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Bollain’s ‘Olive Tree,’ Almodovar’s ‘Julieta,’ Ortiz’s ‘Bride’ On Spain’s Oscar Short-List

The country’s final Academy Award candidate to be announced on Sept. 7

El Olivo, directed by Iciar Bollain
Courtesy: eOne

Iciar Bollain’s “The Olive Tree,” Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta” and Paula Ortiz’s “The Bride” have made Spain’s short-list for its Oscar submission. The country’s final Academy Award candidate will be announced on Sept. 7.

The short-list pits three titles by auteurs from three Spanish filmmaking generations, each offering, in different measure, an offshore appeal beyond their arthouse-to-crossover Spanish market base.

“The Olive Tree” (pictured) marks the seventh film by actress-turned-director Iciar Bollain, whose feature helming debut, comedy “Hi, Are You Alone?,” dates from 1996.

Produced by Madrid-based Morena Films and Germany’s Match Factory Productions, and sold internationally by eOne’s Seville Intl., “The Olive Tree” is written by Ken Loach’s regular scribe Paul Laverty, who was inspired by a newspaper article he read.

Indirectly addressing the social, economic and emotional effects of Spain’s still-recent boom-to-bust crisis, the film follows a family in a village in Eastern Spain, where the father and uncle decide to sell its more-than-1,000 year old olive tree to a property developer down on the coast, despite the opposition of the grandfather and the daughter (Anna Castillo). When the grandfather ails, his granddaughter sets out on a madcap adventure to retrieve the tree, now in Germany.

Released May by eOne, “The Olive Tree” scored €1.6 million ($1.8 million) B.O. in Spain, creditable judged by modern-day grosses for upscale cinema in Spain.

Starring Adriana Ugarte, Emma Suarez and Dario Grandinetti, Pedro Almodovar’s drama “Julieta” adapts a trio of short stories by Pulitzer-winning Canadian author Alice Munro, marks helmer’s return to the female-centric storytelling, this time focusing on a mother’s emotional life story, driven by a constant of loss.

“Julieta” represents the twentieth film by Almodovar, Spain’s most Oscar-laurelled director in history, winning two statues – best foreign-language film in 1999 for “All About My Mother” and original screenplay for “Talk To Her” in 2002, and being nominated for three more: “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” for foreign-language, in 1988; “Talk to Her,” for directing, and “Volver,” for Penelope Cruz, as best actress.

The most recent Almodovar title selected by the Spanish Academy as Spain’s foreign-language Oscar candidate was “Volver” in 2006.

Handled in Spain by Warner Bros, “Julieta” opened in April, cuming $2.4 million, low by Almodovar’s standards. Sony Pictures Classics has set a Dec. 21 release in the U.S. for the film.

Acquired for the U.S. market by Todo Cine Latino, the speciality label of Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures, Paula Ortiz’s sophomore film, “The Bride” is a free adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s classic stage play “Blood Wedding,” written by the poet, whose homosexuality was not even accepted by friends such as Luis Buñuel, as he battled to present what he could regard as a tenable position on the inevitability of desire. It is produced by Barcelona’s Get in the Picture Productions with Germany’s Cine Chromatix.

With Inma Cuesta, Asier Etxeandia and Alex Garcia as main cast, “The Bride” transposes to the white desert of Turkey’s Cappadocia the story of a woman promised to one man but who elopes with a former lover the same day of her wedding. The jilted groom’s mother – a symbol of Spain’s tyrant conservative classes demand for social propriety and merciless revenge – argues that only murder will restore lost honour.

Betta Pictures launched “The Bride” in Spanish theaters in December, snagging $1.13 million B.O., a creditable trawl for a movie by a little-known filmmaker.

The members of Spain’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will vote for their Oscar candidate from Aug. 23 through Sept. 6. This year, the timetable has been brought forward nearly a month, compared to previous editions, aimed to facilitate the promotion of the film selected in the Oscars campaign.

John Hopewell contributed to this article