festival circuit. Salvador Simo directed the film, a “making of” of Luis Buñuel’s groundbreaking 1933 documentary about poverty and suffering in rural Spain, Land Without Bread. Latido handles international sales, and GKIDS is premiering the film in North America.
Almodovar and Amenabar are both solid bets for the Academy as they are two of only four Spanish directors to ever win in the foreign-language category, alongside Jose Luis Garci, for 1982’s Begin the Beguine, and Fernando Trueba’s Belle Epoque (1993).
Almodovar has become a regular presence at the Oscars in the last two decades. He won the foreign-language prize for 1999’s All About My Mother. His 2002 drama Talk to Her was nominated for best director and best original screenplay, winning the latter. Cruz was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in Almodovar’s 2006 Volver. His last film chosen to represent Spain in the international category, 2016’s Julieta, was not short-listed for the Academy Award, but expectations are high that Pain and Glory could receive nominations in more than just the international category this year.
Amenabar’s most recent films include mystery Regression (2015), starring Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke, and the historical drama Agora (2009). His 1997 thriller Open Your Eyes was remade in the U.S. as Vanilla Sky. While at War is a production of Movistar+, MOD Producciones, Himenoptero, K&S Films. It is sold internationally by Film Factory Entertainment.
Spain hasn’t made the Oscar short list in the international category since 2010 epic Even the Rain from director Iciar Bollain. Last year’s selection for Spain was Javier Fesser’s box office hit Champions.
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