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Entries in foreign films (180)

Friday
Aug292014

Political Filmmakers & Cute Dogs: A Conversation with Nick Davis

Amir here, to share with you a podcast conversation about my favorite film of 2014. I first watched Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain at the Toronto Film Festival almost a full year ago. It was my last film of the festival and I debated long and hard if a late night slot after ten gruelling days of film-watching was a smart idea. Eventually I opted to give my all to the festival. Boy, am I glad I did.

Panahi has been slapped with a 6-year house arrest and a 20-year filmmaking ban in Iran on charges of political dissent but has since twice broken the ban in three years. His first attempt, This Is Not a Film, was a heated, frustrated attempt at circumventing the ban with a DIY documentary made in the confines of his living room, shot partly on an iPhone and reportedly snuck out of Iran on a USB stick in a cake! It made my top ten list in 2011 but Closed Curtain is one giant leap for Panahi toward imposing even more creative authority on his craft under the tightest of limitations.

In this meta-cinematic experiment, Panahi tells us the story of an author who hides himself and his incredibly adorable dog in a seaside villa in northern Iran to overcome a bad case of writer’s block. The world of the film becomes increasingly mysterious and the narrative structure shattered. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways, making the film a challenging experience and a very funny one, too.

I can’t sing its praises enough, which is why I decided to devote an entire episode of my podcast on Iranian films – Hello Cinema, co-hosted with Tina Hassannia – to this gem. We also had a special guest with whom The Film Experience readers are quite familiar. Nick Davis joined us to talk about the film, but given his familiarity with Panahi’s career and Iranian cinema, our conversation went in many unexpected, interesting directions. We talk about the Toronto International Film Festival, the world’s cutest pet, and everything else in between. As you're all aware, Nick is an impossibly charming speaker, so we left this conversation unedited, with all the fun bits included! Have a listen here, and if you’re interested in Iranian cinema, subscribe on iTunes. The September episode of the show will be about Iranian films playing at this year's edition of TIFF.

Friday
Aug292014

Tim's Toons: In praise of the long-dead Osamu Tezuka

Tim here. Bear with me for a moment: we’re just about done with our month-long look at 1989 in cinema, about which I already had my say. But one of the other things that happened in animation that year was that the great Japanese animator and illustrator Osamu Tezuka passed away in February of that year, at age 60. Which is absolutely no legitimate pretext for anything, but Tezuka is an artist I’ve wanted to talk about in this space for ages, and there’s never been anything remotely resembling a good excuse to do so. So this shall have to do. It’s no fun having a bully pulpit if you can’t spread the Good News with it.

And oh, what very Good News the career of Tezuka is. You might not have ever heard his name, but you know his work: he’s largely regarded as the godfather of both manga and anime, two media with a shared stylistic backbone that’s still mostly intact a full 62 years after Tezuka began drawing the original comic book version of Astro Boy.

Which is all very important and impressive, of course – that one man’s innovations could trickle down in a readily-detected lineage to things as diverse as the nuanced fantasy epic/family drama Spirited Away to the internet’s favorite whipping post, tentacle porn...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug272014

Foreign Film Oscar Watch: Denmark, Germany, Venezuela, Nepal

The trickle of foreign film submission info has become and soon it will be a flood. Over the new few days I'll be filling out a lot more of the foreign language submission charts which are written by me and my multi-lingual friend A.D. who knows so much about foreign cinema in so many atypical places he sometimes makes my head spin. But before all that charty speculation a handful of actual news items. 

Jhola from Nepal

New Official Submissions
Jhola is the official submission from Nepal. Nepal enjoyed one previous nomination in this category for Caravan (1999) but they haven't submitted regularly. Jhola is a period piece about the Nepali society custom of the wife having to set herself on fire when her husband dies and go with him. Horrific! Actress Kanchi Garima Panta is said to be very good in the lead role.

Beloved Sisters was announced today to represent Germany. Germany is always a threat in this category since the country has enjoyed 18 nominations and 3 wins. German films were most popular with Oscar during the Aughts (6 nominations and 2 wins) but despite coming close on those new January 'finalist' lists, they haven't been nominated since Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon (2009) which surely would have won its category had Amour preceded it rather than followed it.

But I'm getting sidetracked with stats. Dominik Graf's Beloved Sister is a romantic love triangle (menage a trois) between the poet Friedrich Schiller and two sisters. The film premiered at Berlinale early this year. Useless trivia: Graf's partner is the director Caroline Link who won the Oscar for Germany for Nowhere in Africa and was also nominated for Beyond Silence.

Narrowing It Down
Denmark, a major powerhouse in this particular category with 10 nominations and 3 wins, is choosing between three films: Niels Arden Oplev's 70's feature Speed Walking set just after pornography was legalized and focused, as I understand it on a confused teenager who loses his mother; Pernille Fischer Christensen's Someone You Love about a singer/songwriter (Mikael Persbrandt who starred in the Danish Oscar winner In a Better World and is in The Hobbit films as well) returning to his homeland to record a new album; and Nils Malmros' semiautobiographical Sorrow and Joy, based on that time his wife, um, killed their child. Yikes.

Denmark won't choose between them until September 18th but both Oplev and Malmros have been selected before, Oplev for Worlds Apart (2008) and Malmros, an important figure in Danish cinema though he's not prolific, for both Boys (1977) and Barbara (1997) respectively. (Oplev, it's probably worth noting, directed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) starring Noomi Rapace.) None of those submissions were nominated.

Venezuela has also narrowed it down to a few films but the battle is said to be between Libertador and Bad Hair. You may recall that I saw Bad Hair (Pelo Malo) at the Tribeca Film Festival and I really loved it so obviously that's the one I'm rooting for. I'm not sure if Oscar would respond well but it's brilliantly judged, very subtle, racially though-provoking and gay themed. A.D. thinks that given Venezuela's political climate it'll probably be Libertador which would be a more traditional choice as its a historical war drama about Simon Bolivar who fought over 100 battles in South America. It stars Venezuela's most high profile international star Édgar Ramírez who had such a huge breakthrough a few years back with the miniseries/super long movie Carlos (2010)

Previously Announced Submissions
We've already discussed Poland's amazing film Ida a few times (it seems like a shoo-in but you never know with this category). Other announced submissions include two profile Cannes breakout in Hungary's White God and Turkey's Winter Sleep. And Romania chose The Japanese Dog.

Tuesday
Aug122014

Foreign Film Oscar Watch: The Ophir Nominations

Israeli's Oscar equivalent, The Ophirs, announced their nominations yesterday and here are the Best Picture nominees, courtesy of friend of TFE Yonatan. One of these six films will surely be submitted as their Oscar hopeful.

Dana Ivgy & Nelly Tagar star in "Zero Motivation"

The Farewell Party - Dramedy set in a retirement home and it's the nomination leader with 14
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Absalem - Drama about a woman struggling legally to get a divorce. This is the film we were talking about a couple of days ago when the foreign charts went up. It's co-directed by and stars the great Ronit Elkabetz (Late Marriage). It won 12 nominations. Music Box films (who had such a huge success with Poland's Oscar submission Ida this summer) have the distribution rights but no US release date has been announced.
Is That You? - A film projectionist searches for the love of his youth after losing his job
Next To Her - 9 nods for this  drama about two sisters, one of them is mentally challenged
Yona - Biographical Drama about a famous Israeli poet. 9 nominations. The director Nir Bergman is the only one from this group who has previously been selected for Oscar submission (Broken Wings in 2002)
Zero Motivation - This debut feature from director Tayla Lavie was the winner of the Tribeca Film Festival this year and is nominated for 12 Ophirs. Zeitgeist has distribution rights in the US and is planning a December release. It's a military comedy about female soldiers starring Dana Igvy who is nominated for Best Actress AND Supporting Actress as she's also in Next to Her. Someone's having a good year

Dana Ivgy & from "Next to Her" at Cannes. Photograph by Cécile BurbanWhich do you think they'll choose for their Oscar submission? Have any of you Israeli and/or international festival-going readers caught any of these films? Israel's last two submissions Fill the Void and Bethlehem missed nominations and even the January finalist list (kind of a surprise with the former) but the Academy's mostly been very receptive to Israeli film in recent years with nominations in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 so watch their submission closely!

Oscar Charts

Friday
Aug082014

Breaking: The Foreign Oscar Charts Have Arrived!

I've been chart happy this week as you can see. The Oscar charts were all updated two days ago. And now the Foreign Language Film Submission Charts - all three of 'em - are up. Have to be ready when September hits, you know!? The three foreign film submission charts are now up:

 

 

You can always access the Oscar charts from the pulldown menu on the navigation bar. (But you must know that already.) Only the first chart has a lot of information (read: speculation) since only one country has officially announced. That would be Hungary's tense critically lauded allegory White God. But the charts will grow. UPDATE: Turkey and Poland have all announced. We have a race!

For now let's talk about a few random countries and films that might come into play...

CANADA (7 nominations & 1 win)
Coming off his coronation of sorts at Cannes Xavier Dolan's Mommy seems like the most obvious choice but it's not the only choice. In fact, Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm is also eligible; that one is damn prolific. Canada has only submitted Dolan once with I Killed My Mother but they've had a strong string of contenders and actual nominees lately. Denys Arcand, Canada's favorite son when it comes to Oscar (4 submissions, 3 nominations, 1 win) also has a new film out called An Eye For Beauty so who knows. More Canadian features are coming - there's a whole sidebar at TIFF of course.

CZECH REPUBLIC (9 nominations & 3 wins)
They have several options but the one I'm most intrigued by is called Hany. Watch this trailer [NSFW]. I'll tell you why after you do...

It was shot in a one long continuous take a la Rope (well mostly) and Russian Ark! And considering that, it looks fairly complicated, well populated, lively and ambitious. I really want it to be their submission because a) that's cool and b) then we can compare it to Birdman which is reportedly edited to look like it was all shot in one take.

 

ISRAEL (10 nominations)
From 2007 through 2011 Israel was hot-hot-hot with foreign language branch voters securing four of its ten nominations. Israel is the most nominated country never to have won the Foreign prize (Mexico & Poland are also oft-nominated without a statue to show for it). The frontrunner for their submission this year appears to be Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem starring and co-directed by Israel's awesome movie star Ronit Elkabetz (of Late Marriage, Or, and The Band's Visit fame). But when the Ophir nominations are announced in a few days we'll know more about its competition. You have to score at the Ophir Awards to be their submission.

Any guesses as to what your favorite country is submitting this year?