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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 13:14 GMT
True story behind The Sea Inside
Javier Bardem and Alejandro Amenabar
Bardem (l) and Amenabar teamed up for The Sea Inside
The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro), Spain's contender for the best foreign language film Academy Award, has already collected a Golden Globe making it favourite to win on Oscar night.

The film is based on the true story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro who fought a 30-year campaign to be allowed to end his life with dignity, after an accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

Sampedro's mind was fully functional after the accident and he was frustrated at the thought of being dependent on his family for the rest of his life.

Such was his paralysis that he was not able to kill himself, so he battled through the courts for the right to die. The case even reached the European courts but his pleas were ignored.

But in 1998, aged 55, Sampedro mysteriously died surrounded by a group of his closest friends. No-one knew who had administered the final poison.

Sampedro's case became a cause celebre in Spain where discussions raged about the ethics of euthanasia, but he himself did not preach for or against the issue - for him it was a personal fight.

International reputation

Chilean-born director Alejandro Amenabar wanted to tell his story and chose one of Spain's leading actors, Javier Bardem, to portray Sampedro.

Amenabar's previous credits include Abre Los Ojos, which was remade as Vanilla Sky, and The Others, his first English language film.

Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem has to age 30 years during the film

Similarly Bardem, 35, has built up a reputation as an actor who is able to attract international audiences to Spanish films.

Among his previous films are The Dancer Upstairs, directed by John Malkovich, and Before Night Falls for which he won a best actor Oscar nomination in 2001.

The critics have been impressed by Bardem's portrayal of Sampedro in The Sea Inside, a role which requires him to age dramatically and which saw him earn the best actor award at last year's Venice film festival.

The team behind the aging process have also been recognised for their efforts in the Academy Awards make-up category.

Praised for not being too morbid despite its heavy subject matter, the film plays up Sampedro's charismatic side and his winning charm, especially with the ladies.

Coupled with additional footage from the the final videotape that Sampedro recorded as he lay dying, Amenabar's film proves a powerful and thought-provoking drama.


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