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Archive for March 2nd, 2010

Originally published as part of The LAMB Devours the Oscars, a 33-part series dissecting the 82st Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

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I recently compiled a list of my top ten movies of the decade; four of the ten, including the top three were foreign Language films. With this in mind it is no surprise when The LAMB announced its third annual “Devours the Oscars” I volunteered for Best Foreign Language Film. A quick search on the internet revealed that not only is the Best Foreign Language Film completely different to every other category, but that I had only seen one of the sixty-five submitted films. This makes the project a little daunting

As I mentioned above, the Oscar for The Best Foreign Language Film is unlike any of the other awards. The eligibility and selection process are completely different. Unlike the other awards the movie does not have to be screened in the United States in order to be eligible for competition, instead they must be screened to a paying audience in the submitting country for at least seven consecutive days during the eligibility period (October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2009). Obviously the film must be in a language other than English but as of 2006 films no longer have to be in an official language of the submitting country. This change did not extend to non-English speaking American films that are still ineligible.

As each country can only submit one film the submission process begins with a committee or jury of people from the countries film industry who select the film they wish to enter. English-subtitled (never dubbed) versions of the films are viewed by the Foreign Language Film Award Committee who selects the five official nominations. In order to vote the Academy members have to attend an official screening of all five of the movies, “screener” DVD’s are not used in this category. If a film is nominated it is also eligible for nominations in other categories that year subject to meeting their requirements but will not be eligible for nomination in subsequent years. Of this years submissions only The White Ribbon is eligible in other categories. It is rare for films to make the crossover, the best examples of movies that have in recent years are: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Amélie (2001) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). Crouching Tiger is the most successful of the three achieving a nomination in the Best Picture category as well as winning the Foreign Language award.

In the past the award has been dominated by European cinema with Italy winning ten times from twenty-seven nominations and France receiving nine awards from thirty-four nominations. Spain, Germany, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland and the Soviet Union have all won multiple awards. The only none European country to win more than once is Japan with four awards from eleven nominations. Amazingly neither Hong Kong nor China have ever won and have only been nominated twice each.

As I have been unable to see all the movies I have taken some of the descriptions from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), these are clearly labelled as such. The nominations are:

  • El Secreto de Sus Ojos
  • Directed by Juan Jose Campanella
  • Argentina

Set in 1999, Benjamín Espósito worked as a federal justice agent in the 1970’s against a backdrop of political violence in Argentina. Haunted by his past and particularly a case he worked on where a young woman was brutally raped and murdered he sets about writing his story in the form of a novel. As he compiles the novel the story full of twists and turns is told in flashback before reaching a shocking conclusion.

Extremely well received the movie won all nine Clarin Entertainment Awards that it was nominated for and all five awards it was nominated for at the Havana Film Festival.

No UK or USA release dates at this time.

  • Ajami
  • Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani
  • Israel

Synopsis from IMDB “Unlike many films from Israel which traditionally present an “Israeli” or “Palestinian” point of view, “Ajami” portrays a side of life that few ever see — Arabs living in Israel. In fact, not only is this film not primarily about Arabs and Israelis, it actually deals with conflict within the Israeli Arab world between Muslims and Christians.” Written, directed, and edited by Scandar Copti, “Ajami” is a two-hour “Crash”-like drama which looks at several violent incidents, some linked more than others, and then focuses on one in particular from different perspectives told through the use of flashbacks. The movie takes awhile to get going but once the viewer catches on to the device it becomes more compelling. The young people featured in the recurring storyline are quite endearing and easy to empathize with. This could be a coming-of-age story set anywhere in the world.”

Nominated for nine Awards of the Israeli Film Academy and won for Best Director, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Music. It also awarded European Discovery of the Year at the European film awards and Golden Camera – Special Mention at the Cannes Film Festival.

Screened at last years London Film Festival and set for a limited national release in the USA from 3 February 2010.

  • La teta asustada (aka The Milk of Sorrow)
  • Directed by Claudia Llosa
  • Peru

Synopsis from IMDB “Fausta is suffering from a rare disease called the Milk of Sorrow, which is transmitted through the breast milk of pregnant women who were abused or raped during or soon after pregnancy. While living in constant fear and confusion due to this disease, she must face the sudden death of her mother. She chooses to take drastic measures to not follow in her mother’s footsteps”

The film has won numerous awards already including the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival 2009, Best Film at the Havana Film Festival 2009.

Magaly Solier has won Best Actress awards at Film Festivals in Guadalajara, Lima and Montréal.

Screened at last years London Film Festival.

  • Un Prophete (aka A Prophet)
  • Directed by Jacques Audiard
  • France

Malik El Djebena is a nineteen year old French-Arab sentenced to six years for an unspecified crime. He has clearly been in trouble all his life but this is his first time in real prison. Only semi literate and with no friends inside it isn’t long before he is targeted by the ruling gang who want to exploit him to their own ends. At first by accident more then by design he begins his rise through the ranks within the prisons ruling class. Always on the outside Malik doesn’t fit in with the Corsican gang that rules the prison but because of his involvement with them isn’t accepted by the Arab prisoners. The film works in an existential way as we see Malik develop as a character in the brutal and violent setting. There are also suggestions that the film is a political statement with the events within the prison reflecting social and political changes in France. Either way the movie works on a simpler more base a visceral level as a hard hitting dramatic thriller that is always compelling and often thought provoking.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize a last years Cannes Film Festival, Nominated as Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes and The BAFTA’s as well as several other awards and nominations.

Currently on general release in UK and limited national release in USA from 12 February 2010.

  • Das weisse Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (aka The White Ribbon)
  • Michael Haneke
  • Germany

A modern fable set in a small rural German village in the months leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. The film is narrated the local teacher who is now an old man looking back at the time. He explains that the events in the village could explain “things that happened in this country” without specifically mentioning the rise of the Nazi party or the events of either World War. Without explaining why he also questions the varsity of his own words before he tells the story. The story is told via a series of unexplained malicious acts and recriminations that become more serious and go unsolved. There is also a bold use of symbolism, notably the white ribbon of the title. Worn by the children of the village pastor disturbingly following a “cleansing” beating, they could represent the Swastika armbands worn by the Nazi’s or even the badges forced on others such as the yellow star. There are no intruders or outside aggressors, the villages’ problems are wholly internal. This is the films most direct statement on Germany of the era. The characters are also painfully unaware of the coming wars and that society is crumbling around them.

Has already won Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, three awards at Cannes Film Festival including Golden Palm. It has also been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at The BAFTA’s, Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography from the American Society of Cinematographers and Best Achievement in Cinematography at the Oscars.

Had national releases in both the UK and USA last year

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