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Spanish cinema has a long history of broaching social issues. Recent hits Take My Eyes (Te Doy Mis Ojos) and Mondays In The Sun (Los Lunes Al Sol) are examples of films tackling hot topics such as domestic abuse and unemployment. Pedro Almodovar touches on the abuse of minors by Catholic priests in his new Cannes opener Bad Education (La Mala Educacion), while Alejandro Amenabar deals with euthanasia in his true story-inspired Out To Sea (Mar Adentro), currently in post-production with star Javier Bardem.
Now, many in the industry are staking out a more openly partisan stance on local politics in the run-up to Spain's March 14 general elections. Tensions have been high between the traditionally left-leaning film industry and the centre-right Popular Party (PP) government thanks in part to the recent politicisation of the industry's annual Goya Awards ceremony.
There's Cause (Hay Motivo), a series of three-minute short films by more than thirty of Spain's best-known directors and film personalities, as well as numerous volunteer technicians, is just one of several politically-oriented projects in the works.
While participants vow their intent is not "anti-PP," many of the shorts take clear swipes at the administration on issues ranging from the manipulation of information on public broadcaster TVE to the PP-backed war in Iraq, ecological disasters, housing prices and a slew of social policies. Almodovar, one of several directors who supported the project but did not contribute a film, called it "a kick in the genitals of the party in power."
Although the original aim was to broadcast There's Cause on national TV in the run-up to next Sunday's elections, the filmmakers said only three autonomous regional networks in Andalucia, Catalonia and Basque Country - regions where the PP does not govern - had expressed interest so far.. Theatrical distributors will now be approached with a final cut and the filmmakers plan to make the shorts available on their website, www.haymotivo.com, and print off a DVD version.
Meanwhile, a separate group of writers and directors is preparing another series of short films to shoot this spring about last year's Prestige oil spill off the coast of Galicia, the PP's handling of which was also widely criticised. Ten shorts will comprise a 90-minute feature-length film tentatively titled Never Again (Nunca Mais), the defiant ecological slogan inspired by the spill.
Never Again is backed by a group of indie producers in Galicia together with Barcelona heavyweight MediaPro. The latter, a regular backer of socially-charged fare such as Oliver Stone's Comandante or Patricio Guzman's new Allende documentary, now in post-production, is also preparing a Euros 5m-plus feature about the last two years in the life of 1970s political martyr Salvador Puig Antich, killed in a Barcelona prison under Franco.