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Oscar Shortlist Title ‘Tula’ Provides Wry Study of Teenage Insecurity, Sexual Illiteracy

Drawing from personal experience and driven by the lack of real talk around sexuality, Spanish author Beatriz de Silva dove into filmmaking with her debut “Tula,” which bowed globally at the Houston International Film Festival, winning Gold for Best Comedy Short.

The project has since garnered large festival buzz, stacked awards and was among contenders placed on the Oscars shortlist from 200 entries.

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Shot in the Basque Country and taking advantage of the region’s robust creative initiatives, the film offers a humorous take on sexual miseducation and those that step in to enlighten our adolescence when parents, teachers and peers fail miserably.

“I guess it’s a personal decision what kind of feelings you want to convey to the public. I always opt for optimism and hope,” Silva told Variety when discussing the tone of her script. “Comedy is born from pain. Good comic conflict is sustained by good tragic conflict.”

 Beatriz de Silva
Beatriz de Silva

Produced by director Maite Ruiz de Austri’s Extrapictures alongside CSC Films, the 12-minute narrative takes place in a private school’s restroom, a near-sacred and intimate space for teenagers, where the headmistress’s daughter (Eider González) is stewing in fear and self-doubt. It’s up to unflinching school custodian, Tula, a cleaning lady at the school played by the venerable Tamara Berbés (“Paquita Salas”), to decide whether or not to come to her aid and console her as the two volley lines and telling expressions between faucets and toilet stalls.

González’s naivety adds an innocence to the space, with rosy cheeks and a pastel yellow sweater providing a pop of color to the confined scenery full of faded tones that Tula blends dutifully into.

Silva manages to cover a weighty topic in a way that coyly invites audiences to share their coming-of-age misconceptions, aiming to provide further access to a subject still oddly taboo in classrooms, among friends and around dinner tables.

“The problem with the conversation around sexuality is that it’s misdirected. Many times we get busy judging if sex is right or wrong, if we have to be more pure, more active. We forget that whoever wants to do it, will do it. Those who don’t, won’t,” Silva stated. “The important thing is to provide the tools so that it doesn’t pose a risk to the physical and mental health of the most uninformed: Adolescents.”

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