A record 67 countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 81st Academy Awards, Academy President Sid Ganis announced today.
Jordan is the only first-timer this year. It submitted Amin Matalqa’s Captain Abu Raed, which stars veteran Nadim Sawalha as an airport janitor mistaken for a pilot by his neighborhood’s poor children. The janitor then sets out to tell fantastic stories about the world out there so as to help the children escape from their drab existence. Earlier this year, Captain Abu Raed nabbed the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival and the best director award at the Seattle Film Festival.
Among other potential Oscar 2009 contenders in the best foreign language film category are:
- Laurent Cantet’s The Class, set in one of Paris’ poor, multiethnic neighborhoods, and this year’s Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival
- Uli Edel’s The Baader Meinhof Complex, about the two notorious Red Army Faction terrorists (played by Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck)
- Matteo Garrone’s widely praised Gomorra, winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, which tells the story of one of Italy’s modern-day crime families
- Bruno Barreto’s Last Stop 174, a dramatization of a bus highjacking that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 2000
- Majid Majidi’s The Song of Sparrows, which won Reza Najie the best actor Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, a morality tale about the fall and rise of a destitute farmer after he leaves the countryside for Teheran
Before the actual voting takes place – and there’s been one major procedural change this year – watch for half a dozen or more films to be disqualified as a result of some technicality or other.
Nominations for the 81st Academy Awards will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Danish Oscar submission
Denmark has submitted its 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry: Niels Arden Oplev’s religious drama Worlds Apart / To verdener, which reportedly sold more than 300,000 admissions in that country.
Based on a true story, Worlds Apart tells the story of the youthful Jehovah’s Witness Sara (Rosalinde Mynster), who falls in love with a non-believer (Pilou Asbaek).
From Alissa Simon’s Variety review: “…this provocative, well-turned drama … raises universally pertinent questions about fundamentalist thinking without portraying Witnesses’ beliefs as inherently crazy or evil.”
Niels Arden Oplev also co-wrote the screenplay with Steen Bille. Also in the Worlds Apart cast: Jens Jorn Spottag, Sarah Boberg, and Anders W. Berthelsen.
The Oscar 2009 nominations will be announced on Jan. 22. The awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 22.
The submissions are:
Afghanistan, Opium War, Siddiq Barmak, director;
Albania, The Sorrow of Mrs. Schneider, Piro Milkani and Eno Milkani, directors;
Algeria, Masquerades, Lyes Salem, director;
Argentina, Lion’s Den, Pablo Trapero, director;
Austria, Revanche, Gotz Spielmann, director;
Azerbaijan, Fortress, Shamil Nacafzada, director;
Bangladesh, Aha!, Enamul Karim Nirjhar, director;
Belgium, Eldorado, Bouli Lanners, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Snow, Aida Begic, director;
Brazil, Last Stop 174, Bruno Barreto, director;
Bulgaria, Zift, Javor Gardev, director;
Canada, The Necessities of Life, Benoit Pilon, director;
Chile, Tony Manero, Pablo Larrain, director;
China, Dream Weavers, Yun Gu, director;
Colombia, Dog Eat Dog, Carlos Moreno, director;
Croatia, No One’s Son, Arsen Anton Ostojic, director;
Czech Republic, The Karamazovs, Petr Zelenka, director;
Denmark, Worlds Apart, Niels Arden Oplev, director;
Egypt, The Island, Sherif Arafa, director;
Estonia, I Was Here, Rene Vilbre, director;
Finland, The Home of Dark Butterflies, Dome Karukoski, director;
France, The Class, Laurent Cantet, director;
Georgia, Mediator, Dito Tsintsadze, director;
Germany, The Baader Meinhof Complex, Uli Edel, director;
Greece, Correction, Thanos Anastopoulos, director;
Hong Kong, Painted Skin, Gordon Chan, director;
Hungary, Iska’s Journey, Csaba Bollok, director;
Iceland, White Night Wedding, Baltasar Kormakur, director;
India, Taare Zameen Par, Aamir Khan, director;
Iran, The Song of Sparrows, Majid Majidi, director;
Israel, Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, director;
Italy, Gomorra, Matteo Garrone, director;
Japan, Departures, Yojiro Takita, director;
Jordan, Captain Abu Raed, Amin Matalqa, director;
Kazakhstan, Tulpan, Sergey Dvortsevoy, director;
Korea, Crossing, Tae-kyun Kim, director;
Kyrgyzstan, Heavens Blue, Marie Jaoul de Poncheville, director;
Latvia, Defenders of Riga, Aigars Grauba, director;
Lebanon, Under the Bombs, Philippe Aractingi, director;
Lithuania, Loss, Maris Martinsons, director;
Luxembourg, Nuits d’Arabie, Paul Kieffer, director;
Macedonia, I’m from Titov Veles, Teona Strugar Mitevska, director;
Mexico, Tear This Heart Out, Roberto Sneider, director;
Morocco, Goodbye Mothers, Mohamed Ismail, director;
The Netherlands, Dunya & Desie, Dana Nechushtan, director;
Norway, O’Horten, Bent Hamer, director;
Palestine, Salt of This Sea, Annemarie Jacir, director;
Philippines, Ploning, Dante Nico Garcia, director;
Poland, Tricks, Andrzej Jakimowski, director;
Portugal, Our Beloved Month of August, Miguel Gomes, director;
Romania, The Rest Is Silence, Nae Caranfil, director;
Russia, Mermaid, Anna Melikyan, director;
Serbia, The Tour, Goran Markovic, director;
Singapore, My Magic, Eric Khoo, director;
Slovakia, Blind Loves, Juraj Lehotsky, director;
Slovenia, Rooster’s Breakfast, Marko Nabersnik, director;
South Africa, Jerusalema, Ralph Ziman, director;
Spain, The Blind Sunflowers, Jose Luis Cuerda, director;
Sweden, Everlasting Moments, Jan Troell, director;
Switzerland, The Friend, Micha Lewinsky, director;
Taiwan, Cape No. 7, Te-Sheng Wei, director;
Thailand, Love of Siam, Chookiat Sakveerakul, director;
Turkey, 3 Monkeys, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, director;
Ukraine, Illusion of Fear, Aleksandr Kiriyenko, director;
United Kingdom, Hope Eternal, Karl Francis, director;
Uruguay, Kill Them All, Esteban Schroeder, director;
Venezuela, The Color of Fame, Alejandro Bellame Palacios, director.
bfi London Film Festival Movies
Considering the sheer number of films – between 200 and 300 – being screened, in addition to their variety and scope, the two-week bfi London Film Festival, now in its 52nd edition, must be one of the best film festivals in the world. Quite possibly the best.
On the festival’s website, there are plenty of festival images, information on the screening films, and several interviews with film personalities, among them Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, Nandita Das, Albert Serra, and Barry Jenkins.
Below are four films being screened on Sunday, October 26. Those represent only a small sample of what will be available to Londoners every day until October 30.
Schedule and synopses from the bfi website.
Information on screening venues.
A Man to Remember
11:00 a.m. BFI Southbank 1
A telling demonstration of the true value of film archives is the recent discovery, in the Netherlands Film Museum, of a unique surviving print of the debut feature of Garson Kanin, who later found greater success as a writer (Born Yesterday, Adam’s Rib), but whose directorial skills are manifest in this delightful small gem of a movie made at the Citizen Kane studio, RKO. Perhaps because it was branded a B-movie, Kanin’s film became lost and long-forgotten until a search by Turner Classics unearthed the Dutch print: and Dutch it is and remains in this restored version, which carries indelible Dutch subtitles and written inserts.
Happily, these do not detract a jot from the ageless charm, wit and humanity which underpin the film’s gentle, unambiguously liberal story of a small-town doctor who puts his patients before his pocketbook and earns the respect and affection of all his fellow citizens bar a few grasping businessmen. The film opens with a beautifully cadenced funeral procession, the prelude to a series of nicely judged flashbacks recalling the life and generous deeds of the good doctor. The centrepiece is a wonderfully naturalistic performance by Edward Ellis – not a name to be found easily in any movie reference book, but who deserves more than a footnote in cinema history on the evidence of his screen presence here: a man to remember, indeed. Clyde Jeavons
Johnny Mad Dog
14:15 RITZY Screen 2
In an unnamed African country, 15-year-old Johnny Mad Dog (Christopher Minie) heads a platoon of soldiers who are younger than he is. They’re armed to the teeth, sporting a variety of bizarre outfits (odd headgear, angel wings, a wedding dress) and have adopted names you suspect weren’t given to them by their unseen parents, such as No Good Advice, Captain Dust to Dust and Chicken Hair. Charged with taking over a city in an attempt to unseat the government, Johnny leads this band of killers on a murderous rampage toward their destination, leaving mayhem in their wake. Meanwhile, the studious Laokolé (Daisy Victoria Vandy), lives with her young brother and disabled father and dreams of a better life, until Johnny’s hurricane of destruction comes her way. As Johnny advances, Laokolé flees her home.
Filmed in Liberia, with a great young cast, a number of whom lived through the horrors of conflicts similar to those depicted here, Johnny Mad Dog is a visually dazzling modern war film that presents thrilling, occasionally surreal action, while acknowledging the hellish plight of children involved in warfare with poignancy and pertinence. Impressively directed and scripted by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, adapted from the novel by Emmanuel Dongala, the film was produced by Mathieu Kassovitz and Benoît Jaubert. Michael Hayden
Three Monkeys (Üç Maymun)
6:30 p.m. ODEON WEST END
Further evidence that he is one of the finest film-makers currently at work, [Nuri Bilge] Ceylan’s fifth feature is arguably his most ambitious yet. A politician involved in a car accident asks his driver to take the rap – probably a short jail sentence – in return for a tempting financial reward. It’s just the first of many lies; inevitably, the driver’s wife and son are also affected by the conversation’s outcome, which soon finds all four trapped in a tangled web of fear, desire, doubt and guilt.
Almost Dostoyevskian in its astute psychological insights and its dark sense of moral and dramatic irony, Ceylan’s film combines his characteristic dry humour with a brooding intensity that is new to his work’s emotional palette. It’s essentially a development on Climates, extending that film’s bracingly frank look at male-female dynamics in couples to study how they operate within an entire family and its acquaintances, and taking its pioneering exploration of digital camerawork still further: Ceylan’s compositions – often evocative of late Ozu in their deployment of colour – are quite extraordinary in their painterly beauty and eloquence. Geoff Andrew
The Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Baader Meinhof Komplex)
9:00 p.m. ODEON WEST END 1
With films such as Downfall and The Lives of Others, recent German cinema has been celebrated while confronting dark periods in the country’s history. The Baader Meinhof Complex continues that trend, as it deals with the Red Army Faction, the left-wing militant group formed by radicalised children of the Nazi generation, who fought an international terrorist campaign opposing American imperialism and the West German establishment throughout the 1970s.
Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck, as Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof respectively, lead an exceptional cast of young German actors, while Bruno Ganz puts in a reliably strong turn as Horst Herold, the head of the German police force charged with bringing the Faction to justice. While the action sequences are undoubtedly thrilling, the film dodges accusations of sensationalism, deftly dealing with the contradictory mentality of a group prepared to murder innocents in the name of democracy and justice. Based on Stefan Aust’s definitive book about the group, adapted by Downfall screenwriter Bernd Eichinger, and directed by veteran helmer Uli Edel (Christiane F., Last Exit to Brooklyn), The Baader Meinhof Complex is a film of considerable class and authority. Michael Hayden
Tokyo Film Festival Awards
Tokyo Film Festival: Oct.18-26.
Set in the arid steppes of Kazakhstan, Sergei Dvortsevoys Tulpan chronicles one young mans struggle to prove himself worthy of a wife. In the meantime, he has to cope with his sisters family, a reluctant bride-to-be, sand storms, and illness in the familys sheep herd all that while listening to “By the Rivers of Babylon” on a falling-apart car radio.
Best Film: Tulpan, Sergei Dvortsevoy
Special Jury Prize: Cztery noce z Anna / Four Nights with Anna, Jerzy Skolimowski
Best Actress: Félicité Wouassi, Aide-toi, le ciel taidera / With a Little Help from Myself
Best Actor: Vincent Cassel, Lennemi public n°1 and Linstinct de mort
Best Artistic Contribution Award: François Dupeyron, With a Little Help from Myself
Asian Film Award Special Mention: Muallaf Yasmin Ahmad
Earth Grand Prix: The Meerkats, James Honeyborne