Glenn here to take a look at two of this year’s official foreign language film selections from South America. They couldn’t be more different if they tried: from Venezuela we have The Liberator, a historic epic, while Brazil has submitted the rather small-scale gay teenage romance The Way He Looks. The latter is a particularly interesting selection for Brazil, a country that hasn’t been nominated since the one-two punch of 1998-1999, yet it follows in the path of last year’s even more adventurous selection Neighbouring Sounds, which hadn’t a hope in hell, but kudos for that country’s committee choosing quality over what’s perhaps perceived as an easier sell to Oscar voters.
Venezuela would have been wise to do the same. While the exquisite Bad Hair probably wouldn’t have made the Oscar cut even if it had been selected, passing it up in favor of the transparent and flat filmmaking of Alberto Arvelo’s The Liberator disappoints. The cynic in me from my early days of Oscar-watching would have thought this film a shoe-in given its grand war sequences, low-heat romance and exotic vistas, but doesn’t it feel like we’ve somewhat moved away from this sort of film with Oscar voters showing unique bravery in recent years of this category. Maybe the Venezuelan selection committee thought the sight of handsome Édgar Ramirez floating above a swath of flag-waving revolutionaries on the poster would pique AMPAS interest.
VENEZUELA'S THE LIBERATOR
Arvelo’s film is the story of Simon Bolivar, a man whom the opening credits tell us fought in over 100 battles and traversed 70,000 miles, twice the terrain of Alexander the Great. “His army never conquered – it liberated.” An early scene of Bolivar returning to his home in Venezuela with his new wife even shows that the slaves on his plantation all think of him as a wonderful, noble man and he joins them in a late night dance by a bonfire. He’s basically a perfect human being. A man of the people. That doesn’t exactly make for the most interesting character. Nor does it make for a believable one.
More The Liberator and Brazil's gay romance The Way He Looks after the jump...