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Entries in Middle Eastern Films (39)

Friday
Dec092016

Interview: Oscar-Winner Asghar Farhadi Returns with "The Salesman"

by Nathaniel R

Two award winners: Asghar Farhadi with his star Shahab Hosseni

Asghar Farhadi's fame is finally catching up to his talent. After his international breakthrough with A Separation (2011) which won the Oscar and the Globe Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and became a significant arthouse hit internationally, the Iranian auteur has had three other movies travel to cinemas abroad. The acclaimed About Elly (2009) found renewed life and finally a US release, and his two follow up pictures The Past (2013) and The Salesman (2016) both took home coveted acting prizes from Cannes.

The Salesman, which will begin its US release in January after an Oscar-qualifying week recently in Los Angeles, is Farhadi's fourth consecutive film to be chosen by Iran to represent the country at the Academy Awards. Like A Separation, it's a stunner which begins simply before a fraught incident sends out large ripples complicating the story and the characterizations. We talked to Farhadi about the pressure of representing Iran, his Oscar night journey, and his creative process. The interview is after the jump...

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Monday
Oct242016

APSA Nominations: Lion, Cold of Kalandar, and More

The Asia Pacific Screen Awards has announced its nominations for the film year. The organization is in its 10th year -- and we should note that our own Glenn Dunks works for them behind the scenes. They basically cover the whole continent so that includes Asian countries, Australia, Russia, you name it. Their definition is loose enough that it even covers films with creative teams that qualify even if the film is a co-production made elsewhere. Their nomination procedure is elaborate -- 303 films from 43 countries were in the mix this year -- and whittled down throughout the year. The results are certainly a unique barometer of the region.

Cold of Kalandar, Turkey's Oscar submission, has 3 nominations

The nominations with commentary are after the jump...

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Tuesday
Oct182016

Reviews: "Desierto" and "Under the Shadow"

by Nathaniel R

Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Gael García Bernal in "Desierto"

Two more Oscar submissions are now in limited release in the US: Mexico's Desierto and the UK's Tehran set film Under the Shadows. Both are what you might call horror films though one suspects only the latter would accept the label. 

Desierto
We'll go anywhere with Gael García Bernal, who has blessed us with a number of fine road trip / travel movies in his career like Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Motorcycle Diaries , and The Loneliest Planet. In short, he's the perfect choice as a protagonist if you want us to sign up for a gruelling journey...

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Tuesday
Oct112016

Foreign Film Race Pt 2: All the Trailers (Japan to Vietnam)

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Foreign Language Film Category... *But Were Afraid to Ask

Pt 1 All the Trailers (Albania to Italy)

Pt 2 All the Trailers (Japan through Vietnam)
Here are all the trailers in one place! (Well two places. Part one has the first half. While you watch these we're sprucing up the Official Submission Charts right now to make them cleaner with the full list now that the Academy has made the list official.  Which of the 85 films (a record!) are you eager to see? Which do you think Oscar might also warm to? 

See more trailers than you can watch in one sitting after after the jump!

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Friday
Sep302016

Foreign Watch: Two Oscar Favorites Join the Fray

We've been faithfully updating the Oscar charts daily to reflect the submissions in one of our favorite categories. We'd call it our favorite but then how would Cinematography, Production Design, both Actress categories, and Costume Design feel? The deadline for submission is just a few days away so in a week or two the Academy will make the list official. Generally speaking, there are one or two surprises from our charts once they do -- a sudden addition or replacement and maybe a single disqualification. But if this list holds we are just short of the all time record number. The are currently 82 submissions, which is one shy of the record from 2014 (the Ida year).

90 year old legend Andrezj Wajda with his film trophies

Among the newly announced films are After Image, a biopic of an avant garde artist, by Andrzej Wajda for Poland and The Idol, the true story of a man who competed on "Arab Idol," from Hany Abu-Assad of Palestine. Oscar loves these two directors so they're surely threats for the finalist list. Poland has submitted films by Honorary Oscar winner Andrzej Wajda a total of nine times in their history and four of those were nominated: The Promised Land in 1975, The Maids of Wilco in 1979, Man of Iron in 1981, and Katyn in 2007. Meanwhile both of Palestine's nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category come from Hany Abu-Assad: Paradise Now in 2005 and Omar in 2013.  Can these men work their Oscar-hooking magic again?

Updates to the charts (part 1, part 2, part 3) also include new contenders from Argentina, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Turkey.

Wednesday
Apr272016

New Actor Obsession: Dominic Rains

Confession: I normally remember actresses names with their faces straightaway even if they've only had a bit role that impressed me. Sometimes actors take a few roles to reel me in as if I'm face blind. And so it was at Tribeca where Dominic Rains took the Best Actor prize for his strong sympathetic work as Osman, an Afghani journalist transplanted to rural California in Ian Old's The Fixer (2016). All throughout the picture I was like "who is this guy?" like I'd never seen him before only to discover thereafter that I'd already seen him AND loved him in two other movies. In my defense the Iranian-American actor, born in Tehran and raised in Texas, looks different in each of his key roles. But still! I'd never let this talent slip by me with an actress no matter what they did with their hair and costumes.

Rains was the mohawked punk rocker in the little-seen but high-energy Taqwacores (2010) and the sleazy drug-addled pimp in the stunning Iranian vampire picture A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014).

More after the jump...

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Thursday
Feb252016

Short Film Contenders Pt 1. Who Will Win?

Eric Blume reporting for duty. We hadn't yet reviewed the short film Oscar nominees so I binged all 15 of this week. Many minds and bladders wander away from the Oscar telecast during these three categories.  Even those of us who claim we’ve “seen everything” have rarely seen all of the entries in the three shorts fields. But pay attention because these winners can bring some of the best moments of the show:  remember the 1991 show when producer Debra Chasnoff won for Documentary Short Subject for the General Electric expose Deadly Deception?  She got to the podium and said “boycott GE!” with a cut to Barbra Streisand smiling and clapping with Kevin Costner right behind her decidedly smiling and not clapping.  We Oscar lovers live for moments like this.

There’s a lot of quality among the three categories this year.  Here’s a quick overview as well as thoughts on who might prevail and why on two of the categories.

Documentary Short Subject

Body Team 12 follows the only female Liberian Red Cross member of a team which comes to remove dead bodies during the Ebola outbreak.  It’s the shortest of the five nominees at only 13 minutes, and therefore it doesn’t have a strong driving narrative, nor does it culminate in a larger meaning.  It simply follows the team while they gear up and remove the bodies, interspersed with an interview from its main subject.  It’s focused and lovely in its simplicity, but it suffers from its brevity. 

Pro:  Ebola.  Con: Uncomplicated.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness follows Saba, a Pakastani girl who is shot and left for dead by her father and uncle in an “honor killing” once she marries the young man she loves.  It’d be hard for anyone with a feminist bone or beating heart in them to not get riled up by this story, and it’s told with restraint and intelligence. 

Pro:  Angry.  Con: Angry.

Eight more shorts after the jump

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