Soon we'll be inundated with Foreign Film Oscar Submission news but for now news from three countries to get us started. The Oscar Charts will be up this weekend for this always diverse and exciting (if you're paying attention) category. [Thanks to Daniel, Yonatan and A.D. for the tips]
Israel has been on a hot streak with Oscar with four nominations in the past six years so news of the Ophir Awards is always important. This narrows the field for which film will be their official submission since they go with the Ophir winner. Seven films are in the running for their Best Picture (The Ophir).
The frontrunner is Bethlehem (12 nominations) a drama about the Arab- Israel conflict which focuses on three characters: An Israeli secret services agent, his teenage Palestinian informant and the informant's older brother, a commander of the Al Aqsa Martyr's brigade. Other nominees include S#x Acts, a drama about a transfer student who improves her social status via the boys at her new school. Sukaryot is about an Israeli-Arab entrepreneur wants to open a chain of candy store competing directly with an Israeli corporation. Magic Men is a dramedy about a Hasidic Jew who joins his magician father on a trip to Greece to find the man who saved his father during the Holocaust. And the soul comedy is Hunting Elephants about a child's adult relatives who set out to rob a bank. (Patrick Stewart is one of the leads so perhaps this will have too much English dialogue to qualify?) Far less likely are two films which only scored Best Picture nominations at the Ophirs: White Panther about a young Russian who seeks refuge from street gangs in a local boxing gym and I Am Bialik, a mockumentary about a man who claims he's descended from Israel's national poet.
Tough Romanian cinema has been hot with critics for nearly a decade but has yet to catch on with the Academy, who (generally speaking) prefer warmer films. Can Child's Pose, their 2013 submission, break through? The Golden Bear winning film stars the acclaimed Luminita Gheorghiu who previously appeared in two of the country's most important exports (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Death of Mr Lazarescu).
The Guardian synopsizes the contemporary political drama like so:
the film tells the story of a mother's desperate and often illegal attempts to save her son from prosecution after he knocks down and kills an impoverished teenager...
The official submission is The Notebook/A nagy füzet which was the Karlovy Vary winner. Hungary had a solid Oscar run in the 1980s but has had difficult finding traction since and especially in the past couple of decades when they've made very daring oddball choices for their representative films. This new one appears to be more in Oscar's wheelhouse since it's about two young boys ripped from their parents during World War II.
For whatever reason, Oscar has historically been very kind to narratives about children in wartime in this category, not just because at least a handful of films that fit that genre seem to be submitted each year but because the tear-jerking obviously transcends culture and language barriers. This one looks discomfitingly unsentimental though with children hardening themselves to atrocities.
If you've seen any of these at festivals, have your say in the comments. Which country are you most excited to see land a nod this year?