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Entries in foreign films (298)

Friday
Nov062015

Interview: 'Theeb' Director Naji Abu Nowar on Bedouin Culture and Being Selected as Jordan's Oscar Submission

Jose here. Set in 1916 Theeb centers on the title character, a Bedouin boy, played by Jacid Eir Al-Hwietat, who’s lived his whole life in the desert. He is being trained as a guide by his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh) and the opportunity for him to try his new skills arrives when a British soldier (Jack Fox) and his companion (Marji Audeh) hire the siblings to show them across the desert. As they discover they are being tracked by enemies, Theeb is forced to fend for himself in the unknown. Combining elements of coming-of-age stories and adventure films, director Naji Abu Nowar is able to craft the rare film that entertains and enlightens. He subverts genre conventions in unexpected ways, for instance this time around it’s the nameless white man who treats others with contempt and shows little regard for their traditions.

If anything Theeb is a necessary film, which might be why it was selected by Jordan to represent them at the Oscars. I sat down with director Nowar to talk about the autobiographical elements in the film, learning film distribution lingo, and how instinct is what matters the most when it comes to directing.  

 

JOSE: Let’s get started with a business question. How is it to have your film being distributed in the States?

NAJI ABU NOWAR: It’s amazing! I lived in the desert making this film with the Bedouin, and the edit was done very close to them in case I had questions, so we really almost finished the entire film completely separated from the industry. We just assumed since we weren’t an English language film we would never play in America, so it’s been such an amazing ride to see the film do really well in Britain, and to now see it in America is unbelievable. We hope audiences respond.

JOSE: The film won awards at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, but I’m sure as a filmmaker your purpose is to do films that go beyond festivals? Especially because Theeb is essentially an adventure movie, not an art film. [more after the jump]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct272015

Interview: The Filmmakers Behind Spanish Oscar Submission 'Flowers' on MacGuffins, Preserving the Basque Language, and 'The Hours'  

Jose here. Flowers is centered around a mystery which sees construction site office worker Ane (Nagore Aranburu) start receiving flowers from an unknown admirer. Week after week, beautiful flowers arrive on the very same day, then one day they stop. Is it a coincidence that they stopped right after Ane's construction site co-worker Beñat (Josean Bengoetxea) passed away in a car crash? We soon meet Beñat's widow Lourdes (Itziar Ituño) and her mother in law Tere (Itziar Aizpuru) whose relationship only seems to weaken in the aftermath of Beñat's death. Flowers is beautifully constructed by José Mari Goenaga and Jon Garaño (who co-wrote and co-directed the film) who know how to take audience members along on a journey and understand how important it is to have us participate in trying to solve the mystery.

Meditative and melancholic, Flowers, is a worthy follow-up to their equally beautiful For 80 Days, and has been chosen as Spain's official Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category, a historic achievement since it's the first Basque film chosen for the honor. Individually Goenaga and Garaño have done it all, from animated films to documentaries, but their work together has a truly haunting quality, not to mention exquisite performances. I spoke to the filmmakers to discuss their Oscar hopes, making films in Basque and the movies about women that inspire them. 

JOSE: When I first reached out to you, Flowers didn’t have a US release date, now it’s opening on Friday. Are you excited about that?

JOSE MARI: We’re a little bit nervous, the film opens in NYC on October 30 and on November 27th it opens in Los Angeles, which is part of our press agents’ strategy to capture the attention of AMPAS voters. We’re nervous because we don’t know how people will receive it, and the commercial run will undoubtedly affect how it’s perceived by the Academy.

More on Flowers after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct142015

Oscar's Foreign Race Pt 5: We do love our trivia!

"everything u ever wanted to know about the foreign film category
*...but were afraid to ask"

Pt 1 81 Trailers | Pt 2 Women Directors & Debuts | Pt 3 Zoology | Pt 4 I know that face! 

who will follow Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland's IDA) to an Oscar win for Foreign Language Film?OKAY OKAY. We promise to calm down now.

We hope you've enjoyed our week long attempt to get you really pumped up for an Oscar category that's sometimes hard to get invested: Best Foreign Language Film. The films can be hard to track down making this competition less accessible, so we try our statistics and anecdotes and lists to pique your curiosity!  

But from here on out we'll try to track down as many as we can and actually see them. Imagine it: seeing movies! Please do share this series on twitter and facebook and whatnot. It's so much work and so many websites just depressingly print text only lists of titles and call it a day! We've already reviewed or done interviews from 11 of the pictures: Argentina's The Clan, Austria's Goodnight Mommy (now in theaters), Colombia's Embrace of the Serpent, Dominican Republic's Sand Dollars, France's Mustang, Germany's Labyrinth of Lies (now in theaters!), Hungary's Son of Saul, Norway's The Wave, Portugal's Arabian Nights Volume 2, Sweden's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, and Taiwan's The Assassin (opens Friday!). Off blog we've lined up screenings of 8 more in the next two weeks so we'll be sure to report. We'll never get to 81 but we can try.

ONE FINAL ROUND OF TRIVIA AFTER THE JUMP
Let's talk running times, previous Oscar nominees, and returning directors who've been submitted before.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct132015

Oscar's Foreign Race Pt 4: "Hey, I know that face!"

"everything u ever wanted to know about the foreign film category
*...but were afraid to ask"

Pt 1 All 81 Trailers | Pt 2 Women Directors & Debut Filmmakers | Pt 3 Zoology 

Actors You Know & Possibly Love
Successful actors really rack up the frequent flyer miles. The savvy ones cultivate relationships wherever they go. The very smartest of them pick up a second or third or fourth language and actually use those languages in their careers. Viggo Mortensen doesn't have quite the Hollywood career he deserves but notice that he doesn't settle - he's truly in love with his craft and uses his Spanish, English, Danish, and French in films all over the world. When the Danish Connie Nielsen was starting to look basic after lots of unsatisfying American films, she reminded everyone that she was actually gifted by going international with France's demonlover and returning home for Brothers. Actors who are bilingual and never use that onscreen are a mystery. It would be fun to see Sandra Bullock in a German movie or Hugh Jackman or Bradley Cooper in a French flick... even if it was only cameos since we know none of them are hurting for work. Why did Mira Sorvino not really capitalize on her Mandarin during her long dry spell? It's no accident that Charlotte Rampling and Carmen Maura never stopped working or that Kristin Scott Thomas only quit working when she wanted to; they speak multiple languages and make films outside their home countries often.

Let's look at the actors with a strong international presence that pop up in this year's Oscar submitted foreign-language films after the jump...

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Saturday
Oct102015

NYFF: My Golden Days

Manuel reporting from the New York Film Festival with an improbable prequel among this year’s selection.

No one does brooding romantic despair like the French. Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days, a pseudo-prequel to his 1996 My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument so revels in it that you could just as easily title it “The Sorrows of Young Esther.” And while yes, that title would be aping a German novel, Desplechin’s Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) merits being name-checked alongside the most famous romantically bereaved character in all of literary history, and not only because Goethe’s novel, like Desplechin’s film, depends on the epistolary form.

Esther, who falls for Paul Dédalus (Quentin Dolmaire playing the younger version of Mathieu Amalric’s character from Desplechin’s earlier film), spends most of the time daring the camera to turn away from her sorrows, her tears, her despair, all of which she channels into the letter she sends Paul while he’s off at university in Paris. She cannot bear being away from him. Cannot bear her life without him.

Can you blame her? Dolmaire is beautiful!

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Friday
Oct092015

NYFF: The Oscar Contender "Son of Saul"

Manuel here reporting from the New York Film Festival on Hungary's Oscar submission, a powerful debut film...

The Holocaust film is, as historical subgenres go, perhaps the most well-worn. From John Ford and George Stevens’ documentary footage of the camps liberation all the way through Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, cinema has been irrevocably tied to our cultural remembrance of that most barbaric killing machine. Cinema’s ability to record, to bear witness, has no doubt played a central role in this artistic canon. Of course, at the heart of the cinematic project of the Holocaust lie conflicting and controversial ethical questions. From Theodor Adorno’s “There is no poetry after Auschwitz” dictum to storied arguments about the validity and usefulness of recreating the images of Western civilization’s most gruesome chapter, directors, victims, and historians have asked plenty of hard to answer questions.

Does the depiction not merely replicate the dehumanization on which that enterprise depended? Is there a way to narrativize this barbaric act without simplifying history? Can cinema’s images ever do anything more than ring hollow when compared with the immensity of human life lost?

If all of this sounds heady as an intro to a review of László Nemes’s debut film Son of Saul, you should’ve heard leading man (and poet) Géza Röhrig and his director talk at length about these very issues while quoting Primo Levi at the press conference a few days ago...

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