It's that time of year again....Soon, each of the countries of the world will select what they believe to be their Best Picture of the year, in order to compete for the Best Foreign Language Film award.
Last year, I saw four of the five nominees (ISRAEL's "Footnote" isn't on DVD yet) plus the submissions from Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, India, Norway, Peru, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, the UK and Uruguay. IRAN
and "A Separation" was clearly the best film in the running.
With New Zealand's debut last year, 103 nations have now participated in the Foreign Oscar race, ranging from France (the only country to have a film competing each and every year since 1956) to Pakistan (which hasn't sent a film in four decades).
Here are my predictions for the first 26 countries on the list. Only 11 of them sent films last year but I try to give everyone an equal shot. My computer mysteriously erased my assessment of BRAZIL (where I predict "Xingu").
One big question revolves around one of the frontrunners- Michael Haneke's "Love". Will AMPAS allow it as a majority Austrian production? I think so. Winning the Palme d’Or is nearly a guarantee that your country will send your film to the Oscars. Just ask Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Uncle Boonmee" repped Thailand two years ago even though Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film was not well-liked...nor should it be). A bit of trivia: since 1979, every non-English language Palme d'Or winner was sent to the Oscars except in 1983 (Japan sent “Antarctica” instead of the remake of “Ballad of Narayama"), 1987 (France sent eventual nominee “Au Revoir, Les Enfants” instead of Gerard Depardieu’s “Under the Sun of Satan”) and 1997 (when co-winners Japan and Iran snubbed “Unagi” and “A Taste of Cherry” for blockbuster anime “Princess Mononoke” and eventual nominee “Children of Heaven” respectively). A bit more trivia...AMPAS bent the rules twice to allow two Palme d’Or winners to be sent by countries that didn’t make them (China’s “Farewell My Concubine” represented Hong Kong...Turkey’s banned “Yol” represented Switzerland) but they disqualified a third when Sweden sent Palme d’Or winner “Best of Intentions” which had aired as a TV miniseries prior to its release in Swedish cinemas.
Let the games begin!
(last submitted 2010)- After the international success of “Osama”, some of us had high hopes that AFGHANISTAN would be able to develop an Iranian-style naturalistic film industry. Unfortunately, an unsecure safety environment and funding constraints have meant that the country’s budding film industry has not lived up to its potential. However, filmmaking continues. This year’s most likely submission is “Kabul, I Love You”, an UN-funded anthology of ten short films by ten up-and-coming Afghan directors (including one woman). It has premiered in Afghanistan and plans to travel around the country in mobile cinemas. A quick look at Youtube indicates that the trailers for new Afghan films are looking more professional these days (though admittedly not Oscar worthy!). If the Afghans just want to participate, “Buzkashi Boys”, the story of friendship between a young boy and a street kid, looks particularly interesting and culturally relevant. For some interesting recent articles on the state of cinema, also see the Vancouver Sun and the UK Guardian.
used to be the North Korea of Europe (until 1990…not that long ago!) but thankfully those days are over. Last year, they were unfairly forced to chose a different film after the Albanian-language “Forgiveness of Blood” was disqualified due to its American director. The blame for the disqualification falls on rival director Bujar Alimani who complained to the Academy and whose film finished second and was eventually sent in its place. Albania doesn’t have much this year…I count three eligible films- Greece-set emigration drama “Agon”, commercial action-thriller “Out of Touch” and the probable Albanian nominee, “Pharmakon”. “Pharmakon” is an erotic drama about a disturbing love triangle- a young Albanian doctor recently returned from his studies in America, a young nurse, and the young man’s controlling father who lusts after the young woman.
(last submitted 2010) has no Rachid Bouchareb films this year, so their pick comes down to a trio of films, including two by Merzak Allouache, who represented Algeria way back in 1996 with comedy “Salut, Cousin!”. “The Repentant” won a minor award at Cannes (Best European Film from the non-jury Europa Cinemas Label), where it premiered at Director’s Fortnight. The film is about the life of a former jihadist who has benefited from a national amnesty, but who still faces hatred and anger when he returns to his home village. Unfortunately for Allouache, his last two controversial films have not pleased Algerian authorities, including “Normal” (which I believe is also eligible this year) which shows young Algerians facing up to cultural censorship, and “Harragas”, which highlighted the problems of illegal immigration. With Allouache very possibly in the bad books of the Algerian Academy, I predict Algeria will go with the less controversial “How Big Is Your Love?”, a baity drama about a young boy sent to live with his grandparents when his parents unexpectedly decide to divorce. “The Repentant” probably deserves the nod, but “Love” sounds more likely.
- has a number of strong contenders and although I with Ivan Coss when he says that the two front-runners are Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant” (Cannes) and “Everybody Has A Plan” (Toronto), I would argue that “Las Acacias” and “El Ultimo Elvis” are also in with a chance. I’m predicting “Everybody Has a Plan”, a thriller starring Viggo Mortensen (yes, in Spanish!) as an identical twin who seeks to start a new life with his brother’s identity. It has a lot of good buzz going into its Toronto premiere. That said, it would be a mistake to count out Ricardo Darin…He starred in six Argentine submissions in ten years, and could do so again with “White Elephant”, a drama about two priests working in one of Buenos Aires’ slums. It’s directed by Pablo Trapero who has had his last two films chosen as well. The Argentine Academy also likes Daniel Hendler but his latest romantic comedy “All In” (aka “La suerte en tus manos”) hasn’t done well enough with critics to compete this year. Road drama “Las Acacias” won Best Picture winner at the national Silver Condor Awards for its story of a trucker who reluctantly helps a Paraguayan single mother and her baby proceed on a long journey and also the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2011. “El Ultimo Elvis” marks the directorial debut of “Biutiful” screenwriter Armando Bo, and its story of a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator shares that films dark, somewhat depressing world view. I’m pretty sure it will be one of those four, but last year Argentina surprised everyone….Potential suprises this year could include “Clandestine Childhood” about the military dictatorship seen through the eyes of children, quirky romantic comedy “Medianeras” or even Swiss-directed sisterhood comedy “Back to Stay” which won the Golden Leopard at Locarno 2011. My predictions: “Everybody Has a Plan” gets to go to the Oscars, while “Las Acacias” goes to the Goyas, with “White Elephant” as the runner-up for both.
(last submitted 2009) has only entered the Oscar race three times, with two surreal fiction films and a very boring documentary short. This year, they have a record number of local Armenian features (five) competing at their national Golden Apricot Film Festival. If they submit a film, it’s almost certain to be “If Only Everyone”, a patriotic pro-peace drama about a man and woman whose lives are still being affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan two decades before. The premiere was co-sponsored by the President’s Office, and this issue is an important one for Armenia today. No locally-made fiction feature film has ever won Best Armenian Film (they’ve all been shorts, documentaries or films by the Armenian diaspora) but I think “Everyone” will change that. Runner-up: surreal drama “Joan and the Voices”, which also looks at the post-war landscape, and which has gotten some festival exposure in the U.S.
(last submitted 2009) has a film industry that obviously works primarily in the English language, so they don’t usually send films to the Oscars but they do when they have one to send. Thus far, they have sent three stories about immigrants to Australia and two about Aboriginal Australian communities. Having seen all five, I’m sad “Home Song Stories” failed to get a nomination in a very strong year. This year, I don’t think they have anything that is more than 50% in a foreign language. Aboriginal girl group musical-comedy “The Sapphires” (Cannes) is in English and “Dead Europe”, about an Australian man uncovering deeply buried family secrets while travelling in Europe may qualify due to Greek, Hungarian and French dialogue. But I doubt it. Their best bet is “33 Postcards”, the first official co-production between Australia and China, about a Chinese teenager who finds her way to Australia to meet her longtime charity sponsor (Guy Pearce; “Adventures of Priscilla”)
will choose 2012 Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Love” by Michael Haneke. “Love” is a touching story about an octogenarian French couple, whose marriage comes under strain when the elderly husband has to take care of his ill and increasingly ill-tempered despondent wife. As noted above, countries will almost always nominate a Palme d’Or winner, “Love” has gotten great reviews and to top it all off, Austria has selected films by Herr Haneke four times (though not “Funny Games”, my favorite Haneke film), including “Cache”, which was disqualified for being in French. Those language rules were rewritten in 2006 meaning that the French-language “Love” is eligible as long as it can prove it has enough Austrian cast and crew. Admittedly, they’re cutting it close. The film has an Austrian director and writer (Haneke) and two of four producers are Austrian, but it was filmed in France with a mostly French cast, with no principal Austrian cast members. My prediction is Oscar doesn’t mess with it, but I’m wary. If “Love” has problems, the leading Austrian film to step into its place is “Paradise” (which competed head-to-head with “Love” in Cannes) about a middle-aged Austrian woman tempted by sex tourism in Kenya. Less likely: Austria has historically liked to send films about foreign immigrant communities (1999, 2000, 2008, 2009) which means that they also may consider two well-regarded films about Kurdish immigrants from Turkey- “Kuma” (Berlin) is about a family smuggling in a second wife for the family patriarch, while “Your Beauty is Worth Nothing” (Karlovy Vary), about a 12-year old trying to adjust to his new life in Austria. There’s also crime-romance “Crossing Boundaries” (which probably will be eligible next year) and intriguing sci-fi drama “The Wand”, but all of this is moot unless “Love” is disqualified.
(last submitted 2010) successfully hosted Eurovision this year (without the participation of jealous rival Armenia) and they seem to enjoy the spotlight. Few people realize they are one of the five finalists (and the biggest long-shot) to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Although they are reportedly pouring money into local filmmaking, they don’t have much to show for it. The only film I know if is Russian-language “There Never Was A Better Brother”, a slow family drama about two brothers in 1970s Soviet Azerbaijan, and the woman who comes between them.
(last submitted 2010) skipped last year for reasons unknown despite having a decent film year. Here’s hoping they return in 2011. The Bangladeshi film industry is not doing so well. Despite a population of 160 million (more than Russia), the number of domestic film releases are falling fast. This year’s two leading contenders are “Runaway” (not to be confused with “Runway”, which Bangladesh should have sent last year) and “Red Point”, both of which have foreign input. “Runway”, the debut film by a young Bangladeshi-American director, is about a man who goes after the runaway husbands and fathers who leave their families in debt and poverty. “Red Point” is billed as the first Bangladesh-French co-production, and it features the lives of Bangladeshi families who emigrated there after the 1971 war of independence. The independent “Runaway” is said to deserve the nomination, but “Red Point” is by Impress Telefilms which has produced the past six Bangladeshi nominees. Everything in Bangladesh is about is about connections. I predict “Red Point”.
(last submitted 1996) is one of only two European countries that has not submitted in the past three years. Truth be told, they haven’t sent in fifteen years and they almost certainly won’t send a film this year. Belarus spends much of their filmmaking budgets on telefilms and miniseries with little leftover for feature films. The only eligible film I know of is “Above the Sky”, an “issue” drama about a young musician who discovers he has AIDS.
makes things difficult every year since this dysfunctional country has two independent film boards- one for French-speaking Wallonie and one for Dutch-speaking Flanders. How they agree on a nominee is beyond me. In the past twelve years, they’ve chosen 8 films from the larger Dutch part and 4 films from the smaller French part. Last year, they shocked the world by choosing the unheralded “Bullhead” over Cannes winner “The Kid With A Bike”. When “Bullhead” got a surprise Oscar nomination, we all realized the Belgians were more clever than we thought. The Belgians usually choose a national three-film shortlist. This year, the top three Walloon films are “The Giants” (Cannes 2011; winner of Best Picture at the 2012 Walloon Film Awards over “Kid With A Bike”), a drama about three teens growing up in a lower-middle-class town in rural Belgium, “Mobile Home” (Locarno), a dramedy about two aimless and unemployed young men on the road, and “Our Children”, about a Belgian woman stressed by life with her Moroccan husband (“The Prophet”’s Tahar Rahim) and based on a real-life infanticide case. Flanders has a competitive race since four previously submitted directors (Nic Balthazar, Patrice Toye, Fien Troch and Felix van Groeningen) have new films this year, although the most hotly tipped- van Groeningen’s “The Broken Circle Breakdown” will probably be eligible next year. The most likely films to come out of Flanders are Troch’s “Kid”, about two small children orphaned when their mother dies, Toye’s “Little Black Spiders”, about a home for young, unwed mothers and Balthazar’s “Until Forever” (Tot Altijd) about a terminally ill man who confides in his closest friends his plans to kill himself. Dark horses include the Flemish-language “Lena”, about the sexuality of an overweight teen girl, and French-language “Le sac de Farine”, about a girl kidnapped to join distant family in Morocco. My predictions for the Belgian shortlist: “The Giants”, “Our Children” and “Until Forever” with “Little Black Spiders” the wild card. Belgian nominee: “Until Forever” beats “Our Children” by the slightest hair.
(last submitted 1999) leading director Khyentse Norbu (“The Cup”, “Travellers & Magicians”) has a new movie being made, but it’s being made in India. The Bhutanese, with a population of less than a million, actually produced over a dozen films a year for domestic audiences, and the country holds its own National Film Awards every May. They have only submitted once (“The Cup”, which was primarily made for international audiences) so they won’t send anything this year either but if they did, it would probably be “I Am Sonam Kuenga Namgyel”, which won most of the important National Film Awards and is the story of a spoiled rich boy who gets a poor village girl pregnant.
(last submitted 2009) has sent five films over the years and this year they are scheduled to premiere a healthy ten domestic releases. The two first of the two front-runners for the Oscar race is “Insurgentes”, a long-awaited patriotic history film highlighting indigenous rights by acclaimed 75-year old local filmmaker Jorge Sanjines. Its early release (scheduled for summer 2012) was recently announced by President Evo Morales. The second is “Pacha”, a minimalist story of a poor, indigenous shoeshine boy whose shoeshine supplies- the only way he can make a living- are stolen. Either film should represent Bolivia well, although I predict they send “Insurgente”, because of the strong people behind the film. High profile but very unlikely would be “Maleficarum”, a controversial film about lesbianism in the Spanish inquisition, filled with controversial violence and sex scenes. Next year’s candidate will likely be “Kandire, la tierra sin mal”, the latest from Juan Carlos Valdivia who directed three of Bolivia’s five official Oscar submissions.
has a very easy choice this year. “Children of Sarajevo” is a topical and well-regarded drama by a previously submitted director (Aida Begic, “Snow”) which won a Jury Prize at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section. It tells the story of two war orphans (a woman in her twenties and her teenage brother) and the problems in their lives twenty years after their parents were killed during the Balkan wars. Not only is it a good choice, but as far as I know, it’s the only eligible film from Bosnia this year.
seems to have fallen in love with “Ave”, an independent road movie about a brooding young man and a girl who is a pathological liar, and their journey hitchhiking around Bulgaria. The film won Best Picture at the 2012 Bulgarian National Film Awards and Best Bulgarian Film at the Sofia International Film Festival. The film hasn’t wowed international critics though, who point out that is slow and aimless. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say. Better received abroad has been “Faith, Love & Whisky”, about a runaway bride who flees her wealthy American fiancé for her old life among her n’er do well friends in provincial Bulgaria. I’m hoping for “Whisky”, which is said to be the better film, but “Ave” has been sweeping everything in Bulgaria for the past year so I predict they’ll send it, but “Whisky” will come close. Others with an outside chance include two clever comedies: “Migration of the Belted Bonito” is a comedy by a respected director about two fathers trying to make ends meet in the countryside while “Operation Shmenti Capelli” (aka Operation Taradiddle) is an abstract Kusturica-style political comedy about the power of the haves and the have-nots post-Communism. I haven’t forgotten “The Island”. Although it played at Cannes 2011, reviews are poor and it probably contains too much English to qualify.
17. BURKINA FASO
(last submitted 1989) sees itself as a pioneer and creative leader in African cinema but they have only entered the Oscar race once and that was more than twenty years ago. They premiere most of their best films every two years at the FESPACO International Film Festival (held in odd years) so there’s little to report on in even years. The only strong candidate I am aware of is “Espoir Voyage”, a documentary by a respected emergeing director about a Burkinabe searching for his brother who disappeared in the Cote d’Ivoire some years before, looking for work. It appeared in the 2012 Berlin Film Market.
(last submitted 1994) announced in April that it was convening an Oscar selection committee to enter the Foreign Film race for the first time since their debut in 1994. “Lost Loves”, the first Cambodian film about the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s, and the heartwrenching story of one family’s experience, was cited as having been submitted itself for consideration. I picked it last year. Rithy Panh, Cambodia’s most acclaimed international director, also has a film (“The Catch”), about an African-American pilot whose plane goes down in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, but I think Panh will let “Lost Loves” have this one.
(last submitted 1980) has failed to enter the competition since their debut more than thirty years ago. Their ailing film industry, divided between French- and English-language productions, receives little support from government and its success pales next to neighboring Nigeria. The only quality film I know about is “Sacred Diamond”, an adventure film in French and Bandjoun, filmed throughout the four regions of Cameroon. There’s also “Asoni”, which got an African Academy Award nomination, although I can’t find a shred of information online about it.
has been doing outstanding in this category- it’s the only country in the world thathas gotten five shortlist spots in the past six years (the one exception was “I Killed My Mother”, the best film among the six). Israel has gotten more nominations (four of the past six years) but Canada’s record is pretty impressive, especially considering that non-English speaking Canada has a relatively small population. This year’s big question mark is “Midnight’s Children” by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta who is adapting Salman Rushdie controversial novel about a group of children born in 1947 as India and Pakistan were gaining independence. The film should be able to qualify as Canadian (Mehta is a Canadian citizen and got an Oscar nomination for the Hindi-language “Water” in 2007, and “Children” has some significant Canadian crew as well). The film is scheduled to be released three weeks after the deadline, although I think Canada may do a one-week early release to qualify for the Oscars (the Canadians often do this) especially since it also plans to be released in the USA in October (meaning it can’t represent Canada next year…long story….read the rules). The film is said to be in “English, Hindi and Urdu”, but will it be more than 50% in a foreign language? I think it will. Another problem is the competition it will face from a strong lineup of Quebecois films, particularly the trio of Xavier Dolan’s “Laurence Always” (Cannes), Rafael Ouellet’s “Camion” (Karlovy Vary) and especially Kim Nguyen’s “War Witch” (Berlin). “Laurence Always” is the nearly three-hour tale of a man who seeks to continue his relationship with a woman after having a sex change, while “Camion” is a man in New Brunswick who turns to his adult sons after becoming clinically depressed after he is involved in an accident in which a woman is inadvertently killed. But it’s “War Witch”, the heart-wrenching tale of a pregnant 14-year Congolese child soldier telling us the story of her sad, violent young life that has the best chance. It’s a credit to the quality of films this year that well-received films like “Nuit 1” (about a man and woman having a one-night stand) or intriguing new films like the Villeneuve brothers’ sci-fi thriller “Mars et Avril” and “Valley of Tears” (too similar to “Incendies”??), a mystery about a historian searching for a young Palestinian in Lebanon, probably won’t factor in the decision at all. My prediction: “Midnight’s Children” is selected by a hair over “War Witch” if it’s eligible. In third place: “Camion”, with “Valley of Tears” in fourth.
(last submitted 2002) has only one film director of international renown and that’s Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. Impoverished Chad had a very strong contender last year (Haroun’s “A Screaming Man”) but didn’t send it in. They won’t send anything this year either.
is likely to choose “No”, directed by Pablo Larrain and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, as an advertising executive plotting the downfall of Chilean dictator General Pinochet. It played out of competition in Cannes where it won an award. Larrain represented Chile in 2008 and was the probably runner-up last year. If the Chilean Academy doesn’t like the film for some reason, Chile can choose one of a number of films from the film festival circuit- “Bonsai” (Cannes 2011/Toronto) is a quirky romance between a girl destined to live and a man destined to die, and one of the few Chilean movies to get a US release, “Night Across the Street” (Cannes 2012, Director’s Fortnight), the final film by Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz (he spent most of his career overseas) features a retiree reminiscing about his life. “Sal” is a modern-day western. “Young and Wild” (Sundance/Berlin) is a youth-oriented drama about the sexual escapades of a girl from a deeply religious family. They also have two upcoming films- the long awaited, expensive fantasy film “Caleuche- Call of the Sea” (I predicted it to rep Chile in 2009) and “The Passion of Michelangelo”, about a priest investigating supernatural phenomena. I’m sure Chile won’t say ‘No’ to “No”, and I think the two other two films on the Chilean shortlist will be selected from among”Bonsai”, “Night Across the Street” and “Caleuche”.
likes their movies big and with big stars. Half of their submissions in the past ten years have cost more than 20 million US dollars- an astronomical sum by local standards- and only one was low-budget (2008’s boring Olympic documentary “Dream Weavers”, which was clearly chosen for other reasons). Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked. China hasn’t been nominated since 2003 and picking brilliant “small” movies about Chinese life (“Getting Home”) over big-budget messes like “The Promise” might work out better. Oh well. This year, the film that best fits the big-budget description is “1942” which is clearly what the PRC would like to send. Directed by Feng Xiaogang (“Aftershock”) and co-starring American Oscar winners Adrian Brody and Tim Robbins, this film about the 1942 famine is the clear front-runner if it can get a qualifying release before September 30, although it is forecast for winter. Also co-starring an American Oscar winner is black comedy “Inseparable”, about a Chinese junior executive who is stopped from committing suicide by his brash American neighbor, played by Kevin Spacey. The director is Chinese-American and this film is definitely not what China usually sends, although they may be tempted to send it due to Spacey’s Oscar pedigree. If they want a pretty costume drama with lots of martial arts kicking, they could choose HK co-production “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate”, although critics have generally only praised the film’s technical aspects, and China hasn’t sent a film like it since 2006. “11 Flowers”, about a boy growing up against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, has probably got the best reviews of the year but I’m unclear on whether this film toes the government line or not. This is a very controversial subject in China’s modern-day history and the Chinese Academy typically shuns controversy, which would appear to rule out the well-reviewed “Black Blood”, about HIV being spread by peasants selling their blood. Two big local stars- Hong Kong’s Tony Leung and China’s Zhang Ziyi- have new movies that could be selected. Leung has “Great Magician”, about the civil war that broke out after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, while Zhang has a Shanghai-set version of “Dangerous Liasons”. As for the Chinese films at this year’s major international film festivals, they all have significant handicaps “Mystery” (Cannes) by previously banned director Lou Ye did not get great reviews. “People Mountain People Sea” (Venice) , a revenge tale told as a road movie, has done better but not many seem to have noticed it. “White Deer Plain” (Berlin) is said to be visually impressive but this tale of a woman who comes between two families in pre-Communist China is also a difficult and confusing three-hour film to watch. Other “smaller” films with an outside chance include two films from Shanghai- “Beijing Blues” a contemporary urban dramedy which won best director and “Falling Flowers”, about the life of a female intellectual, which has gotten mostly poor reviews from Western critics. Others with an outside shot at the prize: “Design of Death”, a murder mystery, “Floating Shadow”, a women’s prison drama, and “Song of Silence” about a deaf teen in the countryside. My verdict: I wish I knew if “1942” was finished…..I predict Zhang Ziyi’s “Dangerous Liaisons” but not feeling particularly confident. I’ll put a surprise early release for “1942” in second place, with “Inseparable”, “White Deer Plain” and “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” rounding out the Top Five. I don’t think it will make it, but I’m rooting for “11 Flowers”.
has been sending movies to the Oscar for more than thirty years with no luck so far. Production is up thanks to a new film law and they have a number of well-regarded Oscar contenders, though probably not potential nominees. I predict they will send “Porfirio”, a minimalist film about a wealthy landowner who descends into poverty when he is accidentally shot and crippled by Colombian police and who seeks a unique form of revenge. The film has a great backstory- the man whose life the film is based on plays himself. It debuted at Cannes 2011 and finally premiered in Colombian cinemas in March 2012 after nearly a year on the circuit. “Porfirio” also won Best Colombian Picture at the Cartagena Film Festival against most of the eligible Colombian films. The other chief contender is “Sofia and the Stubborn Man” starring Spanish actress Carmen Maura. It won the Jury Prize in Cartagena and features a woman’s relationship with her elderly father. In third: “La Sirga” (Cannes), about a refugee trying to start a new life in the countryside. In fourth place: “Silence in Paradise”, a drama about young love set against a backdrop of paramilitary killings in the 1990s when innocent victims were often framed as guerillas. In fifth: “La Lectora”, a mystery-thriller which will premiere in August. Unlikely but possible: “La Cara Oculta”, a thriller by the director of “Satanas” (possibly the best-ever Colombian submission?) about a woman trapped in a hidden room, and “Choco” (Cannes) about an abused Afro-Colombian wife. Out of the race: “La Playa DC” (Cannes) may have played at the world’s most prestigious film festival, but it got bad reviews; “El Cartel de los Sapos” is by a previously submitted director but is based on a TV show.
(last submitted 1997) also had a strong contender last year (“Viva Riva”) that they chose not to submit. Ironically, since it got a U.S. release, it was eligible for the Oscars last year in all categories except Foreign Film! While “Viva Riva” will hopefully represent a harbinger for greater things in Congo’s nascent film industry (and Africa as a whole), there are no Congolese films on the radar this year that would cause me to believe that they’ll enter the race for the first time in 1997. However, there is a possibility Congo and its myriad of problems will be in the race after all, if Canada selects the Congo-set tale “War Witch”.
26. COSTA RICA
(last submitted 2010) had a great film year last year but opted out, so not sure if they will enter this year or not. They have three movies on the horizon. The most likely option is “Red Princesses”, the story of a young Costa Rican girl whose imaginary revolutionary games end up being eerily similar to her parent’s clandestine activities. However, I doubt it will be released in time. Then the Tico choice will come down to “The End”, a low-budget comedy about the survivors of an apocalyptic meteorite hitting the earth, and “The Three Marias”, a B&W film about the lives of three women with the same name. They probably won’t send anything at all, but I’ll predict the “The End”.