Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oscar Foreign Film Predictions 2010

This is bound to be the longest entry, since it covers the enormous film industries of France, Germany and India.....

26. COSTA RICA's film output is at a record high, producing a few films each year. They only sent a film once in 2005 but they may well send a second one this year. Front-runner is “Cold Water of the Sea”, which played in Rotterdam, about a little girl with an overactive imagination whose tall tale of abuse ends up destroying her family. I think it should be selected over unwanted pregnancy drama “Gestacion” (featuring evil nuns), which is the sophomore film of Esteban Ramirez (the director of CR’s 2005 submission, “Caribe”). Less likely: “Through Closed Eyes”, a spare 65-minute family drama about the grief of a widower.

27. COTE D'IVOIRE submitted one film in 1976- and they unexpectedly won the Oscar, beating French, Italian and German films (although it should be noted their film was a majority French production). Apparently satisfied with their 100% win record, they never entered the competition again. Their once-active local film industry is nearly dead. No signs they will ever the race again. For the sake of completion, I’ll say they choose “Le Djassa a pris feu” which was released nationally in December. It’s a low-budget local story of two brothers from an impoverished family where one becomes a petty criminal, and the other a cop.

28. CROATIA has chosen films from its Pula Film Festival every year for the past twelve years (although due to release dates, two films from the 2004 Festival got picked), and this year’s line-up has just been announced, narrowing the field down to seven. The winner will be announced on July 24th, but they don’t often pick the winner to represent them (only twice in the past seven years). Only one of the films has premiered so far, but I predict they choose “72 Days”, a very black comedy starring acclaimed actor Rade Serbedzija about an entire family supported by the pension one elderly relative- and what happens when he dies. In second place: “Just Between Us”, an erotic comedy that got decent reviews in the spring but whose trailer doesn’t look too promising...In third and fourth are two movies about marital strife, by previously submitted directors: “Mother of Asphalt” (by the director of lesbian drama “Fine Dead Girls”) has the edge over “Two Summer Days” (by the director of father-son drama “Armin”) by concentrating on drama rather than the action of “Days”. In fifth: “The Performance” about a bunch of Croatians in NYC for 9/11. Unlikely: “Forest Creatures”, which sounds like British thriller “Severance”. In last place: “The Show Must Go On”, a sci-fi horror film starring the cast of Croatia’s Big Brother (?!) We should have a better idea after the awards are given out at Pula.

29. CUBA, despite strained relations with the US, has sent films six of the past eight years. Last year’s film was a confusing mess. Oh well. This year, they have three films which have a very good chance. I predict they send dark horse “Lisanka”, a love story set amid the Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost destroyed the world as we know it in 1962. It’d be interesting to see this from their point of view. The smart money should be on “Jose Marti: Eye of the Canary”, a biography about the youth of Cuban national hero Jose Marti, by Fenrando Perez who repped Cuba in 1991 and 2003, showing longstanding favor with the Cuban Academy. I’m not sure why I’m backing Lisanka. Just a hunch. In a very close third place is “El premio flaco” (The Booby Prize), a tragicomedy by Juan Carlos Cremata who repped Cuba in 2002 (for a bad film) and 2005 (for a good one). Cuba chooses comedies a lot, so this strange melodrama about a poor woman whose life falls apart when she wins a new house, has a good shot. Unlikely but possible: ensemble drama “Large Distance” and erotic, psychological drama “Afinidades”, which stars Vladmir Cruz and Jorge Perugorria, who costarred in Cuba’s only Oscar nominee thus far, “Strawberry & Chocolate”. It seems they star in a movie together virtually every year (my favorite is “The Waiting List”), but Cuba has never chosen any of their pairings since.

30. THE CZECH REPUBLIC, as usual, has a number of films to choose from. They haven’t been nominated since 2003, but they are usually a contender, and they have the best Oscar record in Eastern Europe, excluding the Russians. I think they’ll send either “Kawasaki’s Rose” or the soon-to-be-released “Kajinek”. “Rose” is directed by Oscar-nominated Jan Hrebejk (“Divided We Fall”) and was nominated for Best Picture at last year’s Czech Lions (it lost to last year’s Oscar submission, “Protektor”). It has a meaty topic: Communist collaborators after the fall of Communism, which is handled with typical Czech pathos and humor. “Kajinek” is a baity true-life trial movie/thriller about an infamous hit man (who’s still alive), who did his dirty work during the Communist years. I really can’t decide between these two. I’ll pick “Rose” because Jan has represented the Czechs before, but it’s too close to call. Neither film is guaranteed a spot though- consider “Three Seasons in Hell”, which also got a Czech Lion nod last year, and which is representing the Czech Republic in Karlovy Vary. It’s set in the 1940s (like most Czech submissions), and tells a politically charged love story against the backdrop of post-WWII, Oscar’s favorite era. Three other dark horses will figure into the decision (in order of likelhihood): “Walking Too Fast” is a noirish thriller about a crooked cop, “Dreamers”, which will premiere in Karlovy Vary, is the story of a bunch of 30-something friends in modern-day Prague, and “Women in Temptation” was a major box-office hit about a marital counselor who finds her own marriage in trouble. Extreme long-shots in the Czech Top Ten: Jan Sverak won an Oscar for “Kolya”, but his animated children’s film “Kooky” won’t; nor will Felliniesque “Market Chalet”, comedy “The Doctor from Hippopotamus Lake”. Premiering too late: War drama “Lidice” will premiere in December, after the deadline, but it’s already well-positioned for next year’s race.

31. DENMARK, according the DFI website, has 27 eligible films. About one-third of these are youth and children’s films which won’t come into play. For those of you who predict “A Family”, IMDB says it won’t be released until after the deadline. No less than four films are by previously submitted directors: Oscar nominee Susanne Bier (“After the Wedding”) has “In a Better World” a drama that spans two continents and concerns two reunited twins who survived the Holocaust. Christoffer Boe (“Reconstruction”) has “Everything Will Be Fine”, a thriller about a journalist who uncovers a scandal involving Danish troops abroad. Erik Clausen (“Carl My Childhood Symphony”) has “Freedom on Parole”, about the relationship between an ex-con and his son. And finally Thomas Vinterberg (the superb “Celebration”) has “Submarino” (Berlin) about two brothers who meet for the first time at their mother’s funeral. Among the other high-profile films released this year are “Brotherhood”, a gay neo-Nazi romance which won the Rome Film Festival, “Oldboys”, a comedy-drama about a depressed old man who finds meaning in his life through a life of crime (nommed for Best Pic at the Danish Oscars) and “R”, a prison drama about two young criminals- one Danish, one a Muslim immigrant. There’s also the soon-to-be-released “Experiment”, reminiscent of Australia’s “Rabbit Proof Fence” about Greenlandic children taken from their families and raised in mainland Denmark. These eight films will battle it out. My predictions: the prior Oscar nom and Holocaust hook will get Bier and her “World” the nod. In second place: the Greenlandic “Experiment”, followed by Vinterberg’s “Submarino”. Rounding out the Top Five: “Brotherhood” and “R”. And there’s surely too much competition for the rest of the Top Ten, namely Per Fly’s “The Woman Who Dreamed of a Man” and relationship comedy “Therapy”.

32. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC submitted three films between 1983-1995, and then gave up. Reports show that half of their announced films never get finished- incidentally, my prediction last year (“Hermaphrodite”) never got released. That said, several better-than-average films have just been completed- they just had their first-ever film compete in Toronto- “La Soga” (a.k.a. “The Butcher’s Son”)- a violent urban drama set in NYC and the DR, which may convince them to return. If not, they have two major historical dramas- “Blood Tropics”, starring Michelle Rodriguez ("Avatar"), about two sisters who fought the Trujillo dictatorship, and “The Color of Night”, about race relations. “La Soga” has the potential to bring them back.

33. ECUADOR last submitted six years ago, with Sebastian Cordero’s disturbing thriller, “Cronicas”. This year, they’ll probably return with Sebastian Cordero’s disturbing thriller, “Rabia”. Cordero is the only international Ecuadorean director, and “Rabia”, about a murderous Ecuadorean antihero on the lam in Spain, is supposed to be quite good. It’s main obstacle is that it’s not really an Ecuadorean film...but neither was “Cronicas”. If they want to choose a more homegrown film (and I doubt they will...they just won’t enter), they could choose one of three other eligible films, most likely “Prometheus, Deported”, about a group of Ecuadoreans facing deportation from Spain that looks quite interesting. “Riff-Raff” won an award in Montreal World, but is supposedly pretty bad, so it and pregnancy drama “Maria como juego de ninos” are out of the running.

34. EGYPT took last year off despite some good films. Film production is way down, although local films take a significant percentage of the local market share. Production went from 57 films in 2008 to only 12 films in 2009, and the economic downturn plus a summer Ramadan means this year the figure is still below normal. If they choose to send a film, it’s sure to be one of three: “Birds of the Nile”, “Heliopolis” or “The Traveller”. “Birds of the Nile” is directed by Magdy Ahmed Aly (who represented Egypt in 2002), and was the only Egyptian film in competition at the Cairo Film Festival this year. It’s the story, spanning several decades, of a lower-middle-class family. “Heliopolis” is an ensemble drama by a young 31-year old debiut director about life in modern-day Cairo, and it’s gotten pretty good reviews. I tried to see it at the DC Film Festival, but it sold out quickly. “The Traveller” is this year’s big cheese. It’s the first film to be fully funded by the Ministry of Culture in thirty years, and it was expensive! It also co-stars 78-year old Omar Sharif in a rare return to his native country’s cinema. The film won a minor award in Venice, and looks at Egypt on three key days in history, 1948 (the first Arab-Israeli war), 1973 (the Yom Kippur War) and 2001 (9-11). The problem is that for all of its expense, it’s not supposed to be an extremely cohesive or engaging film. Dark horse: “Messages from the Sea” is a tense romance between a recent graduate and a mysterious woman. It’s by a respected director and it was quite well-received in Berlin. Very unlikely: “Escaping Tel Aviv” a spy thriller by the director of Egypt’s last submission (“The Island”) and the poorly reviewed “Egyptian Maidens”. Final predictions: Sharif pushes “Traveller” to an Oscar slot, followed by “Birds”, “Heliopolis” and “Messages”.

35. ESTONIA makes some of the best films that no one knows about. I recently visited Estonia and picked up DVDs of their Oscar submissions (most easy to find, with perfect English subtitles), and they’ve all been good so far. This year, I believe they have four films eligible. Of those four, it’s pretty clear they’ll send “The Temptation of St. Tony”, which got hands-down the best reviews, and competed at Sundance and Rotterdam. It’s the story of an average guy who suddenly decides not to be bound by human morality. It’s reputed to be quite a cult sensation, though definitely not an Oscar nominee. The runner-up would have to be “Red Mercury”, a genre action thriller about life in the early 1990s, immediately post-independence. The other two, “The Snow Queen”, a modern re-telling of a Hans Christian Andersen faerie tale, and “Bank Robbery”, about an ex-con trying to go straight, got mixed reviews.

36. FIJI doesn’t really have a film industry of its own, although its Film Commission promotes the islands as a filming location. Although they have three main languages (Fijian, Hindi and English), their first Oscar submission (and first-ever feature film) was in the minority Rotuman language. Fiji’s second film was banned from being released in Fiji in 2007 for “inappropriate themes”. Film #3, “Ghar Pardes” (Home Abroad), was released in Fijian cinemas in January. It’s a Bollywood-style film about Indo-Fijian migrant workers who emigrate abroad. I doubt it will be sent to the Oscars since it was made by Indo-Fijians, and the government is somewhat discriminatory to this community, but it’s eligible, so who knows?

37. FINLAND has fourteen eligible films this year and five of them are contenders to represent at the Oscars. The odds-on favorite has to be expensive historical Winter War drama “Under the North Star”. The Winter War is a moment of nationalist pride for the Finns, and several previous submissions have had this as their theme. It’s an epic three-hour film about a young man going to fight for his country. Problems? Well, it lost Best Picture to a minimalist (and very average) film at the Finnish Oscars earlier this year (last year’s submission “Father Jacob”) so it’s not universally loved, an it’s really only one-half of a whole. The second half will be released in late September and may compete for votes. The biggest threat is “Bad Family”, a dysfunctional family drama (Finland makes a lot of these) about a divorced family where the son grows up with the abusive father, and the daughter with the mother. In third place: Nenets-language drama (Finland submitted one in 2000) “Pudana: Last of the Life”, about the memories of an old indigenous woman looking back on her life. It’s supposed to be quite a good film. Rounding out the Top Five are two gentle comedies: “Princess”, about a mentally ill woman who believes she is a Princess (think “Enchanted” in a psych ward) and “Backwood Philosophe”, a culture-clash story about academics in deep, northern Finland. Oscar loves war movies, so I still put my money on “Under the North Star”.

38. FRANCE's stated goal is to be nominated for an Oscar every year, and they usually manage to do it- seven nominations (plus one shortlist appearance) in the past eleven years is certainly impressive, and even the three snubbed films- “8 Women”, “Persepolis” and, to a lesser extent, “Bon Voyage” were great movies. Although the French have not won since 1992, they do understand what Oscar likes, and they choose their submissions accordingly. This year, I think Oscar will like “Micmacs”, a breezy and visually inventive comedy about one man’s involvement with the arms trade, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie”) which has already opened in the U.S. to good reviews. France knows that Oscar likes some humor with their subtitles. However, they do have lots more to choose from, and could definitely go for either of two real-life dramas that played in Cannes, “Of Gods and Men” (about the murder of a group of Cistercian monks in Algeria in the 1990s), which won Second Prize, and epic 16th century costume drama “The Princess of Montpensier”, about the fight between Catholics and Protestants. It’s not scheduled to open until November, but France has done qualifying runs for the Oscars before. In fourth place, “In the Beginning”, about a con-man trying to swindle an economically depressed town. It got great reviews and a slew of Cesar nominations (it ultimately lost to “Un Prophete”). A half-dozen dark horses (in order) face an uphill battle: “Wild Grass”, a romance about two people brought together by a lost wallet, is by an acclaimed 88-year director, but not everyone loves the film, “Heartbreaker” is a popular comedy about an enterprise that breaks up couples for profit, but the subject matter may be too light, “Certified Copy”, is a romantic drama with the starpower of Juliette Binoche and acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami but is likely too intellectual for its own good, “The Concert” presses all the right Oscar buttons (Jews, War, pretty music), but without the critical reviews to sustain a realistic campaign, Mathieu Amalric’s burlesque theatrical drama “On Tour” just doesn’t sound good enough and “Hands Up”, deals with illegal immigration in a refreshing way (a classroom of elementary school students lobby for their Chechen classmate to stay in France), but is too small to represent France. My money is on "Les Micmacs".

39. GEORGIA has one of the clearest choices on the list. I think it’s highly unlikely they’ll choose choose anything but “Street Days”. It’s an intriguing moral dilemma drama about a drug addict who is asked by corrupt cops to implicate his friend’s teenage son in a crime. If he refuses, he will be sent to jail. It’s the only Georgian film to really be playing the Film Festival circuit this year. The only competition should be “Conflict Zone”, a bitter dark comedy about two guys thrown together during the wars of the 1990s, and their mission to buy artillery. They both sound good. Third place: “Susa”, about a young Georgian teen.

40. GERMANY makes a huge number of films, which is why it’s so strange that they chose to announce early and steal neighboring Austria’s film last year (yes, I know “White Ribbon” was a co-production and equally German, but they knew Austria was going to choose it). A lot of Germany’s big movies of the year will be released in October (like Tom Tykwer’s “Drei”), so they won’t be eligible...I think the German nominee will be one of three films: “Bergblut” (Mountain Blood) is a large-scale 19th century historical drama about the struggle of the principality of Tyrol to maintain its independence (the battle was lost). “Soul Kitchen” is Fatih Akin’s first comedy, and it’s a fun food-related film (Oscar likes these) about a Greek restaurant in Hamburg, which audiences love. “When We Leave” is a drama about a Turkish-German woman and her struggles against her own family. Germany now holds the best record in the world in this category- six nominations in eight years, including two wins, and they want to keep it up. It’s a tough choice, but I’m going to guess “Soul Kitchen”. However, it should be noted that Akin’s last submission (“Edge of Heaven”) and Germany’s last comedy (“Goodbye Lenin”) were the two most recent German films that failed to get an Oscar nomination (though they both deserved them…..). If Germany gets worried, I think they’ll go with the amazing vistas of “Bergblut” (the trailer is gorgeous), followed by “Leave”. In fourth place: “The Last Silence”, an intriguing murder mystery. In fifth: “In the Shadows”, a crime drama. Two films that might come into play if they are released in time: “Nemesis” is a psychological thriller starring the late UIrich Muhe (“Lives of Others”) and his wife Susanne Lothar, (“White Ribbon”) one of the greatest actresses working today. Apparently it’s release is being held up by a lawsuit, but vault it to the Top Three if it comes out; also “Me & Kaminski” reunites the director and star of “Goodbye Lenin”. Unlikely but possible: “Afterwards”, about a woman concealing her GDR past alongside her homeless father, “The Chinese Man”, about serial murders in Sweden and their relation to a young German woman, “Sasha”, a gay-interest melodrama, “Shahada”, about three young Muslims in Germany, and two Austrian co-productions, the well-reviewed “The Robber” and the poorly-reviewed “Jew Suss”.

41. GREECE became one of the last countries to establish their own Film Awards this year, and cult hit “Dogtooth” won the first-ever Award in May. The film about violence and sexuality amongst a pretty F***ed up family has been on the Film Festival circuit for over a year, but waiting until November to premiere in Greece, making it eligible. Rumor has it that the Best Picture winner will go to the Oscars, so I’m predicting “Dogtooth”. If that is just a rumor, then I think the spot is more likely to go to “Deep Soul”, a large-scale film about two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Greek Civil War. It will definitely find more favor that the incestuous goings-on in “Dogtooth”. Fellow Best Pic nominee “Strella” probably has the best reviews of the three (an ex-con falls for a transsexual). In fourth place, I predict 17th century period drama “Black Field”, about a very strange love story between a Janissary and a nun. A fourth Best Pic nominee, “Plato’s Academy”, a comedy about a racist slacker who learns he is actually half-Albanian, will likely come in fifth. Less likely: trafficking drama “Dancing on Ice” and comedy “The Building Manager”. I predict “Dogtooth”, but I think the Greeks would be smarter to go with “Strella” or “Black Field”.

42. GUATEMALA only submitted once in 1994, and they won’t send a movie this year either. If they did, it would be likely to be “The Return of Lencho”, about a young graffiti artist who returns home after 10 years in the States.

43. HONG KONG has gotten into the habit of sending big, splashy Mandarin-language Chinese co-productions instead of the small, locally-based Cantonese films they used to. For that reason, I think they’ll send “Bodyguards and Assassins” (which at least has some Cantonese in it), an expensive ($25 million) all-star martial-arts retelling of the story of Sun Yat Sen. It won Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and was the only HK film to get a Best Picture nomination at the Asian Film Awards this year. However, it could easily be beaten by “Legend of the Fist” (both star Donnie Yen, who had four leading roles this year), which will premiere right around the deadline (Hong Kong has a history of doing an early one-theatre premiere for their submissions), and which is a long-awaited update of a role made famous by Bruce Lee, and which is set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. If Hong Kong decides to go to the arthouse (and they did last year), they could choose “Echoes of the Rainbow”, about a working-class Cantonese family in the 1960s. Rounding out the Top Five: “Ip Man 2” (once again with Donnie Yen), the well-received sequel to the film they should have sent last year, and the latest from Jackie Chan, “Little Big Soldier”. Unlikely dark horses: I think they’re too small, but documentary “KJ: Music and Life” won the prize of the Hong Kong Film Critics last year. And “Gallants” is a fun genre-bending film, described as “Cocoon” with kung-fu.

44. HUNGARY is traditionally the first country in the world to choose their film, so they should be announcing fairly soon. They usually pick one of their premieres from Hungarian Film Week. The Hungarian Academy truly chooses their favorite film, without thinking too much about the film’s chances with Oscar. So, they’re fairly unpredictable. The three front-runners are “Bibliotheque Pascal”, an S & M drama about a trafficking victim who returns home to regain custody of her child (Winner of Best Picture & Foreign Critics Award at Hungarian Film Week, also in Berlin), “Question in Details”, a well-received and quirky drama about blind dating (Best Director and Internet Award at Film Week) and “So Much for Justice”, a big epic directed by 88-year old Miklos Jancso (who represented Hungary for the first time in 1966). His 79-year old ex-wife also has a contender in “The Last Report on Anna”, about an activist who fought against the Communists and the Fascists. Other dark horses: “The Camera Murderer”, a thriller about a series of missing children, “The Days of Desire”, about a mute housemaid working for an unhappy married couple, “Kolorado Kid”, an action movie a youth trying to escape the secret police in 1950s Hungary, “Returning Home”, about a war refugee returning to Romania, and “Vespa”, about a Gypsy child who goes to the city to pick up a prize. My predictions for the Top Five: “Bibliotheque Pascal” gets the nod, followed by “Question in Details”, “So Much for Justice”, “The Camera Murderer” and “Last Report on Anna”.

45. ICELAND's economic catastrophes have not prevented this tiny bankrupt nation of 300,000 from producing a record number of films: I count nine that will be released in the qualifying period, plus a tenth that might. It’s a tough race between two films, namely gentle Alzheimers family drama “Mamma Gogo” and box-office hit comedy “Mr. Bjarnfedarson”. “Bjarnfedarson” was the surprise winner of their head-to-head contest at this year’s Edda Awards. However, “Gogo” is directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland’s only Foreign Oscar nominee, and he has represented Iceland a total of five times (The director of “Bjarnfedarson” has repped the country only once). “Gogo” is also a more Oscary film, and they may feel like rewarding the film at the Oscasrs since it lost at the Eddas. Both films are threatened slightly by “Messengers” a super-cool looking fantasy-thriller about a man who can see angels and demons- but not much. Also, “Undercurrent”, a soap opera aboard a fishing boat, could also come into play if it’s released by September 30th. I would be very surprised if any other films figured in, including “December”, about an émigré who returns home, “Polite People”, about a man trying to bilk a small town and “Jitters”, a depressing sounding gay-themed youth drama. I’m a big fan of the country, so I think it’s great they have so much going on...

46. INDIA makes a lot of movies, and while a few are international blockbusters, few are critical successes internationally. India’s press laments every year that they only have racked up three nominations (not bad, actually….that’s better than any country in Asia except Japan and Taiwan’ Ang Lee ) but they usually send very commercial efforts, with the odd regional arthouse film thrown in every few years. As usual, superstar Aamir Khan (who has starred in four of the past ten Indian submissions), figures prominently in the decision-making. The 400-pound gorilla this year is “Three Idiots”, a traditional Bollywood hit with comedy, melodrama and musical numbers packaged in a 2hr. 40min. running time. It swept most of the awards at the Indian Film Awards, and is a typical Indian Oscar submission. However, I predict an upset by “Peepli Live”, a black comedy produced by Aamir Khan, about a heavily indebted farmer who is advised to commit suicide so his family can collect the government compensation money. It’s gotten very good reviews, was the first Indian film ever at Sundance and has starpower behind it. I think it will be the surprise Indian nominee, with “Idiots” coming second. In third place: “My Name is Khan”, starring Shahrukh Khan in a relevant film about a borderline autistic Muslim Indian trying to convince the US President that he is not a terrorist, despite his common name. In fourth, “Ishqiya”, a crime caper that defied all expectations and succeeded based on critical acclaim and word-of-mouth. India makes films in dozens of languages that nobody sees outside their home state. Since I know nothing about most of these regions, I’ll predict the well-received Konkani-language (the language of Goa State) drama that played in Berlin & Toronto as the “non-Hindi” favorite. Also in with a chance: “Road Movie”, which has played at several international fests, big action-thrillers “Raajneeti” and “Kudaan”, coming-of-age story “Udaal”, and small drama “Madholal Keep Walking, set against the backdrop of the 2008 Mumbai Bombings.

47. INDONESIA usually sends a movie (8 of the last 12 years), and this year, it looks like they are destined to send a bad one. Indonesia is very proud of the fact that President Obama spend several formative years in the country as a child. A book was written about his life, and this book was made into a movie, namely “Little Obama”. They tried to time the release to President Obama’s visit, but President Obama canceled his visit (for a third time) and the film got released anyway. Anyway, the film looks positively awful (, but it’s by a previously submitted director and the Indonesians will probably think it’s a compliment to send it in. In any case, they don’t have anything else outstanding. Other possibilities include: “The Dreamer”, a coming-of-age story set in Sumatra, and the first Indonesian film to open the Jakarta Film Festival in a decade. However, it’s a sequel, and Indonesia didn’t submit the first part...”Maida’s House”, a melodrama covering the better part of Indonesia’s 20th century history, and which got a Best Pic nod at the Indonesian Film Awards...“Sunday Morning in Victoria Park”, an issue-based film about a migrant worker in Hong Kong. Less likely, but possible: “Under the Sky”, an Islamic-themed drama about orphans, ”Tanah Air Beta”, about a family split up by East Timorese independence and “Menebus Impian”, about a mother and daughter trying to improve their lot in life. Indonesia’s highest-profile films of the year are unlikely choices: “Macabre”, is famous more for sadistic violence and problems with the censors, rather than for Oscar quality, and the acclaimed “At Stake” is a documentary. My prediction: “Obama” gets elected.

48. IRAN is a strange country. Despite up-and-down relations with the US, they always participate, and they usually send thought-provoking and interesting films (personal favorites have been “Colour of Paradise” and “Café Transit”). Will last year’s surprise snub of a popular favorite (“About Elly”) piss them off enough to miss the competition? I hope not….This year’s race is really wide open- there are no big directors or films out there. There’s still lots to choose from, as there were about two-dozen new films at the Fajr Film Festival, and several others have played at the Cannes Film Market and elsewhere. My prediction is “Kingdom of Solomon”, a big-budget period film about the Biblical tale of King Solomon. The stills look gorgeous, and I’ve never heard of a big-budget Iranian film, so the novelty might spur them to send it in. In second place: “Gold and Copper”, about a theological student who must quit his studies to take care of his sick wife. In third position: “In Purple Color”, which won the biggest awards at the Fajr Film Festival (including Picture & Director), but which features a controversial love story (an intelligence agent and an opposition activist) that led the film to be banned since 2003. The Iranian Academy has sent controversial films before though so one never knows. Rounding out the Top Five: “A Man Who Ate His Cherries”, about an impotent man getting a divorce, which did not play at Fajr, but which has been seen at festivals worldwide, and “The Fateful Night”, about a family fleeing war. There’s very little about Iranian films online, so a slew of other films from Fajr could get the nod including “Teheran, Teheran”, which tells two stories of life in the city, “Elixir and Dust, about people stuck in the international airport during the Islamic Revolution (I think these two may be too controversial), “10th Day Noon”, about a woman serving with the Red Crescent in Iraq, “Seven Minutes to Autumn”, about a young married couple, or “40 Years Old” (self-explanatory). I’d love to see “Payback”, a prison drama about four women seeking revenge on the men in their lives, or “Aal”, a horror-thriller about an evil spirit, which sounds like the most interesting choices. Out of the running: I don’t think they’ll consider Berlinale minimalist drama “The Hunter”, by a Europe-based Persian director.

49. IRAQ submitted films from 2005-2007, and then took the past two years off for unknown reasons, possibly due to a lack of screening cinemas. This year, I believe they will return with “Son of Babylon” (by the director of their 2006 submission), about a boy and his grandmother trying to find family members during the 2003 fall of Saddam. It got a confirmed release in Baghdad in May. Three Kurdish dramas could threaten: “Kick Off”, about refugees housed in a football stadium, “Herman”, about the suppression of Kurds in 1988, which played in Pusan and “Whistle With the Wind”, about a rural postman. But I doubt it.

50. IRELAND sent a movie once in 2007. Almost all of their films are in English. At the Irish Film Awards this year, the Gaelic language awards all went to television series. Unfortunately, I don’t see that they have anything eligible.


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