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Goya Awards 2019: Cruz and Bardem miss out and British film takes two trophies
SPAIN'S answer to the Oscars, the Goya Awards will have had much of the nation glued to their TV sets last night (Saturday) and offered the rest of the world a taster of what the Spanish cinema industry is capable of. In the Anglo-Saxon world, viewers in general know little about films not produced in English – given that these continue to dominate the planet and it is extremely rare to hear of a movie dubbed into the language – meaning those in any other language tend to be found uniquely in art-house film theatres, subtitled, and cater for a very niche market.
But Spain's most famous modern director Pedro Almódovar has successfully exported his productions to the UK, and actors who started out in his films and continue to star in them regularly – such as Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas – have also managed to conquer Hollywood; the former only in the last 18 years, when she made her English-language début alongside Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, an adaptation of Alejandro Amenábar's Abre los Ojos ('Open Your Eyes').
And Amenábar, too, has made his name among Anglo-Saxon mainstream film fans through The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.
So, even if you have to watch Spanish films with subtitles in English – perhaps graduating onto subtitles in Spanish eventually, with a view to dropping these altogether one day – anyone who plans to live or holiday regularly in the country should do their cinema homework; you never know who or what might pop up one day on UK and US screens.
Meanwhile, if you prefer to stick to English, you can still watch the Best European Film nominees The Party (UK) and Phantom Thread (USA, but set in London) and the fun fantasy history-based The Man Who Killed Don Quijote, which – unusually for a non-Spanish production – netted two Goya Awards last night.
El Reino ('The Kingdom')
A thriller centred on political corruption in Spain, El Reino was highly topical when it was released last year as the central government was ousted via a no-confidence vote in June after many of its members were named as suspects in a high-profile bribery racket. The plot focuses on Manuel López Vidal, a corrupt regional government politician who finds out a colleague and close friend is embroiled in a network of backhanders and offers to help him, ignoring his party's orders. Taking responsibility for the case, Manuel falls foul of the law when his party points the finger at him.
El Reino won Best Original Script, Best Director for its creator and co-scriptwriter Rodrigo Sorogoyen – fellow author Isabel Peña was credited in the former, too - Best Actor for Antonio de la Torre in the character of Manuel, Best Supporting Actor for Luis Zahera, already well-known to Spanish TV viewers from the medical drama series Hospital Central, Best Original Soundtrack for Olivier Arson, Best Scenery for set designer Alberto del Campo, and Best Soundtrack for Alberto Raposo and Roberto Fernández.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, Javier Fesser's comedy drama with a tender touch is based upon the real-life history of the Aderes basketball team from Burjassot (Valencia province) made up of mentally-handicapped players who won 12 national championships between 1999 and 2014.
Marco Montes – played by Javier Gutiérrez – gets drunk due to an accumulation of personal and professional problems, and is fired from his basketball team trainer job. On the way home, he has a car accident, is breathalysed and faces a two-year prison sentence.
He is offered the get-out-of-jail card of 90 days' community service, training a basketball team known as 'Los Amigos', whose players are all physically or mentally disabled. Initially reluctant, Marco discovers a rewarding learning curve – with plenty of hilarious moments.
Winner of the most coveted Goya Award – that of Best Film – Campeones also netted Best Song for Coque Malla's uplifting tune Este es el momento ('This is the moment') and Best New Actor for Jesús Vidal.
Carmen y Lola
Earning a Best New Director for its creator Arantxa Echevarría, Carmen y Lola sparked considerable controversy when it was released at last year's Cannes Film Festival because of claims it was compounding stereotypes about Spanish gypsies, or gitanos. But Echevarría insisted her aim was the exact opposite: to show the real people and community behind the clichés.
Rosy Rodríguez stars as Carmen, a young gypsy woman from a Madrid suburb whose destiny is set in stone: like that of generations of gypsy women before and ahead of her, it is assumed she will marry very young and 'bring up as many kids as possible'. But one day she meets Lola, played by Zaira Morales – a gypsy of her own age, but highly unconventional: she dreams of going to university, paints graffiti with birds, and she's a lesbian. Naturally, Carmen and Lola fall in love, Carmen sees her predetermined future change before her eyes as she questions everything she thought she knew about herself – and the two young women discover a world which, inevitably, will lead to their being rejected by their families.
Carolina Yuste, who plays Paqui, won Best Supporting Actress for this tender coming-of-age drama, which earned a 7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes.
La Noche de 12 Años ('The 12-Year Night')
Aired at Cannes and Venice and the famous Basque movie awards, the San Sebastián Film Festival and nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this multi-national production – involving Argentinian, Uruguayan and French as well as Spanish cast and crew – earned a Goya last night for Best Screen Adaptation. Based upon the true story of three well-known Uruguayan political prisoners – former president José 'Pepe' Mujica and his defence minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, along with journalist, playwright and author Mauricio Rosencof – this hard-hitting saga sees El Reino's Antonio de la Torre protagonising yet another Goya success.
Instead of assassinating them, the arresting authorities opt to 'burn out their bodies and minds' by throwing them in tiny cells, banning them from talking, and preventing them sleeping and eating as much as possible. Pushed beyond all feasible human limits, the trio fights an existential battle to escape from the inevitable effects of the torture they are condemned to – that of losing their minds.
They spent 12 years in these inhumane conditions – but survived, and their story has now won a gold statuette at one of Europe's most famous film awards.
La Enfermedad del Domingo ('The Sunday Illness')
Valencia-born Susi Sánchez won Best Actress for her role as upper-class social butterfly Anabel, 62, who discovers that a waitress at the lavish party she throws is her daughter Chiara, 43, whom she abandoned as an eight-year-old child. Chiara asks to spend 10 days with her mother, 'no more nor less', in the French Pyrénéen chalet she lives in and which used to be the family home. Anabel reluctantly agrees, subject to both parties signing a contract drawn up by her lawyer – and it transpires that Chiara had profound personal reasons for requesting their 10 days together which went beyond those of a mere mother-daughter reunion.
Quién te cantará ('Who will sing to you')
Najwa Nimri, from Amenábar's Abre los Ojos (remade in Hollywood as Vanilla Sky) and Los Amantes del Círculo Polar ('Lovers of the Arctic Circle') plays Lila, a retired singer who wants to make a comeback but, just as she is about to hit the stage again, suffers a serious accident and loses her memory. With the help of Violeta, an impersonator, Lila tries to rediscover who she was before the accident. Eva Llorach won Best New Actress for her role as Violeta, which she described as 'the hardest thing she has ever done'.
El Hombre que Mató a Don Quijote ('The Man Who Killed Don Quixote')
The only British film to win a Goya this year, this literary fantasy based upon the life of the loveable 17th-century buffoon created by Miguel de Cervantes scooped up Best Producer for Yousaf Bokhari and Best Hair and Makeup for Sylvie Imbert, Amparo Sánchez and Pablo Perona.
This comedy adventure by Terry Gilliam stars Jonathan Pryce as a confused elderly gentleman who believes he is Quijote and that Adam Driver's publicity executive Toby Grisoni is his faithful companion, Sancho Panza. They embark on an adventure that sees them hop between the 21st and 17th centuries and becoming so embroiled in their fantastic experiences that they find they can no longer separate reality from fiction.
La Sombra de la Ley ('The Shadow of the Law')
Tension between police and anarchists in Barcelona at the dawn of the 1920s is the backdrop for this Spanish thriller starring Michelle Jenner as Sara Ortiz. Undercover police officer Aníbal Uriarte (Luis Tosar) infiltrates a local mafia organisation in an attempt to find out who has stolen a consignment of military weapons that could spark a civil war. This historical drama earned Juan Pedro de Gaspar the Goya for Best Artistic Director, Josu Incháustegui the Best Photographic Director and Clara Bilbao the Best Costume statuette.
A spoof Spanish adaptation of Superman based upon the comic character by Juan López Fernández, better known as 'Jan', a child with super-powers is the only one who can save the planet Chitón from the evil Skorba. Invented by 'Jan' and his wife, they only just manage to send the child to Earth before Skorba reaches their tower after discovering their creation through his daughter, Ágata, who reads Jan's mind. But the child's and Ágata's spaceships collide with the Hispasat, the former crash-landing in Spain and the latter in the USA. The child, called Juan, is adopted by the López family, who teach him how to blend in and 'act normal' when they find out about his super-powers. But all this changes when Juan grows up, falls in love with Luisa from the office, and comes face to face with Ágata again. Lluís Rivera and Laura Pedro carried off the Goya for SuperLópez for Best Special Effects.
El Silencio de Otros ('The Silence of Others')
Highly topical at the moment with the issue of dictator General Franco's remains set to be moved from the Valle de los Caídos war memorial and resting place, the winner of the Goya for Best Documentary Film by directors Almudena Caracedo and Robert Bahar centres on the ongoing battle for justice for victims of the Francoist régime, including those logged as 'disappeared in action' during the Civil War.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars and named after director Alfonso Cuarón's native neighbourhood in México DF, Roma centres on the lives of 1970s' Mexican women across class divides, betrayed by the men in their circle. The break-up of a middle-class marriage when the husband, Antonio, goes off with a younger woman and the close bond between the wife, her mother, the indigenous Mexican cook and children's nurse amid a backdrop of escalating political violence has its tragic moments, but plenty of warmth and sisterhood, too – enough to win it a Goya for Best Latin American Film.
Nominees for Best European Film Goyas included British director Sally Potter's The Party, a black comedy drama centred on a female UK government MP's promotion and her celebratory get-together which goes horribly wrong – a star-studded production full of very darkly British humour featuring Timothy Spall, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Emily Mortimer. Also up for an award were Belgian director Lukas Dhont's Girl, starring Victor Polster as Lara, a 15-year-old transgender girl who aspires to be a ballerina, and – cheating slightly, since it is a US production, albeit English could be considered a European language for the purpose – Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, set in 1950s' London and focusing on high-society fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his partner and muse, the manipulative, emasculating waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps).
In the end, Best European Film went to Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film, for Cold War – a tribute to his parents and their story of love, break-ups, reconciliations, fighting and punishment over a 40-year period, starting from the first flush of their romance in the 1950s and the Cold War forcing them apart, but how destiny ensured they would be reunited.
Shock ommission: Todos lo Saben ('Everybody Knows')
One of the favourites and nominated for Best Original Script and Best Director for its Iranian creator, Asghar Farhadi, Best Actress for Almodóvar-Girl-turned-Hollywood-Great Penélope Cruz, Best Actor for her Skyfall 'Bond villain' husband Javier Bardem, Best Supporting Actor for Eduard Fernández, and Best Film, the highly-acclaimed drama Todos lo Saben failed to net a single Goya last night.
Penélope Cruz plays Laura, Ricardo Darín plays her husband Alejandro, whilst Javier Bardem is Paco and his wife Bea is played by Bárbara Lennie in this transatlantic family drama – Laura travels from Buenos Aires, where she lives, to her native town in Spain for a party, but what was supposed to be a brief visit to the relatives is turned upside-down by unexpected circumstances and revelations that completely unsettle the lives of everyone present.
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