Tim here. A week ago today, two things happened: the Academy announced the complete list of submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race, and the 50th Chicago International Film Festival opened. That's put me in a position to see a lot of those submissions firsthand, and this week and next I'll be sharing my quick thoughts on several of the ones that the Film Experience hasn't otherwise looked at.
AFGHANISTAN: A FEW CUBIC METERS OF LOVE
In a grubby part of Tehran, a population of Afghan refugees ekes out a small living and strives to retain their culture and sense of worth while dodging the police. Against this background, a young Afghan woman (Hasiba Ebrahimi) and an Iranian boy (Saed Soheili) fall in love, only to find their relationship threatened when her father decides to flee Iran. So it's yet another Romeo & Juliet riff, although in this case the unexpected context gives it some freshness, and the film does good work balancing its depiction of the hard life of the refugees in an unfriendly place with the romantic plot. Ebrahimi and Soheili also have excellent, unforced chemistry with each other, making for an especially appealing representation of a stock scenario. It's a little minor and not too daring, but it's awfully moving.
Oscar prospects: Stranger things have happened, though central Asia hasn't done all that well here over the years, and the realist style is a little on the chilly side. I suspect it would have to be one of the films swept in by executive decision, and there are bigger-name titles that are much likelier to receive that boost.