Monday, August 6, 2012

Foreign Film Oscar Prediction 2012-2013, ISRAEL to PHILIPPINES

And here's Group 3....including multiple nominees Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands and Norway

53. ISRAEL usually (but not always) selects a film from the Jerusalem Film Festival and it always chooses the winner of the Best Picture award at the Ophir Awards, which will be announced in September (as long as the winning film is not in English). This year’s front-runner is “God’s Neighbours”, a drama about a gang of religious Jews and the dangers of religious extremism. It played at Cannes Critics Week in May. Most of the Israeli contenders this year are by new or untested directors, with the exception of Dover Kosashvili (who repped Israel way back in 2001) who has “Thirty Plus”, a comedy about a single woman in her 30s matching wits with her manipulative mother, who refuses to have an operation until she gets a grandchild. Also very possible- “Fill the Void”, about an Orthodox Jewish girl presented with a terrible moral dilemma between love and family obligation. The other two Ophir Best Picture nominees will probably be filled by “Rock the Casbah”, about an Israeli soldier in the Occupied Territories, circa 1989, and “Epilogue”, about an idealistic elderly couple who decide to commit suicide together. Most of these films have not premiered anywhere yet except Jerusalem, so you might also see “Yossi”, a gay-themed sequel to “Yossi & Jagger” in the mix (though Eytan Fox has never done well at the Ophirs), "Sharqiyah", a film about a Bedouin trying to stop the destruction of his village (and the surprise winner in Jerusalem) or even “The Ballad of the Weeping Spring”, a drama about a man trying to reunite a band to play for his dying father. Anyway, my prediction for the Ophirs/Oscars: the Israeli Academy can be unpredictable but “God’s Neighbours” looks like the frontrunner for now.

54. ITALY- may have more Oscars than any other country (13) but five of those wins came from the 1950s. Since their win in 1999 for the delightful “Life is Beautiful”, they’ve managed merely one lonely nomination (an inexplicable nod for the undeserving “Don’t Tell”) plus a shortlist spot for Giuseppe Tornatore’s underrated “La Sconosciuta”. Italy is still making good movies, but doesn’t usually send them. Instead, they send solid but forgettable dramas. Perhaps they should choose one of their breezy comedies (“Bread and Tulips”, “Loose Cannons”) instead. This year, Italy has a few prominent films, but none that I think will net them an Oscar nomination this year. From three previously submitted directors, come Berlin/Donatello winner “Caesar Must Die”, political conspiracy thriller “Piazza Fontana” and Cannes Grand Prix-winning reality-television satire “Reality” (Cannes), in the Neapolitan dialect. “Caesar Must Die”, a docudrama featuring real prisoners in a staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, has won the arty Berlin Film Festival and swept the major awards at the mainstream national Donatello Awards. “Piazza Fontana” is about a series of real-life terrorist incidents in 1969. Reviews have been the best of the three films, but it’s said to be extremely confusing for those without a knowledge of Italian history and politics. “Reality” is by the director of “Gomorrah” (which the Academy did not like, nor did I) and concerns a poor fisherman who becomes a reality TV contestant. The other films that I think will be on Italy’s shortlist include breezy comedy “Magnifica Presenza” (choose it!) by Ferzan Ozpetek who is always on the Italian shortlist, “Diaz: Don’t Clean Up the Blood”, about the 2001 G8 riots in Genoa and “The Entrepreneur”, a drama about a factory owner trying to avoid financial ruin. My predictions: Italy chooses “Caesar Must Die”. Runner-ups: “Piazza Fontana”, “Diaz: Don’t Clean Up the Blood”, “Reality” and “Magnificent Presence”, in that order.

55. JAPAN is one of the most difficult countries to predict and I have never gotten them right yet. This year, I think it will be a battle between two new releases (August 2012) by previously submitted directors. 77-year old director Yasuo Furuhata and 81-year old semi-retired film star Ken Takakura have re-teamed together on the all-star “Anata e” (also known as “Dear” or “To You”), 13 years after the (well-meaning but dull) “Poppoya” swept the Japanese Academy Awards and represented Japan at the Oscars in 1999/2000. “Anata e” is a drama about an elderly man on a journey across Japan to spread his wife’s ashes. On the journey, he learns more than he expected about her life. Many A-list Japanese actors make cameos along the way. Then there’s Yojiro Takita, who deservedly won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for “Departures”- the first win for Japan in more than fifty years. Takita's latest film is “Insight Into the Universe”, a stylish, period drama set in the 17th century, about an astronomer developing revolutionary methods to improve the Japanese calendar. Though the subject sounds quite boring, the trailer looks downright exciting. Which one will Japan choose? I think “Insight” sounds more likely, but I’m going to predict the age and experience of “Anata e”. Since Japan often does make an unpredictable choice, there are four other films that should be considered a threat: “Genji Monogatari”, starring Miki Nakatani (“Confessions”) is a gorgeous period piece based on the famed 11th century Japanese novel, but the film has barely made a blip in cinematic circles. “Letter to Momo” is an acclaimed animated film about a young girl dealing with the death of her father, though Japan has been reluctant to choose anime since two losses in the 1990s. “Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai” (Cannes 2011) and “Himizu” (Venice 2011) have both been widely seen internationally, but their very famous directors Takashi Miike and Shion Sono are both better known for low-budget horror and cult films than mainstream international successes. “Hara Kiri” is the story of a samurai living during the downfall of their powerful warrior class, while “Himizu” is about two teens in post-tsunami Japan who decide to take revenge on those they consider to be bad people. Third tier: Japan occasionally goes with comedy and if so, they should choose screwball comedy “Once in a Blue Moon” (by the delightful Koki Mitani), while two dramas starring Koji Yakusho- “Chronicles of My Mother” (a tribute to Ozu) and “Hayabusa: The Long Voyage Home” (a true story about Japanese space exploration from the point of view of those on the ground) are unlikely but possible. My prediction: “Anata e”, followed by “Insight Into the Universe”, and “Hara Kiri”.

56. JORDAN (last submitted 2008) may well return to the competition with “The Last Friday” a wry comedy-drama about a middle-class man who has gambled his savings away, his relationship with his estranged family, and his spiritual awakening when he discovers he needs an operation he cannot afford. The film won awards at Dubai and played in Berlin. The other contender would be “Seven Hour Difference”, a romance which has gotten less visibility. No feature film had been made in the decades before 2008, so it’s great that Jordan is producing a couple of films a year nowadays.

57. KAZAKHSTAN has one of the easiest decisions this year. “Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe” (a.k.a. A Thousand Boys) is a long-awaited, expensive, nationalist period epic that has also gotten good reviews. It checks every box! The story is about an 18th century army of teens who lead a Kazakh army to defeat the oppressive Dzhungars. Kazakhstan has sent period epics in the past, the director has been selected before (for “Strayed”) and the film is near-certain to represent Kazakhstan. Runner-up: “Student”, a Kazakh version of Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment.

58. KOREA usually chooses a shortlist of about six films. This year, I expect they’ll choose seven, which will be: “In Another Country” (Cannes), a comic romance co-starring Isabelle Huppert in three separate stories about a French woman in Korea, “Masquerade”, a Korean version of The Prince and the Pauper set in 17th century Korea, “My Way”(directed by Kang Je-kyu, "Taegukgi") , a patriotic drama about Koreans fighting against Japanese occupation, “Nameless Gangster”, an action-thriller that focuses on gangs and political corruption in the 1980s and 1990s, “Punch” a sleeper hit teen drama which examines multi-cultural issues and wowed local critics, “Taste of Money” (Cannes), a soap opera about intrigue amongst a family of millionaires, and “The Thieves”, an all-star commercial heist film referred to as a Korean "Ocean’s Eleven”. It’s entirely possible one of those could be displaced by auteur filmmaker Kim Ki-duk’s latest film “Amen”. Kim has represented Korea before, but his latest is supposed to be uninspiring. Other dark horse possibilities for the shortlist include “As One”, a drama about table tennis, “The Concubine” and “Russian Coffee”, a pair of pretty costume dramas, “Architecture 101” and “Dancing Queen”, a pair of popular romantic comedies, “The Great Heist”, a mainstream action-comedy about ice smuggling in medieval Korea and “Unbowed”, based on the true story of a man whose grievances lead him to attack a judge with a crossbow. There is no clear frontrunners as many of the leading contenders on paper (i.e. “My Way”) have gotten middling reviews from international critics while sleepers like “Punch” have done much better. At least one (“In Another Country”) may contain too much English to qualify. My predictions: the Koreans go with “Masquerade” with runner-ups “Nameless Gangster”, “My Way” and “In Another Country” in that order.

59. KUWAIT (last submitted 1978) is the only Gulf Arab country ever to enter the race, which they did twice in 1972 and 1978. If it weren’t for some release date confusion, I would bet money that they would enter the competition this year for the first time in more than three decades. “Tora Bora”, a drama about a man and his wife who search for their missing son in the mountains of Afghanistan, appears to have premiered in Kuwait a few weeks before last year’s cutoff date, even though it opened the Gulf Film Festival in 2012, where it won awards. After Iran’s win last year, I’m hoping the Gulfies will be inspired to send in their own entries.

60. KYRGYZSTAN (last submitted 2010) has produced seven films this year according to the new and improved Kyrgyz cinema website. The frontrunner for the Oscars is clearly “Empty Home” by previously submitted director Nurbek Egen (“Wedding Chest”), a dark drama about a 19-year Kyrgyz village girl/runaway bride who runs off to Moscow to seek a better life. It played in Seattle. Also possible: the soon-to-be-released “Princess Nazik”, which received a grant at Locarno 2010 and which is scheduled to premiere in August.

61. LATVIA skipped last year, although they had a good WWII story to send (“Threesome Dance”). They’ve got a number of eligible films this year, so here’s hoping that they return. My prediction is that they send “”, which won Best Picture at the Latvian Film Festival, celebrating films from the past two years. The film tells three stories based on three different novels, loosely based on the story of Lilith, the woman God created before Eve. The film is in Russian- not necessarily the favorite language in the Baltics- but Latvia is the most comfortably bilingual of the three republics and the film did receive some Latvian government funding, so I think it should be okay. If they want a more culturally ‘Latvian’ film, they’ll choose between slacker comedy “Kolka Cool”, and teen crime drama “People Out There” (Karlovy Vary) about a young Latvian who goes to extraordinary means to get the money necessary to impress a rich girl. I think the popular “Kolka” has the edge. Unlikely: village girl drama “Mona” was seven years in the making, but it was shut out of most of the Latvian film nominations (ironically so was Latvia’s 2009 submission “Amaya”).

62. LEBANON has sent more films to the Oscars than any Arab country other than North African heavyweights Algeria and Egypt, but despite a pair of charming comedies from Nadine Labaki and the underrated drama of “West Beyrouth”, Lebanon has so far failed to make the final round. As far as I know, they have a quartet of films they could send this year: an anti-Israeli hit action film co-produced with Iran (“33 Days”), a sultry romantic drama about a woman in red seducing a seminary student (“Heels of War”), a thriller about a man who runs into the woman who convinced him to commit a murder decades before (“A Man of Honor”) and a quirky comedy about a taxi driver (“Taxi Ballad”). A fifth contender, romantic drama “Beirut Hotel”, has so far been banned from screening in Lebanon due to political and sexual sensitivities. So, which film will the Lebanese send to the Oscars? Lebanon doesn’t send a film unless they feel it’s a real contender, but if they do I’m guessing they go with the quirky “Heels of War” (aka “Tannoura Maxi”), the eccentric love story allegedly based on how director Joe Bou Eid’s parents met. Runner-up: “A Man of Honor”. They’d only choose “33 Days” to make a political point, and not sure that the Lebanese Academy is interested in doing this.

63. LITHUANIA was one of four Eastern European countries I visited this year, and I found it interesting to note how local people reacted when I asked about how I could find local cinema to watch. In tiny Estonia, two stores proudly showed me the way to a prominently displayed section of Estonian DVDs, almost all of with had English subtitles. In Latvia, shopkeepers would usually scratch their head and say “Yes, I think we have one or two Latvian films in the store, but I’m not sure”. In Lithuania, they looked at me with blank looks, like I was crazy for asking. One person said “No. Our country has only ever had one successful film in our entire history”. At the Lithuanian Film Museum in Vilnius, they clearly appreciated my interest and said apologetically that they didn’t know why local films were not available on DVD. I suppose this partly explains why they were late among the ex-Soviet Republics to join the competition (11th out of 12, although three republics- Moldova, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan- don’t compete). Having said all that, the Lithuanians have been a semi-regular participant since 2006 and they’ve had a good year. The two frontrunners represent style vs. substance. “Fireheart: Tadas Blinda” is the “only successful Lithuanian film” mentioned to me in Vilnius. It has a big budget (by local standards) and was a major domestic hit in a country where clearly not many people watch local movies. The film, about a romance between a low-born peasant and a noblewoman, is set against the background of a 19th century peasant revolt. It actually got mixed reviews but it’s as big as Lithuanian movies get! “Citadel of Sleeping Butterflies” was the big winner at this year’s Lithuanian Oscars (the Silver Cranes), beating “Tadas Blinda” for Best Picture and Best Director. That film is about a middle-aged woman who finds meaning in her life when she develops a friendship with a group of prostitutes. Lithuania once chose a documentary, making me think that they could also consider “Barzakh”, a well-regarded feature about Chechen families and their life after the civil war with Russia. Out of their league: “Vanishing Waves” (Karlovy Vary) and “Narcissus” (Silver Crane nominee). My prediction: “Tadas Blinda”.

64. LUXEMBOURG has missed the past two years (last year they had no eligible films...most were minority co-productions or were in English...) but they have two eligible films this year. The more likely of the two is “Butterfly Symmetry”, a surreal comedy described as a “story-within-a-story”. In it, a misogynistic chess champion is humiliated by a young female prodigy whom he eventually begins falling in love with. Making the plot more complicated, all of this is being imagined by an aging writer in a retirement home. Sounds very complicated. Less likely is children’s adventure film “Schatzritter” whose poster looks suspiciously like a Harry Potter film. A highly anticipated crime drama, “Dead Angle” won’t premiere until three days after the deadline.

65. MACEDONIA’s cinema rarely features big international stars but this year they have Victoria Abril in “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears” (Berlin), which is also known as “Man on Asphalt”. It’s a whimsical drama about the parallel lives of a Parisian woman (Abril) and a Macedonian village woman (director Mitevska’s sister). Although reviews haven’t been kind, it should be able to beat the other Macedonian film released this year, dark horse “Skopje Remixed”, a diverse omnibus film featuring nine shorts about life and love in the Macedonian capital. There is a chance that one or both of the two other hotly anticipated and recently completed Macedonian films will be released in Macedonian cinemas before the September 30 deadline. Both will have their world premieres in Macedonia’s Bitola Film Festival in September. The controversial “The Third Half”, the supposedly true story of a Jewish football coach in Nazi-occupied Macedonia, will be fierce competition. “Half” has infuriated neighboring Bulgaria, some of whom have urged a condemnation of the film, which alleges Bulgaria collaborated with the Nazis to deport and murder Macedonian Jews (Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany, but has long claimed it was the only one not to deport Jews). “Balkan Is Not Dead”, which takes place in 1905, is a period piece about the romance between Turkey’s General Ataturk and a Macedonian girl. Ironically, the directors of “Third Half” and “Balkan Is Not Dead” co-directed Macedonia’s bizarre 1998 submission “Goodbye 20th Century” (which featured a murderous Santa Claus). If all four films are eligible, I predict “Balkan Is Not Dead” will beat the other three. However, since I think “Balkan” will be eligible next year, I’m predicting “The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears”.

66. MALAYSIA (last submitted 2004) sent a film to the competition only once, despite having one of the highest film outputs in Southeast Asia. Last year, the film I predicted would coax them back into the race (“The Malay Chronicles”) won Best Picture at the National Film Awards, but was not sent to the Oscars. This year, they don’t have any outstanding films this year that would make me believe they would re-enter. Two of the better regarded candidates include “Songlap”, a drama about forced prostitution and human trafficking and “Ombak Rindu”, a romantic tearjerker. They also have some high-profile commercial films including action-thrillers “Bunohan” and “The Collector”, Malaysia’s first 3D film “The 29th of February” and Malaysia’s first sci-fi film “Manetra”. For the sake of completion, I’ll guess they send “The 29th of February”, about a man who ages only once every four years, and “Songlap” as the runner-up.

67. MEXICO has gotten four Oscar nominations in the past twelve years plus one additional shortlist spot. Mexico typically releases a lengthy “shortlist” of films in late August (usually around 10-12). Things are very confusing in Mexico this year. Just to remind, films are only eligible if they premiered in Mexican cinemas between October 2011 and September 2012. The two top Mexican films on the film festival circuit this year- Cannes 2012 Un Certain Regard winner “After Lucia” and Cannes 2012 Best Director winner “Post Tenebras Lux”- are both scheduled to open in local cinemas in October 2012. Gritty crime thriller “Days of Grace” was released in April 2012 to excellent reviews (though it is said to be a bit uneven), and it won five awards at the Mexican Ariel Awards....but Mexico somehow shortlisted it last year when it lost to “Miss Bala”. Was it eligible last year?? Who knows? And “La Vida Precoz y Breve de Sabina Rivas”, by the director of “Innocent Voices”, has been completed but still has no release date...I think Mexico will select “Pastorela”, a lively and popular comedy that won Best Picture at this year’s Ariels, against tough competition from “Days of Grace”. “Pastorela” takes a comical look at the rivalry between a church pastor and a local cop going to war over who gets to play the part of the Devil in the annual Christmas pageant. It sounds really funny. As for the other contenders, “Days of Grace” is said to be exciting but messy and chaotic. “After Lucia”, a drama about a the effects of bullying on a young, popular girl, is supposed to be great, but it's a much “smaller” and quieter film than Mexico typically chooses. The arty “Post Tenebras Lux” is just supposed to be terrible! So, even without all these release date problems, I was predicting “Pastorela” anyway. Other films we can expect to see on the Mexican shortlist include: “Between Us”, a black comedy about the disintegration of a marriage, “Los Chidos”, another black comedy, this time about a gringo American who wanders into the life of a low-class Mexican family, “Colosino: El Asesinato”, a political thriller about a fictional assassination in the 1990s, “Lu’s Dream”, a drama about a woman recovering from the death of her young son, “Reasons of the Heart”, an adaptation of Madame Bovary by Arturo Ripstein (who has repped Mexico a record five times) and “A Secret World” about the road journey of a sexually adventurous teen. I think the runner-ups will be “After Lucia” (if it gets an early release) and "Colosino", since Mexico usually leans towards more commercially popular films.

68. MONGOLIA (last submitted 2005) is the latest country to introduce annual National Film Awards and this year’s three big winners were thriller “Mind Stealer” (Best Film, Actor, Screenplay and three others), emigration drama “The Men with Blue Dots” (Best Director and one other) and historical costume drama “Bogd Khan” (two small awards). The trailers for all three look much more professional than you might expect, which may lead to a Mongolian film in the Oscar competition for the first time since 2005. Despite “Bogd Khan”’s weaker showing at the National Film Awards, it was screened for foreign investors in Cannes and is the most likely candidate, followed by “Blue Dots”, which has European partners.

69. MOROCCO made the shortlist for the first time last year and, in all likelihood, pipped Germany’s “Pina” for sixth place, just missing a potential Cinderella-story Oscar nomination...Unfortunately, coming in sixth place means little at the Oscars but Morocco’s film industry is churning out lots of films lately, with more potential contenders (by my count) than any other Arab country, including Egypt. Despite a plethora of well-received films, Morocco’s Oscar entry will almost certainly be one of two films. My pick is “God’s Horses” directed by Nabil Ayouch (who repped Morocco in 1998 and 2000), which was the only Arab film to play in the Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes this year. “Horses” tells the story of disaffected youth in Morocco who are recruited and convinced to take part in terrorist activities. “Horses” faces strong competition from “Death for Sale” (Berln 2012), which also features disaffected youth, but this time involved in a jewelry heist. In third place: “The Prodigal Son”, in which a son kidnapped by his French mother as a child returns to live with his father in Morocco. In any other year, films like “On the Edge” (four female blue-collar workers are seduced by a life of crime), “Rough Hands” (a well-connected barber helps a woman to engage in visa fraud to reunite with her husband), “Love in the Medina” (a racy box-office hit about a preacher’s son entering into a forbidden sexual relationship) and “The Rif Lover” (opening film in Marrakech; about a lusty young woman who falls for a drug lord) would easily qualify as contenders, but they’ll find it difficult to be noticed this year. Wild card: majority French production “Free Men” starring Tahar Rahim is an acclaimed French film with a Moroccan-born director, based on a true story about Arabs saving Jews during WWII. Last year, Morocco selected a similarly produced film to make the shortlist.

70. NEPAL (last submitted 2006) submitted films somewhat regularly between 1999 and 2006, but then they gave up. This year, they do actually have an Oscar contender that may coax them to return, and that film is “Highway”. “Highway” is one of the first Nepali films on the international film circuit. It played in the Berlin Panorama 2012, it has powerful backers (including Danny Glover), and it was the first Nepali film to merit a Variety review in five years (since their last Oscar submission!). “Highway” is a low-budget film about a number of strangers on a long bus journey, who are delayed when a strike prevents any traffic from moving forward. This is a relevant and topical problem in Nepal and while the film isn’t likely to do well in the Oscar race, sending the film to Hollywood would be a great move to boost the domestic film industry. The film has sparked a vigorous critical debate in Nepal, in newspapers and on the web, with some loving the film and others hating it, with very few people in-between. This year’s winner of the Nepali Film Awards- “Bato Muni Ko Phool”- is not eligible because it was released too early.

71. THE NETHERLANDS has sent three films about World War II to the Oscars in the past nine years (four if you include “Sonny Boy”, in which WWII also plays a role). They’ve also been shortlisted three times....Guess which films? “Winter in Wartime”, “Black Book” and Oscar nominee “Twin Sisters” were all films with WWII at their core. Like Pavlov’s Dog, the Netherlands is almost certain to choose “Süskind “ a true drama about a Dutch Jew who saves the lives of countless Jewish children during the German occupation. Now if that’s not Oscar bait, I don’t know what is! The large committee will give it a “10” on their rating cards before they’ve even started the film. The Netherlands doesn’t have too many other strong contenders this year, although I suppose we will see films like thriller “The Heineken Kidnapping” (the true story of a millionaire held for ransom, starring Rutger Hauer), road movie “Jackie” (two twin sisters search for their long-lost mother in the USA, starring Carice van Houten and Holly Hunter). youth drama “Kauwboy” (Best Youth Film, Berlin 2012) and thriller “Manslaughter”(about an ambulance driver and an accidental death) on the Dutch longlist. Of these, “Heineiken” has the best chance of beating “Süskind”...but don’t count on it. Much-maligned 3D adventure drama “Nova Zembla”, and small, critically praised films like “Hemel” and “Snackbar” will be lucky if they make the longlist.

72. NEW ZEALAND sent a film for the first time last year, but despite two official languages (English and Maori), almost all of their films are in English. They do have a documentary called “Maori Boy Genius”, about a Maori teen accepted to Yale at age 16. It appears it's mostly in English but it does feature quite a bit of Maori...It would be interesting if they released a Maori-language version to qualify for the Oscars.

73. NICARAGUA (last submitted 2010) returned to the competition after a two-decade absence in 2010. Unfortunately, I don’t see that they have any eligible films this year.

74. NORWAY has announced a three-film shortlist since 2010, like their Scandinavian neighbors in Denmark. It’s difficult to see Norway choosing anything other than the long-anticipated adventure film “Kon-Tiki”, about the voyage of national hero Thor Heyerdahl and his six-man crew across the Pacific Ocean in a tiny, traditional raft. “Kon-Tiki”, which I've heard was filmed simultaneously in both Norwegian and English versions, is by the same directors as “Max Manus”. It checks all the right cost an expensive 15 million US dollars, tells an important story in Norwegian history and will be featured in a special screening at the Toronto Film Festival. Unless it’s a disaster, it’s a lock to represent Norway. I think the other two spots on the shortlist will be taken by coming-of-age drama “The Ornheim Company” and the gross-out relationship comedy “The Almost Man” (Best Picture in Karlovy Vary 2012). Two other films- Noomi Rapace’s horror-thriller “Babycall” and Peter Naess’ (“Elling”) new war drama about Allied and Nazi soldiers forced to work together to survive (co-starring Rupert “Ron Weasley” Grint)- may make the shortlist but they won’t be able to beat “Kon-Tiki”.

75. PAKISTAN (last submitted 1963!!!), as I note every year, has not submitted a film to the Oscar race in nearly a half-century- more than any other country. I’m not sure why that is...Pakistan does have a domestic film industry (though it’s not doing so well), but they simply don’t have any interest. Pakistan did in fact win their first-ever Oscar last year when director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won for Best Documentary Short for “Saving Faces”, which I hear is an amazing film. If last year’s Oscar inspires them to send a film, it will surely be “Waar”, an expensive action movie (and not a musical!) advertised as the most anticipated Pakistani film of all time. Then again, even if Pakistan wanted to send it, it might contain too much English. For the sake of completion, I’ll predict “Waar”, with Bollywood-style musical drama “Fatima”, about an impoverished young woman in second position.

76. PALESTINE (last submitted 2008) has been absent for the past three years (anyone know why?) but I think they’ll submit “Habibi” this year IF it gets a qualifying cinema run in the Palestinian Territories (the film been has screened there, but I'm not sure if it has had an Oscar-qualifying seven-day run). "Habibi" is a rare film from the Gaza Strip about two Gazan students living in the West Bank whose romance comes under threat due to family pressures after they are forced to return to Gaza. The female-helmed film won Best Arab Film in Dubai and has screened at a number of festivals, including in the United States. Annemarie Jacir, who represented Palestine in 2008, has a new film but I don’t think it will be released in time.

77. PERU has one of the easiest decisions this year. Not only do they have a fantastic film to send- “The Bad Intentions”, a black comedy about a nasty little girl obsessed with death, set against a backdrop of strict Catholicism, Maoist rebels and nasty politics- but they don’t really have anything else. “Bad Intentions” has gotten great reviews and even has an outside shot of a second Oscar nod for Peru. Peru’s other eligible films include some comedies and one horror movie. Distant runner-up: drama “Casadentro” (about an elderly woman preparing for the visit of her daughter and granddaughter), but you can count on “Bad Intentions” to rep Peru.

78. THE PHILIPPINES has sent more films to the Foreign Oscar competition than any other country in Southeast Asia (22 by my count) but without any success. I’ve seen eight of them and only two of them were really good movies (“Dekada ‘70” and the very low-budget “Maximo Oliveros”) so this is not really a surprise. This year, I see the three main Filipino contenders for Oscar as: terrorism drama “Captive”, crime biography “Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story” and illegal immigrant drama “A Mother’s Story”. “Captive”, about the real-life kidnapping of a number of foreign vacationers (will it have too much English??) by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, is clearly the big name this year. The film is directed by the hottest Filipino director on the film fest circuit (Brillante Mendoza) and stars French actress Isabelle Huppert (who, oddly enough, also co-stars in one of the South Korean contenders). “A Mother’s Story” is about a woman who decides to stay in the United States illegally to send money home to her family in the Philippines (the reviews make it sound a lot like their 2000 submission, although that was about a law-abiding woman who worked legally as a maid in Hong Kong). “Manila Kingpin” is a gritty B&W crime drama detailing the life of a real-life crime lord in the 1960s. All three received the prestigious ‘A’ rating from the national Cinema Evaluation Board, entitling the filmmakers to significant tax breaks. The other three ‘A’-rated contenders that I know about include two arthouse films: “The Dance of Two Left Feet”, a gay-themed docudrama incorporating a great deal of dance performance, and “Palawan Fate” a languorous, slow-paced film about life on the island of Palawan; and one unlikely horror film- "The Healing", starring Vilma Santos. Both have played at a number of festivals. Then again, the Filipinos often choose a movie released at the last minute, so maybe there’s something I have overlooked...My prediction: “A Mother’s Story” reps the Philippines, followed by “Manila Kingpin” and “Captive” in third.

POSSIBLE DEBUTS: I think we are likely to see debut entries from KOSOVO and/or PARAGUAY. PARAGUAY is the only South American country never to enter the Oscar race, but this year they've premiered a long-awaited drama based on their 19th century war of independence- “Libertad”- which is a co-production with Argentina. Newly independent KOSOVO may send "Lamb of God" (a.k.a. "Agnus Dei"), another war drama, this time about a Kosovar born of forbidden Serbian-Albanian parentage. There's also Communist LAOS, which could potentially send “At the Horizon”, a thriller about the escalating dispute between a spoiled rich kid and a motorcycle mechanic.


ivan coss y leon said...

Hi, dzong. I have a few comments:

ITALY - Maybe they choose Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy. The film got good reviews in Italy, it was released in March and have historical background (

MEXICO - Right now, I have not idea which film we choose. "Pastorela" isn't exactly Oscar material at all and personally I don't think they choose Colosio. Not because for the quality. Right now, Mexico is confronting a political controversy by the elections and the party choosed -PRI-. Also, Colosio's death is still a mysterious. BTW: It's Colosio, not Colosino. I think "La Vida Precoz y Breve de Sabina Rivas", if released in time with one theater by member of Mexican Academy -It happened before-, will be the contender

Spartak said...


Israel (my country) - First of all “God’s Neighbours” are much more comedy then drama (and I think some of the academy members can blaime, Meny Yaesh,for not taking a such a serious theme too easy).
Dover Kosashvili's film is called "Single Plus" and got very mixed review and one of academy members (woman) even wanted it to be disqualificated (I agree that the film is shovinistic...)
"Fill the Void" will take part in Venice Film Festival (The Main programm).
"Sharqiyah" is quite good,but it doesn't take part ("producers protest",maybe he'll change his mind and submit it next year).
While the main contender (at least at this moment) seems to be "The World Is Funny" though I highly doubt that foreigners can understand this film...
Also this year there's a small change in the format of Ophir's.There'll be not 5,but 6 films nominated for Best Picture...The 6th one have to be from special "Independent Path",though I highly doubt that the winner will come from their.
So I'm betting on "Fill the Void"...Anyway the nominations for the Ophir probably will be announced next week...

Raguá said...

Hi, dzong! Here is the 7-films Mexican shortlist published a few days ago!

dzong2 said...


I'm actually thrilled I did so well with MEXICO! Thanks also for letting me know that "Lux" and "Lucia" are eligible, presumably by getting an early release....I hadn't ever heard of the documentary "The Tiniest Place" or biodrama "The Fantastic World of Juan Orol", which sounds like a Mexican "Ed Wood".

I also agree with Ivan that "Sabina Rivas" can easily win this if it gets added....Mexico sometimes adds films to the shortlist.

My prediction: still "Pastorela", despite Ivan's warning! :)

As for ISRAEL....I've never even heard of "Filling the Void". What is it about?

Spartak said...

Fill the Void
Writer/director: Rama Burshtein

Fill the Void is a love story that takes place in the Jewish Hassidic world; a society with strict codes and guidelines for love. Shira must decide between following her heart and fulfilling her duty to her beloved deceased sister.

Rama Burshtein was born in New York in 1967. She graduated from the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, Jerusalem in 1994. During those years Rama became deeply religious and upon her graduation she dedicated herself to promoting film as a tool for self expression in the orthodox community. Rama wrote, directed and produced films for the orthodox community, some of them for women only. She also taught directing and scriptwriting in various film and television institutions within the orthodox community, including Ma’ale Film School, Yad Benjamin Film School for Woman and Ulpena Arts School, Jerusalem.

The film was also sponsored (or at least it post-production) by Sundance Lab.The most intresting thing about the film (at least from Israel inside point of view) that it was made by Orthodox woman, while most of the films about Orthodox/religious are made by non-religious directors (probably except Joseph Cider). Anyway,probably the most important thing about it is the participation in Venice and becaming the film the highest profile...But again it's better to wait for next week and see,how much noms eachs one get..

dzong2 said...

Ah, thanks! Actually, I have heard of that one...In fact, I had it listed in the Top Three for Israel. I just forgot the title....

Spartak said...

Regarding your question in a previous post (why "Shaqiya" is not eligible)...

Israel - The Ophir Prizes probably the only Academy prize that holds competition with an absurd situation,when theoretically the film can be shown only to academy without holding even one screening to the public. For example this year only 9 from 29 films had cinema run (one of them one year ago!) and another 2 have official date...The system is that anyone can submit a film that is longer then 70 min' (he just has to pay a participation price about 330$).
The producer of "Sharqiya" (who has another 2 films this year and didn't submit them either) say that "The athmosphere during the academy screenings is very unpleasent so it's not the right place to hold first screenings" (I'm wondering if he plans to submit his films next year)...
Anyway if you're intrested,you can check the official site of the academy: (it's in Hebrew,about a year ago they promised to launch the English version,but it's still is not out,anyway you can use google translation to see at least,who participate)...

ivan coss y leon said...

Sorry, again I had a problem with the messages.

Thanks for the shortlist. Well, if there's no significant changes for this list, I could think Mexico would send "Después de Lucía" and next "El Lugar más pequeño"... But anyway, this year is difficult to predict and maybe we have a surprise as 2005 with Gustavo Loza's "Al otro Lado"... Anyway, we'll see ;

Spartak said...

Yesterday the nominations for Ophir (Israel) were announced.
At least for this moment it seems to be "The World is Funny" (nominations in all 15 possible categories. BTW,probably I owe a little appolige for Israel Academy,because I forgot to mention that they introduced a new category,"Best Casting",while American collegues are still thinking about it) vs. Fill the Void" (13 nominations,doesn't have Best Actor and Best Composer)...And a bit after them is “God’s Neighbours” with 9 nominations, though they "suffer" from absence of female actresses (only one actress,who nominated for Best Supp'),from the "important categories" it misses only Cinematography (the others are Sound,Art Direction,Costumes and Make-up)...
The other three nominated films are "Rock the Casbah" (8),"Ballad for the Weeping Spring" (9 and the only of the 5 main films that misses Best Director category) and also "Joe + Belle" (from the indie path,which seems to be a totla faliure,because none of the films have noms' in other categories beside Best Film,which they get automatically)...
Also it seems important to mention that both "Single Plus" (Dover Kosashvili's new film) and “Yossi” didn't get even a single nom...

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