Yesterday at an unusually tense and controversial Ophir Awards ceremony, Sand Storm won the Israeli Oscar and will thus be Israel's Oscar submission. The debut female director Elite Zexer, giving the last acceptance speech of the evening, spoke about how she employed Jews, Muslims, and Christians on the picture.
Though I already think Israel should have won the Oscar in this category (for Late Marriage which was submitted but not nominated in the year of Amelie and No Man's Land) and they've had high quality films in the mix before, I'm a little cool on this particular picture. Ah well, you can't love everything!
As more and more titles are announced for the Foreign Oscar Race, the variety of genres keeps growing, too. We have animated films, horror thrillers, docu-fiction hybrids, political dramas, romantic comedies, crime films, as well as submissions from this particular category's three all time favorite subgenres: 1) WW II Anything, 2) Internationally Famous Auteur Made It, and 3) Emotional Journeys Featuring Young Child/Children Forming Bond and/or Travelling With Old Person/Persons.
Beyond Israel's submission the past few days have brought us a Persian horror film submitted by the UK called Under the Shadow, Canada's third attempt at getting Oscar voters to love Xavier Dolan with It's Only the End of the World, Slovenia's docu-drama about America's interest in the Yugoslavian space program in the 1960s, Iceland's family drama Sparrows (which curiously marks the fourth year in a row that country has sent a film with an animal in the title), a big budget Pakistani effort about poets in two different eras called Mah e Mir, and Hong Kong's hit crime drama Port of Call starring Aaron Kwok. You can read about all 71 titles on the charts. Italy and France, historically Oscar's two most awarded countries, have not yet announced their submissions at this writing.
We've reviewed 9 of the 71 titles announced thus far (with more reviews soon) In case you missed any of those reviews, here's the list:
- Death in Sarajevo - Bosnia & Herzegovina's politically-loaded hotel drama
- Mother - Estonia's black comedy about a very popular comatose man
- Chevalier - Greece's satire on competitive masculinity
- Sand Storm - Israel's feminist drama (their first submission entirely in Arabic) about women in unhappy marriages
- A Flickering Truth - New Zealand's doc on a quite unusual subject: film preservation in Afghanistan
- Apprentice - Singapore's prison drama on capital punishment
- My Life as a Courgette - Switzerland's animated film about orphaned/abused children
- As I Open My Eyes - Tunisia's youth drama about musicians struggling with the lack of freedom of expression they're allowed
- From Afar - Venezuela's violent intergenerational LGBT romance
Four of the submissions this year are in theaters in the US or about to hit: Australia's Tanna and South Korea's The Age of Shadows are now in theaters in select cities; Sweden's A Man Called Ove opens next Friday; and on October 14th we get one of the most high-profile competitors in Mexico's Desierto starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Foreign Oscar regular / international star Gael García Bernal. (Bernal also leads Chile's excellent submission from Pablo Larraín called Neruda; we fully expect Larraín to have two films in the Oscar running since he also directed Jackie). Desierto is directed by Alfonso Cuarón's 34 yr old son Jonás, who co-wrote Gravity with his dad. Will you try to catch these films in theaters?