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Best Foreign Films? Academy Awards’ European Slant + Hip Hop Immigration Drama Tops Swedish Oscars

Water Lisa Ray: Oscars' only non-European among Best Foreign Films
Water with Lisa Ray. Set in the late 1930s, during the British occupation of India, Deepa Mehta’s Water created quite a stir during its production in that country. Spoken in Hindi, the film stars Canadian actress Lisa Ray as a young widow living with several other widowed women and girls in an ashram, whose ruler (veteran Bollywood actress Manorama) pimps her out to local men so as to help cover the ashram’s expenses. Things take an unexpected turn after the young widow becomes romantically involved with a handsome, upper-class follower (John Abraham) of Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings.

Best ‘foreign films’? Once again near-complete European dominance on Oscars’ non-English-language roster

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has narrowed down to nine titles the list of potential 2007 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominees. Of note, three of them were directed by women.

Something else: even though it may seem that the films listed below hail from various corners of the globe, as explained further down in this post only one isn’t a European production or co-production.

In alphabetical order by country, the nine semifinalists are:

Algeria, Days of Glory / Indigènes, dir.: Rachid Bouchareb.

Canada, Water, dir.: Deepa Mehta.

Denmark, After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet, dir.: Susanne Bier.

France, Avenue Montaigne / Fauteuils d’orchestre, dir.: Danièle Thompson.

Germany, The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen, dir.: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Mexico, Pan’s Labyrinth / El Laberinto del fauno, dir.: Guillermo del Toro.

The Netherlands, Black Book / Zwartboek, dir.: Paul Verhoeven.

Spain, Volver, dir.: Pedro Almodóvar.

Switzerland, Vitus, dir.: Fredi M. Murer.

‘Days of Glory’ & ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ European-ness

Among this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar semifinalists, the sole non-European contender is Deepa Mehta’s Indian-Canadian drama Water.

All other titles are either full-fledged European productions or, in the cases of Days of Glory and Pan’s Labyrinth, European co-productions.

Though representing Algeria, Paris-born Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory is a de facto French production with some Algerian financing thrown in. Toplining French actors Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, and Sami Bouajila, the film chronicles the prejudice encountered by North Africans fighting for France during World War II.

Written and directed by Mexican national Guillermo del Toro, the dark fairy tale/political manifesto Pan’s Labyrinth was partly financed by Spain, which is also the setting of its story. In the cast: Spanish actors Maribel Verdú, Sergi López, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and U.S. actor Doug Jones.

Hindi-language Canadian Oscar entry

What about Water?

Deepa Mehta’s controversial Hindi-language period drama shows the plight of young Indian widows living under the strictly patriarchal Hindu social system. Water created such a furor among India’s fundamentalist Hindus that, following death threats and the destruction of the film’s sets, production had to be temporarily halted. Filming resumed later on in Sri Lanka.

Curiously, Water became eligible – as a Canadian entry – for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar after the Academy loosened language requirements in that particular category in mid-2006, months after controversy erupted about the rejection of the previous year’s Italian submission, Saverio Costanzo’s Private, set in Palestine and featuring dialogue in Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

Last year, Water won three Genie Awards (that’s the Canadian Oscars) and just recently it was honored with the National Board of Review‘s Freedom of Expression Award. In the Water cast: Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, John Abraham, and Sarala Kariyawasam.

India’s official submission for the 2007 Oscars was Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s political musical Rang De Basanti, toplining Bollywood icon Aamir Khan.

Best Foreign Language Film Oscars’ European bent

Since the year 2000, 19 out of 30 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees officially represented European countries. That’s not including European co-productions representing countries from other parts of the world, e.g., Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now (Palestine) and Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi (South Africa).

Admittedly, unlike Days of Glory and Pan’s Labyrinth, these two examples were directed by local filmmakers and were set in the territories they were representing.

Days of Glory Roschdy Zem Sami Bouajila Jamel Debbouze Samy Naceri: Algerian film?
Days of Glory with Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Jamel Debbouze, and Samy Naceri. Directed by Paris-born filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, starring French actors (pictured), and mostly financed by French-based companies, Days of Glory is a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award entry from … Algeria. To date, three “Algerian” movies have been nominated in that particular Oscar category: Costa-Gavras’ French-language Z (1969), Ettore Scola’s French-Italian Le Bal (1982), and the Bouchareb-directed & mostly French-produced Dust of Life (1995). An aside: despite its WWII setting, Days of Glory is unrelated to the 1944 Gregory Peck movie of the same name.

Two-phase voting

As per the Academy’s press release, this year the Best Foreign Language Film final selection is being decided in two phases:

“The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 61 eligible films and their ballots determined the shortlist.

“A Phase II committee, made up of ten randomly selected members from the Phase I group, joined by additional ten-member contingents in New York and Los Angeles, will view the shortlisted films and select the five 2006 nominees for the category.”

The Phase II screenings will take place between Jan. 19–21, in both Los Angeles and New York City.

‘Curse of the Golden Flower’ & ‘Grbavica’ out

Among the Best Foreign Language Film submissions already eliminated from the 2007 Oscar competition are:

  • Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower (China), the tale of a highly dysfunctional Chinese imperial family.
  • Jasmila Zbanic’s Grbavica (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the Berlin Film Festival-winning and European Film Award-nominated story of mother-daughter love in difficult times.
  • Emanuele Crialese’s Oscar-baiting Nuovomondo (Italy), about an Italian family emigrating to the United States.
  • Marwan Hamed’s The Yacoubian Building (Egypt), a controversial drama and local box office hit about the residents at a Cairo apartment building.

Nominations for the 2007 Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The Oscar ceremony will be held on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles.

Kidz in da Hood Gustaf Skarsgård Beylula Kidane Adgoy: Guldbagge hip hop immigration drama
Kidz in da Hood with Gustaf Skarsgård and Beylula Kidane Adgoy. Mixing hip hop and rap with immigration, cultural issues, and odd pairings, Ylva Gustavsson and Catti Edfeldt’s drama Kids in da Hood stars Gustaf Skarsgård as a rough-looking rocker who befriends a young Sierra Leone refugee (Beylula Kidane Adgoy). But will Swedish authorities allow the young girl to remain in the country?

Hip-hopping immigration drama ‘Kidz in da Hood’ tops Sweden’s Guldebagge Awards

The musical drama Kidz in da Hood / Förortsungar was announced as the Swedish Film Institute’s Guldbagge Awards’ top winner at a ceremony held on Jan. 22 at the Cirkus arena in Stockholm.

The rap/hip hop-filled tale of a Sierra Leone refugee (Beylula Kidane Adgoy) who, following her grandfather’s death, becomes attached to a rough-looking musician (Stellan Skarsgård’s son Gustaf Skarsgård), Kidz in da Hood also won Guldbagge trophies for directors Ylva Gustavsson and Catti Edfeldt, screenwriters Gustavsson and Hans Renhäll, and co-star Skarsgård, in addition to a special award for Fabian Torsson’s original score.

Kidz in da Hood will be screened in the Generation sidebar at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

More Guldbagge Award winners + Ingmar Bergman connection

Among the 2007 Guldbagge Awards’ other winners were Best Actress Haddy Jallow, a 20-year-old Gambian immigrant who plays a 15-year-old rape victim in Daniel Fridell’s Say That You Love Me / Säg att du älskar mig, and, as Best Foreign Language Film, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Stasi spy drama The Lives of Others.

Busy with his film’s French premiere, Henckel von Donnersmarck was unable to attend the Guldbagge Awards ceremony. In a letter read by German Cultural Attaché Ralf Krautkrämer, the filmmaker explained he was thrilled to win the Guldbagge because of a young Swedish girl in his (very distant) past and because of Ingmar Bergman. “That Mr. Bergman and I both have the same bug in our possession thrills me greatly.”

For the record, Ingmar Bergman took home three Guldbagge (a.k.a. Golden Beetle or Golden Scarab) Awards: as Best Director for The Silence (1963) and Fanny and Alexander (1982), and in the Best Screenplay category for The Best Intentions (1992).

Guldbagge Awards: Winners & nominations

Best Film
Falkenberg Farewell / Farväl Falkenberg – Prod.: Anna Anthony.
* Kidz in da Hood / Förortsungar – Prod.: Peter Holthausen, Pontus Sjöman.
Storm – Prod.: Karl Fredrik Ulfung.

Best Foreign Language Film
Volver – Dir.: Pedro Almodóvar.
Babel – Dir.: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
* The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen – Dir.: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Best Director
Jesper Ganslandt, Falkenberg Farewell.
* Ylva Gustavsson & Catti Edfeldt, Kidz in da Hood.
Anders Nilsson, When Darkness Falls / När mörkret faller.

Best Actor
Jonas Karlsson, Offside.
Anastasios Soulis, My Open Arms / Underbara älskade.
* Gustaf Skarsgård, Kidz in da Hood.

Best Actress
* Haddy Jallow, Say That You Love Me / Säg att du älskar mig.
Oldoz Javidi, When Darkness Falls.
Amanda Ooms, Search / Sök.

Best Supporting Actress
* Lia Boysen, Search.
Lena Endre, Göta Kanal 2 – Kanalkampen.
Lena Nyman, White Trash / Att göra en pudel.

Best Supporting Actor
Peter Engman, When Darkness Falls.
David Johnson, Falkenberg Farewell.
* Anders A. Rosendahl, The Secret / Roffe in Hemligheten.

Best Screenplay
Jesper Ganslandt & Fredrik Wenzel, Falkenberg Farewell.
* Ylva Gustavsson & Hans Renhäll, Kidz in da Hood.
Anders Nilsson & Joakim Hansson, When Darkness Falls.

Best Cinematography
Crille Forsberg, God Willing / Om Gud vill.
Peter Gerdehag, The Incredible Horseman / Hästmannen.
* Linus Sandgren, Storm.

Best Documentary
Alice and Me / Alice och jag – Dir.: Rebecka Rasmusson.
I Remember Håkan Alexandersson / Jag minns Håkan Alexandersson – Dir.: Carl Johan De Geer.
* The Substitute / Vikarien – Dir.: Åsa Blanck & Johan Palmgren.

Best Short Film
* Never Like the First Time / Aldrig som första gången – Dir.: Jonas Odell.
The Man Who Got Nowhere / Mannen som inte kom någonstans – Dir.: Peter Larsson.
Radicalized / Tillväxtsjukan – Dir.: Klara Swantesson.

Achievement in film editing, set design, costumes, make-up, special effects and animation: Marina Krig, Tusenbröder – Återkomsten.

Best Achievement in the sound engineering, mixing and original score: Fabian Torsson, Kidz in da Hood.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Film critic Nils Petter Sundgren.

The 2006 Ingmar Bergman Award: Actress Angela Kovács.

The Gullspira (for extraordinary contributions in films for children): Director Catti Edfeldt.

Audience Award: My Open Arms, dir.: Johan Brisinger.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.

Lisa Ray Water image: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Roschdy Zem, Samy Naceri, Sami Bouajila, and Jamel Debbouze Days of Glory image: Playtime / The Weinstein Company / IFC Films.

Gustaf Skarsgård and Beylula Kidane Adgoy Kidz in da Hood image: Gilda Film.

“Best Foreign Language Oscar European Slant + Hip Hop Immigration Drama Tops Guldbagge Awards” last updated in September 2018.

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1 comment

Boyd -

I think the most interesting thing about this group of nominees is that all nine already have a US distributor. When was the last time that interested US cinephiles (who, admittedly, must live in a big city) could end up seeing all the nominees theatrically either before or after the Oscar telecast? I don’t think that has ever happened before. Not sure whether it is a good thing.


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