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MADRID (Reuters Life!) - A Spanish film opening at cinemas on Friday portrays the prejudice suffered by people with Down's syndrome who just want love lives like everybody else.
"I'm 34 years old. I'm a man, not a child!" leading player Pablo Pineda screams in frustration in one scene in "Yo Tambien" (Me Too), which was a surprise hit at the recent San Sebastian film festival.
In another scene, a mother reports her 25-year-old Down's syndrome daughter to the police for going out on a date, unable to accept that she has reached adulthood.
The subject is not commercially attractive and so the first-time directors took five years to make the film on a shoe-string budget, and have cast just one professional actor.
Pineda plays Daniel, an office worker in Seville, using a script based on episodes from his life as Spain's first university graduate with Down's syndrome.
Shortly after starting work, Daniel falls for a co-worker played by Lola Duenas, who acted alongside Oscar winner Penelope Cruz in Pedro Almodovar's 2006 film "Volver."
Duenas also had a controversial role in the 2004 picture "The Sea Inside," in which a paraplegic fisherman -- played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem -- begs for assisted suicide. That won her a Spanish Goya for Best Actress.
"Life and cinema come together in a harsh way," Duenas told reporters at a screening of "Yo Tambien." "The players are real, which makes the story all the more powerful, along with what happens to you inside."
Pineda said the hardest part of making the film for him was leaving aside what he termed his sentimental side, which was like "ripping my skin off."
"I had a lot stored up inside me, but that was very tough. How do you explain these things ordinary people?" he said.
"I would like this film to give voice to all those people with Down's syndrome who have never had one. I want them to see the film, they will indentify with the interior world it portrays, which can be felt in it."
The film grabbed media attention by winning two Silver Shell awards in San Sebastian last month, and came after years of rejections for directors Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro, who had previously worked in short films.
"They are people who have been in the shadows," said Naharro, whose sister has Down's syndrome. "We are grateful to be able shed some light."
Writing by Martin Roberts