Spain Shortlists Three Films for Oscar Bid

'Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed'

This year's Goya winner, a Malaga fest favorite and a box-office hit will vie for the honor in the foreign-language category

The Spanish Film Academy announced Thursday it will choose among box-office hit El Nino, Goya standout Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed and Malaga Festival favorite Long Distance to represent Spain as the country's submission for the Oscar in the foreign-language category.

The academy will announce its final decision on Sept. 25.

Daniel Monzon's El Nino, focusing on drug trafficking in the Straits of Gibraltar, has sold more than 1.2 million tickets in its first nine days in theaters. The thriller is produced by Spain's Mediaset Cinema, distributed by Fox and stars Spain's newest heartthrob, Jesus Castro.

Carlos Marques-Marcet's directorial debut, Long Distance, not only snagged five awards at Spain's main springtime platform in Malaga but also got acting kudos for leads David Verdaguer and Game of Thrones' Natalia Tena at South by Southwest. Broad Green Pictures will release the long-distance love story in the U.S. this fall.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed, directed by David Trueba, was the clear winner at this year's Goya Awards ceremony in February, where the film about an English teacher's trip to meet John Lennon won six of the top prizes. Trueba, whose brother Fernando Trueba won an Oscar for his 1992 Belle Epoque, saw his film gross $11,600 in Miami over one weekend.

"I'm not sure about my chances of being selected," Trueba told reporters at the announcement. "Because in the voting I am a passive subject. The academy chooses. It will be released in October in Los Angeles, and I will go there to promote it."

The academy has announced its shortlist for the past few years as the public support often helps films at the box office. When asked about the future of the ailing Spanish film industry, weighed down by poor theater attendance, a 21 percent sales tax, decreased public subsidies and dried-up bank credits, Trueba said he was less concerned about talent that can travel than about unemployed film crews.

"We have to ask ourselves if we want to be a country with a strong film industry," Trueba said, pointing a finger at government initiatives the film industry says undermine its ability to produce quality films. "More than worrying about the future of cinema, I think most filmmakers are worried about being able to eat doing what they enjoy like the rest of Spaniards."