Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful," a tale of life, death and immigration on the rough side of Barcelona, was nominated for Best Foreign Film on Tuesday, giving Mexico its eighth Oscar nomination in a category it has yet to win.
Gonzalez Inarritu said he felt honored by the Academy's pick and was excited that Spaniard Javier Bardem also received a nomination, for best actor.
"I am very happy for myself, very happy for the movie, very happy for Javier, very happy for all the people who worked on this film," he told The Associated Press. "The fact that it was our colleagues who voted makes it very special."
The Mexican film academy recently chose "Biutiful" to represent the country, and the nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is Gonzalez Inarritu's second in the category after his 2000 film "Amores Perros."
If "Biutiful" prevails at the Feb. 27 awards ceremony, it would be the first time a Mexican film won. Local cinema advocates praised the nomination for putting a spotlight on Mexico's film industry and talent.
"In a world where thousands of films are made a year and thousands are submitted for Oscars, we recognize the nomination as an award," said Marina Stavenhagen, director of the Mexican Film Institute.
Films from Greece, Algeria, Canada and Denmark were also nominated in the category.
Gonzalez Inarritu said he would watch the other foreign films in the next few weeks and attend the awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
"We will celebrate whether we win or lose," he said. "After spending four years fighting for this movie ... this is a smile on the lips. We feel rewarded with the recognition, a beautiful love letter."
"Biutiful" stars Bardem as a hustler and struggling single father who makes ends meet by brokering work for bands of illegal African and Chinese immigrants. The back alleys and underground factories of Barcelona contrast sharply with the picturesque tourist scenes of the Spanish port city in Bardem's recent film "Vicky Christina Barcelona," directed by Woody Allen.
His character of a sympathetic, terminally ill father making a living on the margins also is a far stretch from the cold-blooded killer of "No Country for Old Men," for which Bardem won his first Oscar - best supporting actor in 2008.
Bardem also thanked the Academy for the selection and those who have supported the film.
"I am very happy for Alejandro and everyone who has made possible the special movie we made together," he said in a statement. "It's really a huge honor to have been nominated in a non-English speaking performance."
Besides "Biutiful" and "Amores Perros," Mexico's other entries in the best foreign film category were "Macario" (1960), "Animas Trujano" (1961), "Tlayucan" (1962), "Acts of Marusia" (1975), "The Crime of Father Amaro" (2002) and "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006).
Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," which was not eligible for a foreign-language film nomination, received seven Oscar nominations in 2007, including best picture and best director.
AP Entertainment Writer Sigal Ratner-Arias in New York contributed to this report.
© 2011 The Associated Press.