Based on true events, “Living” turns on Antonio, a mild-mannered English-teacher who uses Beatles’ lyrics in his classes. In Franco’s 1966 Spain, Antonio drives to Almeria in the hope of meeting his hero, John Lennon. “Living” portrays how, in his own modest but affecting way, the teacher and two people he meets along the way – and a teen who has run away from home, and a young pregnant girl – all rebel against a bigotted, oppressive or just stuck-in-its-ways status quo.
The movie’s title comes from a line in the Beatles’ song, “Strawberry Fields,” which Lennon wrote while filming “How I Won the War” in Almeria.
Members of the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose “Living” from a three-film shortlist, announced Sept. 10 , which also included Carlos Marques-Marcet’s “10.000 KM” and Daniel Monzon’s “El Nino.”
Featuring a laureled lead performance by Javier Camara, –who starred in Pedro Almodovar’s “Talk to Her” and “I’m So Excited” and is now recognized as one of the best Spanish actors of his generation – “Living” swept February’s Spanish Academy Goya Awards, taking picture, director, original screenplay (Trueba), actor (Camara), original score (U.S. jazz guitarist Pat Metheny) and breakthrough performance by an actress (Natalia de Molina). It also won Palms Springs Festival’s Cine Latino Award and was nominated for four major Platino Ibero-American Film Awards.
David Trueba is one of Spain’s youngish directors who broke through in the ’90s with the best sense of Spain’s recent past, and a sympathy, seen in some of his best films, such as “Soldados de Salamina” and “Madrid 1987,” for those who have born the brunt of history with humor, humanity and good grace.
“Living,” a Cristina Huete production for Fernando Trueba P.C., is laced with humor, and also channels the narrative thrust of Westerns: “A solitary plainsman helps some strangers, at the end leaves on his own,” in Trueba’s words.
Spain last won the foreign-language Oscar in 2004 with Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside.”