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Entries in foreign films (235)

Friday
Nov212014

Interview: Director Stefan Haupt of "The Circle" 

Jose here. This year's Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film includes many films featuring gay characters or dealing with LGBT issues, one of them being Swiss entry The Circle, a documentary/drama hybrid that tells the story of the groundbreaking title publication, which became one of the most popular LGBT magazines in the post-WWII era. The film, opening in limited release today, focuses on the story of two members of the network that helped create The Circle, schoolteacher Ernst Ostertag and drag entertainer Robi Rapp, who not only survived the repression of the era (which included a serial killer who targeted gay men in Zurich) but eventually became the first same sex couple to get married in Switzerland.

I had the opportunity to talk to the film's director Stefan Haupt, about this landmark project and what Oscar could mean to help share this wonderful story. Interview after the jump...

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Tuesday
Nov182014

Foreign Oscar Watch: Iran's "Today"

[This post is part of our continuing series on this year’s contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. We're aiming to review (gasp) half of them. Here’s Amir with the Iranian entry, Today. He has also interviewed the director and discussed the film on his Iranian cinema podcast "Hello Cinema". - Editor]

Reza Mirkarimi is probably overdue for an Oscar nomination. Sure, his name doesn’t ring a bell for a lot of cinephiles and doesn’t carry the same weight as internationally renowned Iranian auteurs such as Kiarostami, Panahi or Asghar Farhadi, but consider this: He is the only filmmaker to have had his films shunned by both the Academy and the Iranian committee that submits them!

His first try for gold came back in 2005 with So Close, So Far, a meditative and moving portrayal of a broken father-son relationship. It was far stronger than all five of the eventual nominees but that was before voters in this category had begun to vote for what is actually best. Still, he had every reason to be hopeful in 2012 with A Cube of Sugar, a distinctly Iranian film with a regional flavor that surprisingly won awards at every festival it played at. Coming on the back of A Separation’s win, it was reasonable to expect the raised profile of Iranian cinema to help the film along the finish line. Yet, the Iranian committee submitted the film and boycotted the Oscars later on the same day! Remember that strange story?

So, two years on, Mirkarimi is back with Today, a consensus option that wasn’t exceptionally well received in its home country, but saved the committee a whole lot of political trouble compared to their other choices...

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Sunday
Nov162014

Interview: Daniel Ribeiro on his Brazilian Oscar Submission

Over at Towleroad I interviewed Daniel Ribeiro on his international LGBT hit The Way He Looks. You can read that interview over there but I thought I'd share a few extra and Oscar-related bits here most of which I didn't include there for space reasons. And since we're among Oscar fanatic friends here at TFE...

Ribeiro, who hails from São Paulo and has seen his very first feature go from a Berlinale Teddy win to a multi-national release and finally Brazil's choice to represent the country at the Oscars.  He's thankfully very relaxed about his Oscar chances. He seems more pleased that Brazil submitted it at all than expectant of anything more. But "You never know" ... 

Here are a few excerpts from the interview...

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Thursday
Nov132014

Foreign Submission Review: Panama's "Invasion"

Here's Jose to look at the first Oscar submission ever from Panama. They sent a documentary.



On the early morning of December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama. Under code-name Operation Just Cause, the US deposed de-facto leader Manuel Noriega and president-elect Guillermo Endara was sworn into office. Setting a precedent of inexplicable, unjustified foreign invasions under the command of presidents named George Bush, the Panama intervention was notorious for its lack of transparency; while US officials set the casualties tally at 500, local records report up to 7,000 civilians and soldiers who were never heard of again. Even more interesting is the fact that the invasion is simply something people don’t talk about anymore.

[More...]

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Monday
Nov102014

Stockholm Film Festival: Turkey's Oscar Entry Soars

Glenn has been attending the 25th Stockholm Film Festival as a member of the FIPRESCI jury. Here he is to discuss Turkey’s 2014 Oscar submission, Winter Sleep.


There’s a moment over an hour into Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep where two of the main characters finally strip away the societal niceties that their relatively comfortable existences requires of them and they reveal their true feelings about one another. Some might suggest that the scene, fraught with simmering tension and explosive drama, comes too late in the picture – it effectively kicks off the second act – and that Ceylan’s film could have easily had 20 or 30 minutes shaved from its runtime. I wouldn’t argue that these people are wrong; at 196 minutes, Winter Sleep is the one percent of film lengths of 2014 (only Lav Diaz’s Norte is a longer new release if I am remembering correctly). Still, I found the majority of Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner to be thoroughly engaging and surprisingly scintillating given its subject matter.

The plot of Winter Sleep sounds like a parody. Perhaps a sketch from Saturday Night Light making fun of Upper West Side noddies who’ll go and watch three hours of subtitles. Or maybe it’s a Woody Allen gag. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Winter Sleep is about a man, a former actor and now the writer of a rather pompous newspaper column and owner of a sleepy hotel in the Anatolian hills, and several of his acquaintances discussing ethics and morals. There is his younger wife who has grown increasingly attached to a local group raising funds for the community, his sister with an alcoholic ex, a best friend, a tenant who’s late on his rent check, and various constituents that he has decided he lords over due to his wealth and status. ...more after the jump

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Sunday
Nov092014

Second Opinion - Gett & Israel's Oscar Chances

Anne Marie here with a followup to David's review on Israel's Oscar submissionGett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem opens with a lawyer staring at his client sitting just offscreen. The lawyer turns to the judges and begins to plead his client's case: she is incompatible with her husband and wants a divorce.

The scene moves between the three judges, the lawyer, and the woman's husband as they argue this woman's fate, but the camera avoids Viviane as strangers argue over her. When at last the camera cuts to Viviane, (writer/co-director Ronit Elkabetz channeling AFI Fest honoree Sophia Loren's intensity) she seeths in her chair, muted by convention and law. She glances quickly at the camera, and her brief eye contact burns with unvoiced frustration. Considering that her divorce will take almost half a decade to achieve, the frustration will only get more bitter and volcatnic.

As David pointed out, Ronit and her brother/co-director Shlomi have made a social justice film about the absurdities of Israel's archaic, religion-based family law. However, Gett also becomes a study on the harder-to-read nuances of a relationship - Are Viviane and her husband incompaible or abusive? Is he controlling or too lenient? The deceptively simple conceit of trapping the action in the stark courtroom visually emphasizes Viviane's frustration, and allows the motives of everyone who speaks - from Vivianne's hilarious family to her sadly submissive neighbor to her husband and herself. Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz have created a film that works on every level as social commentary, and absurdist comedy, and character study.


Second Take Grade
: A-
Oscar Chances: Though it is Israel's official submission, chances are low. The first two films in Elkabetz's trilogy, To Take A Wife (2004) and 7 Days (2008), were both overlooked by the Academy. At AFI Fest, Gett is currently being overshadowed by star-studded films like Two Days, One Night and buzz -generators Timbuktu and The Tribe. Though audiences that see it are speaking highly of it, Gett's may not have the momentum to land a nomination.

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