Sunday, October 16, 2011

Best Foreign-Language Film

Sixty-three films will be vying for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year.  The list as followed:

  • Albania: Amnesty (Bujar Alimani)
  • Argentina: Aballay (Fernando Spiner)
  • Austria: Breathing (Karl Markovics)
  • Belgium: Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam)- surprisingly the Dardenne Brothers film The Kid with a Bike, a Cannes winner was rejected.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Belvedere (Ahmed Imamovic)
  • Brazil: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (José Padilha)
  • Bulgaria: Tilt (Viktor Chouchkov, Jr.) 
  • Canada: Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau)
  • Chile: Violeta Went to Heaven (Andrés Wood)
  • China: The Flowers of War (Zhang Yimou)- the director of House of Flying Daggers and Hero (2002 nominee) as well as the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, the period epic stars Christian Bale.
  • Colombia: The Colors of the Mountain (Carlos César Arbeláez)
  • Croatia: 72 Days (Danilo Serbedzija)
  • Cuba: Havanastation (Ian Padrón)
  • Czech Republic: Alois Nebel (Tomás Lunák)
  • Denmark: Superclásico (Ole Christian Madsen)
  • Dominican Republic: Love Child (Leticia Tonos)
  • Egypt: Lust (Khaled el Hagar)
  • Estonia: Letters to Angel (Sulev Keedus)
  • Finland: Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki)- Finland's favorite filmmaker returns with a favorite from Cannes (where it won the FIPRESCI Prize this year), he was nominated in this category in 2002 for The Man Without a Past.  Just won top honors at the Chicago Film Festival.
  • France: Declaration of War (Valérie Donzelli)
  • Georgia: Chantrapas (Otar Iosseliani)
  • Germany: Pina (Wim Wenders)- the Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas auteur returns to the fray with this dance documentary in 3-D; he was previously nominated in the Best Documentary category for The Buena Vista Social Club (1999.)
  • Greece: Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  • Hong Kong: A Simple Life (Ann Hui)
  • Hungary: The Turin Horse (Béela Tarr)- a nearly 3-hour film from the director of the Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) took second place honors at this years Berlin Film Festival.
  • Iceland: Volcano (Rúnar Rúnarsson)
  • India: Abu, Son of Adam (Salim Ahamed)
  • Indonesia: Under the Protection of Ka’Bah (Hanny R. Saputra)
  • Iran: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)- won top honors at this years Berlin Film Festival (along with Best Actor and Best Actress), this much praised film actually has a prime release date at the end of the December, and what will be expected a strong push from foreign film distributor du jour Sony Pictures Classics.
  • Ireland: As If I Am Not There (Juanita Wilson)
  • Israel: Footnote (Joseph Cedar)- the American born Cedar won the Screenwriting prize at this years Cannes Film Festival, and swept Israeli Film Academy Awards.
  • Italy: Terraferma (Emanuele Crialese)- winner of a Special Jury Prize at this years Venice Film Festival.
  • Japan: Postcard (Kaneto Shindo)
  • Kazakhstan: Returning to the ‘A’ (Egor Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky)
  • Lebanon: Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki)- the surprise winner of the People's Choice Award at this year Toronto Film Festival (don't discount that: The King's Speech won that prize last year); Labaki previously directed the 2007 arthouse hit Caramel.
  • Lithuania: Back to Your Arms (Kristijonas Vildziunas)
  • Macedonia: Punk Is Not Dead (Vladimir Blazevski)
  • Mexico: Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)- curiously, Fox picked up this film; strange for a top studio to take a chance on a foreign film; will likely be distributed by indie arm Fox Searchlight.
  • Morocco: Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem)
  • Netherlands: Sonny Boy (Maria Peters)- I saw this one; thoughts coming.
  • New Zealand: The Orator (Tusi Tamasese)
  • Norway: Happy, Happy (Anne Sewitsky)- Already received a tiny US release; winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at this years Sundance Film Festival, 77% Rotten Tomato score.
  • Peru: October (Diego Vega and Daniel Vega)
  • Philippines: The Woman in the Septic Tank (Marlon N. Rivera)
  • Poland: In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland)
  • Portugal: José and Pilar (Miguel Gonçalves Mendes)
  • Romania: Morgen (Marian Crisan)
  • Russia: Burnt by the Sun 2: The Citadel (Nikita Mikhalkov)- the original Burnt by the Sun won the foreign film Oscar in 1994.
  • Serbia: Montevideo: Taste of a Dream (Dragan Bjelogrlić)
  • Singapore: Tatsumi (Eric Khoo)
  • Slovak Republic: Gypsy (Martin Sulík)
  • South Africa: Beauty (Oliver Hermanus)
  • South Korea: The Front Line (Jang Hun)
  • Spain: Black Bread (Agusti Villaronga)- surprisingly to no one, Spain yet again reject an Almodovar film (he The Skin I Live In opened in limited engagement this past Friday.)
  • Sweden: Beyond (Pernilla August)
  • Switzerland: Summer Games (Rolando Colla)
  • Taiwan: Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Wei Te-sheng)
  • Thailand: Kon Khon (Sarunyu Wongkrachang)
  • Turkey: Once upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)- co-winner of the Grand Jury Prize (with The Kid with a Bike) at this years Cannes Film Festival; Ceylan previously directed the festival hit Distant (2002.)
  • United Kingdom: Patagonia (Marc Evans)
  • Uruguay: The Silent House (Gustavo Hernández)
  • Venezuela: Rumble of the Stones (Alejandro Bellame Palacios)
  • Vietnam: The Prince and the Pagoda Boy (Luu Trong Ninh)

Now there comes a certain heartache with this list, knowing that three-quarters of the titles will likely never appear in a theater screen anywhere in the United States, outside of Academy-member only screening rooms, and that many will likely (including me) will likely have never heard of most, if not all, of the titles mentioned.  There's always a certain degree of politics at play with the selection process of the foreign language films.  Some films are chosen by their home countries because they depict culturally resonant events that occurred there, or were monster hits at home, or are mere propaganda, or perhaps all of the above in some cases.  Last year, I probably saw about seven or eight titles that were official selections (sadly that's a good number for me), because based on either opportunity or interest, a lot of these titles will continue to go unnoticed.  It doesn't help that the Academy process for foreign language features is ridiculous to say the least, and convoluted without doubt.  One title I've already seen was Sonny Boy.

The official selection from the Netherlands was written and directed by Maria Peters and tells the decade spanning story, based on apparent truth, of a taboo love affair between an interracial couple in the early 1920s.  What starts as a pure romantic weepie evolves into a meandering and arduously paced WWII weepie.  We impoverished and disadvantaged Waldemar (Sergio Hasselbaink), a spirited and intelligent man whose only fault is being the wrong skin color and independent Rika (Ricky Koole), a sprightly mother of three who leaves her pious, yet cheating husband.  He comes to her for lodging and a kinship, soon to be love develops, not necessarily because the actors generate any sort of passionate chemistry or romantic longing for one another, but because the scripts tells them to, and this is a serious, stately drama.  Years follow and scandals develop over their sinful relationship, but love is eternal.  This would be all well and good, but Sonny Boy has more melodrama up its sleeve, as the film traipses its way through history and stops (and the already slow pacing comes to an almost complete halt) as the war approaches.  Either by fact, or Oscar-pandering, the couple provide safe lodging for Jews, becoming targets themselves, as if a black\white couple wasn't bad enough for them at that time, oh and Rika's pregnant; an interracial child to add to their troubles to boot.  The problem with the film is that it's heavy-handiness is all too transparent and the films lacks any sort of flow or passion.  It's a message movie blind-sided by another message movie, sort a falsely managed mash-up of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and The Pianist.  That being said, the film might strike a right note with the Academy for the very serious subjects the film exploits-- there's prejudice, war, concentration camps, and even a nod to old-time silent movie (where the film gets its title) all ear-marked.  C-

    No comments:

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...