52. IRELAND submitted an Irish Gaelic-language film once in 2007. As far as I know, that film (“Kings”) was the last Irish-language feature produced, although there continue to be a lot of Irish soap operas and television programs being made in Ireland. Normally they’d sit out, but this year’s Best Picture winner at the Irish Film and Television Awards was “As If I’m Not There”, a film with all of its rather minimal dialogue in Serbo-Croatian. It's directed by Juanita Wilson who was an Oscar nominee for Best Short Film in 2010. The film, about the trauma of Bosnian rape victims, could be Ireland’s surprise second entry.
53. ISRAEL automatically chooses the winner of the Ophir Awards, which take place annually in September. This year is essentially a two-film race, namely between: “Footnote”, which is directed by two-time Ophir winner and Oscar nominee (for the dreary, boring “Beaufort”) Joseph Cedar, and which also won Best Screenplay at Cannes; and “Restoration”, which impressively won the top Prizes in both Karlovy Vary and Jerusalem. “Restoration” is a drama about the family dynamics at a restoration workshop, between a man, his apprentice and his estranged son. “Footnote” is another father-son drama, this time starring Lior Ashkenazi (“Late Marriage”, “Walk on Water”) about two Talmudic (Jewish studies) professors. Both of these will be sure to be nominated for the top Ophir, probably joined by “Beautiful Valley”, about an elderly woman pushed aside by the privatization of her kibbutz, “My Australia”, set in Poland, about a Holocaust survivor concealing her Jewish heritage from her teenage kids, and the amusingly titled “The Slut”, about a promiscuous 30-something woman. “Obsession”, about a woman desperately trying to keep her husband, as seen by her silent young son, may also slip in to the Top Five, but I doubt anything but “Footnote” or “Restoration” can win. My prediction: Ophir voters care less about Cannes than people expect, and “Restoration” reps Israel.
54. ITALY has won this award more than any other country (even France!) although their heyday is far in the past; they won 5 of their 13 Oscars in the 40s and 50s, 2 in the 1960s and 3 more in the 1970s. My prediction is Nanni Moretti’s Cannes comedy-drama “We Have A Pope”, about the election of a new pontiff. Reviews haven’t been perfect, but it’s said to be a solid, mainstream effort. The other top contender is “We Believed”, a 19th century historical drama about the unification of Italy, which is positively NOT mainstream....It’s more than three hours long, and has been savaged by Western critics (so was Italy’s 2002 submission, “Pinocchio”, which I actually liked) but it won Best Picture at the national David Donatello Awards, so it shouldn't be counted out. Three other films by top directors could be selected IF they premiere in Italy before September 30. The long-awaited “Big House” by “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone, is an indictment of Italian media and reality television and “Terraferma”, by Emanuele Crialese (“Golden Door”), which will premiere in Venice, tells the story of an African woman trying to reach EU soil, via Sicily. “The Cardboard Village” tells the story of a number of illegal immigrants who seek sanctuary in a church which is scheduled for destruction. Some of those three will likely have to compete next year. Rounding out the Top Six is “The Salt of Life” an understated comedy of the sort that Italy use to send regularly. Less likely but possible: crime drama “A Quiet Life” and hit comedy “Welcome to the South”; both got Best Pic nominations at this year’s Italian Oscars, but “Quite Life” has been “Quiet” and “South” depends on some very local humor. Two dramas about the lives of Italian women- “First Assignment” and “Corpo Celeste” have gotten great reviews, but haven’t been seeing very much play internationally. I think Italy will elect "Pope", but I’m not confident at all. I get the feeling Italy will send some new film I’ve never hearD of yet- perhaps one which WILL premiere in Venice?
55. JAPAN has no obvious candidates. I predict the race will be between two outsiders who have already been in the Oscar race- “I Wish”, is by one of my favorite Japanese directors, Hirokazu Koreeda, and tells the story of two boys trying to get their divorced parents back together. Koreeda is an independent director outside the Japanese mainstream, but he was nominated by Japan in a similar weak year in 2004 for the excellent “Nobody Knows”. “Norwegian Wood” is by Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (“Scent of Green Papaya”), it stars Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi and it's based on the famous Murakami Haruki novel, but I'm skeptical that Japan would be comfortable selecting a foreign director to represent them (Sang-il Lee, a South Korean citizen, was selected in 2006, but he was born and raised in Japan). The other four main contenders this year are: “Oba the Last Samurai”, a bilingual war drama set in Okinawa in 1944 and co-starring Daniel Baldwin (it will have an excellent chance if it's more than 50% in Japanese), “Ogawa no hotori”, a period samurai drama co-starring Rinko Kikuchi, “Patisserie, Coin de la Rue”, a romantic comedy, and “Shin-San, Tanko Machi no Serenade”, set in 1963, about a woman returning to her hometown, directed by twice-selected Hideyuki Hirayama. Other obscure possibilities rounding out the Top Ten include “Hospitalite”, a low-key farcical comedy, ”Heaven’s Story”, an arty 4+ hour drama about two homicides (God...I hope they don’t choose it! I’ll never get through it!), “My Back Page”, a comedy set in the 1960s starring heart-throb Satoshi Tsumabuki, “Princess Toyotomi”, a crowd-pleasing conspiracy thriller referred as a Japanese DaVinci code, and two pretty period dramas- “Lady Shogun and Her Men” and “Sakuradamon Gate”- which ultimately failed to get any major nominations at last year’s Japanese Oscars. Unlikely: Naomi Kawase thrilled Cannes with “A Mourning Forest” but bored Japan with “Hanezu” and “Harakiri: Death of a Samurai” which will probably premiere too late. Top Three: "I Wish", "Oba the Last Samurai" and "Norwegian Wood".
56. JORDAN made one of the best Foreign Films of 2008 (“Captain Abu Raed”) and send it to the Oscars but it was pipped by inferior films from Austria, France and neighboring Israel (I didn’t see the German nominee). What a shame. They have at least two movies this year- “Transit Cities” is an ultra-low budget film about a woman returning home to Jordan after divorcing her husband in the United States, and “Fish Above Sea Level” is about a man whose inheritance falls through. They’re both possibilities, but I’m prediciting “Fish”.
57. KAZAKHSTAN has become a regular fixture here, racking up two shortlist spots in five years. Last year’s film, “Strayed” got very mixed reviews although I personally would recommend it. This year’s two main appearances on the film festival circuit are “Gakku” (Moscow), about two young men whose university education is thrown into jeopardy by the fall of the USSR in 1991, and “Mother’s Paradise” (Karlovy Vary), about a single mother, abandoned by her husband, forced to do terrible things to take care of her children. Two other movies have been highly publicized due to their international stars. “The Liquidator” (by the director of “Strayed”) is an action movie starring Vinnie Jones as a mute enforcer, while “Late Love” is a romantic drama about a number of older men looking for wives, including French actor Gerard Depardieu. Other possibilities include: “Sword of Victory” (which may not premiere in time), an epic historical action movie, “The Wanderer”, a low-budget drama, and “Fairytale Forest”, which incorporates animation and live-action into a modern-day fairy tale. Unlikely but possible: “Zheruik”, about the country’s multi-ethnic patchwork of peoples, and “Unreal Love” a romantic comedy about Internet dating. My prediction: “Late Love” reps the Kazakhs, followed by “Gakku”, “Mother’s Paradise” and “Sword of Victory”.
58. KOREA sends wonderful films to the Academy almost every year (although last year’s “Barefoot Dream” was mediocre) but still hasn't managed its first Oscar nod. The Korean films are one of the reasons I try to see all the films on the Oscar list instead of seeing just the nominees- it’s hard to justify how “Mother”, ”Crossing”, “Spring Summer Fall Winter and Spring”, or “King and the Clown” could be ignored by the Academy. The Koreans will have a tough choice this year, sifting through high-octane thrillers, quiet art films, Korean War epics, engaging mysteries and entertaining romantic comedies. Last year, they veered towards a commercial crowd-pleaser over a slew of Film Festival winners, and I don’t know if this will represent a trend or not. I think it was probably a desperate attempt to throw something more commercial at the Americans, in the hopes of getting a nomination. Last year, Korea shortlisted six films (See http://www.screendaily.com/news/asia-pacific/a-barefoot-dream-is-koreas-surprise-oscar-submission/5018003.article for a look at their decision-making process) . In alphabetical order, I see the six front-runners this year as: “Children”, a true-life murder-mystery about the disappearance of five boys in a rural region of Korea, “The Front Line”, a big-budget Korean War summer blockbuster, about the last days of the war, when both sides were trying to seize territory, in anticipation of a cease-fire , “Glove”, a box-office hit baseball drama about a washed-up coach who takes over for a team of hearing-impaired kids, “Hanji”, a cultural drama by acclaimed director Im Kwon-taek, about the cultural processes of Korean traditional paper, “Poongsan”, a low-budget drama written by Kim Ki-duk, about a man tasked with delivering messages across the heavily militarized North-South Korean border and “The Yellow Sea”, an action-crime drama about a man from a Korean-speaking region of China who is sent to Korea to carry out a hit. Dark horses for the shortlist also include: “In Love and the War”, about an isolated, neutral village trying to please both sides during the Korean War, “Late Blossom”, about a romance between two elderly people, and “Sector 7”, a much-anticipated 3D monster movie (Hit monster movie “The Host” was shortlisted in 2006). Less likely: period comedy-mystery “Detective K” (too comic), family drama “The Last Blossom” (too small), and mystery-thriller “No Doubt” (too obscure). Whatever happens, the Koreans are bound to pick a great film, so make sure to go and seek it out! My prediction: none of the films are perfect, but the Koreans will choose “The Yellow Sea”, which has American backers over #2- “Poongsan” and #3- The Front Line”, with “Hanji” and “Children” rounding out the Top Five.
59. KUWAIT last sent a film in 1978. They do have a potential contender in “Tora Bora”, about a Kuwaiti husband and wife looking for their lost son in Afghanistan. It’s unclear whether this will screen in cinemas or, as seems more likely, as an episodic miniseries on Kuwaiti TV.
60. KYRGYZSTAN sends films every other year or so...This year, the only features I know about are an obscure duo: “Talas-Bishkek” is about a taxi driver who falls for a pretty lady passenger, and “Adep Akhlak” is an absurdist film about three friends, including one who keeps trying to commit suicide. Dark horse is “Mother’s Paradise”, a new Kazakh film directed by Kyrgyzstan’s top director, Aktan Arym Kubat (who directed three of the country’s five submissions thus far). I’ll predict “Talas-Bishkek”.
61. LATVIA has six or seven eligible releases (depending on the autumn release of comedy "Monsieur Taurins"), which is quite a lot for them! This year is basically a two-film race between “The Return of Sergeant Lapins” a wry comedy about the difficulties faced by a Latvian soldier trying to readjust to normal life after serving in a war zone in Iraq, and “Threesome Dance”, a WWII drama about a Latvian soldier sentenced to death for deserting from the Nazi army, and the Latvian woman who becomes involved in a love triangle with him and a German commandant. It’s going to be really close, but I predict Latvia asks for a “Threesome”. “Gulf Stream Under Iceberg” looks impressive, but I doubt the Latvians would choose a Russian-language movie.
62. LEBANON always sends interesting, thought-provoking films to this competition (OK...”Bosta” wasn’t very thought-provoking...) and it’s unfortunate that they stopped sending films in 2008. I hope they rejoin. This year, they have no less than four films that have a chance. Two of them won awards in Abu Dhabi: “Here Comes the Rain” (Best Arab Film) is about a man who had to readjust to normal life with his family after being held captive by kidnappers for twenty years, while “OK, Enough, Goodbye” (Best New Director) is a droll, low-budget comedy about a 40-year old mama’s boy whose elderly mother leaves him without telling him where she is going. The other two star “Caramel” actress/director Nadine Labaki. “Stray Bullet” (Best Film in Dubai) is a drama about a strong-willed woman (Labaki) who decides to cancel her upcoming wedding, while “Where Do We Go Now?” (Un Certain Regard at Cannes) is a comedy based on the Lysistrata about sectarian tensions in a small town. Labaki stars and directs, just like her charming “Caramel” three years ago. Unfortunately, Oscar ignored it to nominate five inferior films (including a dull war drama about Lebanon, made by archenemy Israel...Ouch!) If they decide to return, I predict they send “Where do We Go Now”, followed by “Bullet” and “Rain”. 3D prostitute drama (?!) “Last Valentine in Beirut”, controversial protest drama “Rue Huvelin” and gay-interest comedy “Out Loud” need not apply.
63. LITHUANIA has a two-way race between its past two Best Picture winners at the national Silver Crane Awards. The 2011 winner, “Back in Your Arms”, a drama about a father and daughter separated for decades by the Iron Curtain, swept this year’s Awards. The 2010 winner, “Eastern Drift”, about a man on the run from the Russian mafia, is also eligible and it got more worldwide play including Berlin & a nomination at the Russian Oscars. Lithuania didn’t send anything last year, but I predict they send “Back in Your Arms”.
64. LUXEMBOURG doesn’t seem to have any eligible films this year, since most of their movies are minority co-productions, or films in English. The only majority Luxembourg film I know of is sauna comedy “Hot Hot Hot”, which is in English. I’ll guess thriller “Avant l’aube” (The Night Clerk) but that’s really a majority-French film with a French director and co-starring French actress Sylvie Testud.
65. MACEDONIA always sends a film if they have one, and this year they’ll end up with three or four before the September 30 deadline. The front-runner is politically incorrect comedy “Punk is Not Dead”, about a group of over-the-hill musicians who reunite their old band when an NGO asks them to do a gig in an ethnic Albanian town. It got a boost by its win in the East of the West Section at Karlovy Vary this year. Two other films- Tarantino-esque gangster comedy “This Is Not An American Movie” and short film omnibus “Skopje Remixed” are also possibilities. Unknown: “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears” is in post-production and will be a major contender if it premieres (doubtful) in time. It’s by a previously selected Macedonian director, and co-stars famed Spanish actress Victoria Abril with a multi-language, multi-national cast and crew.
66. MALAYSIA is a regional economic power, and they produce several dozen films each year, but they seem to have little interest in an Oscar as they have only sent a film once, back in 2004. That year, they sent an expensive 14th century period drama which exemplified style over substance...The film looked great but it was not a great film. This year, they have a similar expensive film entitled “The Malay Chronicles”, which is set in the 16th century, and which has clear, international ambitions. Reviews have been decidedly mixed for this multi-lingual action flick featuring palace intrigue and lavish battles between Chinese, Roman and Malay empires, but it has secured a release in the UK and elsewhere. If the film passes the 50% foreign-language requirement (much of it is in English) they could potentially use the Oscars as a promotional platform. Well-reviewed local Malay-language films this year include “Estet” (a comedy about a football match between rival rubber plantations) and “Cun”, a romantic-comedy, but both are surely too silly and local to coax the Malaysians back to the Oscar race.
67. MEXICO announced an eleven-film shortlist in August, so I cheated and waited for that to come out. Mexican eligibility dates are bizarre, which is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that one of their eleven finalists (“Seven Moments”) was made in 2004. Of the eleven films, I think it’s a two-way race between the favorite- gritty thriller “Miss Bala” (Cannes, Un Certain Regard)- and the challenger, sumptuous period drama “El baile de San Juan”. Most people in the blogosphere are saying that “Miss Bala”, a thriller about an aspiring beauty queen living amidst gangs and violence, is a shoo-in, considering its festival raves and its better reviews. However, I think it’s more likely the Mexicans will choose the costumes and sets of “San Juan”, which helped the Mexicans get their last shortlist spot two years ago, for “Arrancame la Vida” (which also had benefited from good, but not perfect, reviews). “San Juan” is a historical drama set in colonial Mexico, and will likely do better with Oscar voters, even if it isn’t a better film. There’s a small chance they could also choose “Bitten Bullet” (Bala Mordida), a well-reviewed thriller about police corruption and an even smaller chance they’ll choose comedy-drama “Middle of the World (La mitad del mundo), about a young mentally handicapped man’s sexual awakening. I don’t think the other seven films have too much of a chance, including cannibal horror-drama “We Are What We Are” (which I am dying to see). The other contenders are fiction features “180 Degrees”, “Dias de gracia”, “Viaje Redondo” and “Una pared para Cecilia”, and two documentaries- “Seven Moments” and “Flowers in the Desert”. My prediction that one of the top contenders to the Oscars and the other to the Goyas. I predict “El Baile de San Juan” for the Oscars.
68. MONGOLIA has a small domestic film industry which, like many countries, is divided between festival films made for foreign audiences (e.g. the films of Mongolia’s only Oscar nominee, Germany-based Byambasuren Davaa) and low-budget films made for domestic consumption. The only film I know of this year is “Passion”, an award-winning documentary about a filmmaker who travels throughout Mongolia desperately trying to get his film into local Mongolian cinemas. It won an award in Taipei, screened in Pusan and Dubai, and premiered in Mongolia in February, though it may not have met Oscar screening requirements. For a very interesting new article see here: http://film.culture360.org/magazine/in-focus/mongolian-film-the-power-of-passion.
69. MOROCCO has sent films three of the last five years (they skipped last year) and has the fourth-highest rate of Oscar participation from Africa (after Egypt, Algeria and South Africa). Morocco’s two main Film Festivals are an international one in Marrakech and a national competition in Tangier. The only Moroccan film in competition in Marrakech this year was “Mirages”, an interesting thriller about five men who apply for an executive position at a new company. The men are then abandoned in the desert (with four bottles of water) to decide who gets the job. The past two winners in Tangier both appear to be eligible: “Pegasus” (which also won the Grand Prize at FESPACO in Ouagadougou) is a controversial family drama about a pregnant young rape victim and “Fragments” is a feature documentary about a famous filmmaker. Among the other prominent films that have a chance from Morocco this year: “The End”, about a group of disaffected youth, “Love in the Medina” a romantic drama, “Majid”, a drama about street children, “The Mosque” a droll comedy about religion, which focuses on a village that refuses to allow a landowner to tear down a fake mosque that had been built for a movie, and “On the Plank”, a reverse of their 2009 submission, about two underemployed young women. Probably not eligible: “The Source” played at Cannes, but with its Romanian director, French money and international crew, it probably can’t rep Morocco. My prediction: “Pegasus” represents Morocco, followed closely by “The Mosque” and “Majid”.
70. NEPAL last sent a film nearly five years ago. Film production is up, but most films are flopping and made purely for local audiences. For a good article, see here: http://www.cinesansar.com/2011/04/flashback-2067-a-quick-recap-of-movies-released-in-2067.html. The Nepalis tried sending local films in 2003 and 2006 but quickly gave up on the competition. This year’s best bet is “Bato Muni Ko Phool”, a Bollywood-style musical about love and caste that was one of the only films that did well with critics and audiences. Unfortunately, it also failed financially due to the appearance of pirated copies immediately following its release. An Oscar submission might be a nice consolation, but I doubt they’ll send it. There’s also “Who Stole My Heart”, a rich-meets-poor love story in a similar vein.
71. THE NETHERLANDS usually does well at the Oscars, but they don’t have any really well-received movies so far this year- just a few average ones and a few out-there art films. Which will they pick? I’ll predict Ben Sombogaart’s upcoming “Isabelle”, which sounds very weird, but which could be really great (it hasn’t premiered anywhere yet). Sombogaart got the last Dutch Oscar nod (for “Twin Sisters”) and his latest film is a psychological thriller about an unattractive female artist who kidnaps a famous model for nefarious purposes. In second place, I’m picking “Always”, about the relationship between two adult siblings (including a gay older brother), and in third I’ll choose B&W film noir black comedy, “The Nobel Prize Winner” about a starving writer. If they want to go controversial, they could select “Majesty”, a fictional drama about the royal family, and if they want to go arty, they could choose “Code Blue”, a Cannes drama about an insane nurse. Aside from those five, there are plenty of other middle-of-the-road films- “Dusk” is an intriguing film based on a true-life murder that shocked the Netherlands, and “Sonny Boy” is the story about an interracial romance in the 1920s, but neither got positive reviews. “Penny’s Shadows” got better reviews, but it’s primarily a children’s film. Another unknown quantity: “Lotus”, which could possibly premiere before the deadline.
72. NICARAGUA made their first film in twenty years and duly sent it to the Oscars. That smart move got the film seen by a lot of people and put it on the filmmaking map again. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have any new feature films this year but hopefully they’ll be back soon. I'll predict "Karla's Arrival", a documentary about an impoverished single mother, trying to raise her newborn baby on the streets of Managua. It will represent Nicaragua at the AFI Latin American Film Festival. Another dark-horse possibility is “'El Último Comandante”, a Costa Rican film about Nicaragua which has a Nicaraguan co-director, Isabel Martinez (which is representing Costa Rica at the AFI Festival). Maybe one is worth a shot??
73. NORWAY has had a very strong year, with more than two-dozen eligible films. All three of their Best Picture nominees at the Amanda Awards are eligible (covering only six months of the current year) as are a number of exciting new releases coming out later this summer. The Film Experience, my favorite Oscar site, does a good look at the Norwegian race here: http://thefilmexperience.net/blog/2011/6/23/norway-and-oscar-which-amanda-nominee-will-they-submit.html This year’s Amanda nominees are: “The King of Devil’s Island”, a well-made, big-budget drama about a reform school for delinquents (Variety indicates it’s too clichéd), “Nokas” (Amanda, Best Pic nominee), a thriller about a true-life robbery, and surprise nominee, “Tears of Gaza”, an acclaimed documentary about the victims of Israeli repression in the Gaza Strip. Few people probably think of it as a local film, but it's the best-reviewed Norwegian film of the year. The most fun choice would be “The Troll Hunter”, a mockumentary that has found quite a few fans in the USA and elsewhere, while “Oslo, August 31st”, about writer’s angst, got good reviews at Cannes. These five films will be challenged by soon-to-be released “Sons of Norway”, a punk-rock drama. There’s probably too much competition for dark horses like tragicomedy “Happy, Happy” or well-received youth films like comedy “Turn Me On, Goddamit!” or drama “Totally True Love” (which beat “Devil’s Island” for a Director nod at the Amandas). Noomi Rapace’s psychological thriller “Babycall” will probably be released too late (depends which website you trust). It will be a tough race. “Oslo, August 31st” is the clear favorite, but “Tears of Gaza” will provide some intense competition. I predict “Tears”, with “Oslo” second, “Devil’s Island” in third, and “Troll Hunter” and “Sons of Norway” rounding out the Top Five.
74. PAKISTAN is one of two countries (out of a total of 102) that have never submitted a film in my lifetime. I was going to remove them from the survey this year, since they haven’t sent a film since 1963’s musical-drama “The Veil” and since seem to spend most of their time destabilizing their region, while blaming their neighbors to the North, East and West. However, after a disastrous cinematic year last year (only 7 films were released; six flopped), this year has a significant number of interesting films, the highest-profile of which is “Bol”, a drama about the relationship between Sunni and Shi’a. With no profile on the film festival circuit, I somehow doubt it will coax Pakistan back into the competition, but one never knows....
75. PALESTINE sat out the competition for the past two years, and it’s so difficult to figure out what’s eligible since they don’t fully control their territory. As I see it, they have three films this year. Two of them have definitely screened in the Territories....”Port of Memory” is a docudrama about the Israeli evictions of Palestinian residents in the thriving port city of Jaffa in 1948 (sounds like a prequel to their 2008 submission, “Salt of this Sea”) while ”Man Without A Cell Phone” is a rare Arab slacker comedy, about the life of an Arab Israeli guy failing school and interested primarily in flirting with local girls. The third- “Habibie”, a starcrossed love story set in the Gaza Strip, has not premiered yet, but is billing itself as the only Palestinian feature of 2011. My prediction: “Port of Memory” gets the nod and “Habibie” gets selected next year.
76. PERU shows the schizophrenia of the Oscar voters. They got a nomination for “Milk of Sorrow” when their submissions in 2006 and 2010 were much better. I hate to predict the same movie two years in a row, but I’m guessing they choose minimalist comedy “Octubre” about a cruel money lender who finds an abandoned baby. It played at Cannes 2010 in Un Certain Regard, but didn’t premiere in Lima until two days after last year’s Oscar deadline. It faces stiff competition from: “Bolero Night” an all-star drama about a musician who barters with his soul and has to choose between love and success, and “Bad Intentions” (Berlin), a black comedy about a creepy, morbid little girl growing up amidst the political turmoil of the 1980s. Dark horse: “La Vigilia”, by a previously submitted director about a hostage who turns the tables on a female burglar. Unlikely: martial arts fantasty “El Ultimo Guerrero-Chanka”. Winner: "Octubre". Runner-up: "Bad Intentions".
77. THE PHILIPPINES began rating its films in 2003 with “A-Grade”, “B-Grade” and “Other” to encourage the production of quality films. A- and B-grade films get large and small tax breaks respectively. Every year since the ratings were created, they have selected an “A” film to send to Hollywood. This year, the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAM) has rated six “A” films and sixteen “B” films which will theoretically all be considered. The six A-grade films are “Ikaw Ang Pag-ibig”, a family drama, “Paglipad ng anghel”, about a young man who begins to grow wings after doing a good deed, “Rosario”, a melodrama about a woman’s descent from middle-class to poverty, “RPG Metanoia”, the Philippines’ first CGI animated film, “Senior Year”, a docudrama about a group of Catholic high-school students, and “Sigwa”, about a group of leftist friends during the chaotic political turmoil in the 1970s. Among the “B” films are a bunch of unspectacular horror movies, comedies and romances, and the only one I could see them choosing would be box-office hit romance “In the Name of Love”. Absent from the list is the FAM Best Picture/Director winner “Emir”, a super-size musical that was released too early. I see the two front-runners as “Ikaw Ang Pag-ibig”, by Marilou Diaz-Abaya, a respected director who has been selected twice to represent the Philippines and who is now battling breast cancer and “Sigwa”, by the prolific Joel Lamangan which has won the most awards. “Ikaw Ang Pag-ibig” won’t premiere until September, but it’s my prediction with “Sigwa” in second, and “Senior Year” in third.
MONTENEGRO, with only 600,000 people, is likely to send their first submission this year, and I predict it will be “Love Scars”, an omnibus film telling four love stories. It opened in May 2011, but there's also “Ascent”, a strange film about a writer who encounters a bizarre isolated and illiterate family in the countryside (sounds like the "Dogtooth" family) which will play out of competition in Sarajevo.
KOSOVO may wish to thumb their nose at Serbia and secure AMPAS recognition by submitting “Heroi”, a drama about a war hero trying to readjust to normal civilian life. The mountain kingdom of LESOTHO released its first-ever feature film, “Tears of Flood”, about the country’s water crisis, although they’re unlikely to enter this amateurish effort to Oscar...MALAWI has low-budget romance, “Thokozani”...The tiny island nation of MALDIVES, the smallest country to hold an annual Film Awards ceremony, chose “Happy Birthday” as this year’s winner. MALI could very well enter the race for the first time with “Da Monzon- The Conquest of Samayana”, a government-funded, battle-rich period drama about the most famous Bambara King in pre-colonial Mali...MOZAMBIQUE's film industry has produced their most acclaimed film, “The Last Flight of the Flamingo”, about UN peacekeepers in the country...PANAMA has “Following the Stars” a low-budget drama about the indigenous Kuna people. And PARAGUAY , the only South American film never to enter the Oscar race, has “Felipe Canasto”, a period drama set in 1800, in the aftermath of a war in which most of the male population was killed.