Saturday, July 27, 2013

Predictions for the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film- Canada, Latin America and Africa

Here's Part Three-

These are my predictions for the 26 countries from North America, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa....Only 12 of these countries entered films last year (Canada, nine Latin countries and two African ones), mostly because eight of the nine sub-Saharan African countries have submitted a film just one time in history.

Most likely to enter- CANADA, which has made the shortlist seven out of the past ten years (one win, four nominations and two shortlist spots) and entered a film every year without fail since 1979. That's better than any of other countries on this list (Argentina is #2)
Least likely to enter- Puerto Rico was disinvited from the competition in 2010 (though they picked a film in protest in 2011) but I'd say the least likely contender this year is CAMEROON, which last entered in 1980.
Most likely to get an Oscar Nomination- It's always silly to count out CANADA. They're most likely this year too.

1. ARGENTINA- "Thesis on a Homicide" (Tesis sobre un homicidio)- There are three things that get the Argentine Academy excited- actor Ricardo Darin (he starred in their 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010 films), director Daniel Hendler (he directed their 2004 and 2006 films, with very stiff competition), and film noir (2005, 2008, 2009, 2010). They also like watching 8- to 12-year boys growing up (2003), especially if they are growing up during the military dictatorship (2002, 2012). “Thesis of a Homicide” may not be as good a movie as the Oscar-winning“The Secret in Their Eyes”, but it’s probably going to end up representing Argentina. Starring Ricardo Darin, produced by Daniel Hendler and undeniably“noir”, this box-office hit crime thriller about a murdered woman has gotten very strong (though not outstanding) reviews and in a year with few possibilities, it should win handily. In the film, a criminology professor (Darin) suspects one of his students of committing a brutal, unsolved murder. If only it had an 11-year old boy, it would be a shoo-in! In second place, I’ll guess Lucia Puenzo’s disturbing Cannes drama “Wakolda”, about Nazi war criminal Joseph Mengele stalking a young girl in 1960s Argentina. I’m not quite sure what else they would pick- the Argentinians had two low-key dramas in Berlin (“Habi the Foreigner”, about a woman experimenting with Islam, and “Belated”, about a young man causing sexual tension between a married couple in rural Argentina) and one more from Cannes (“Los Duenos”, about maids in the countryside) but none of them seems particularly likely.“The Wild Ones”, a drama about disaffected youth, was well-received at Cannes last year, but it couldn’t even manage a Best Picture nominee at the Silver Condor Awards. Two of the films that did- “Gone Fishing” and “My German Friend”, also seem a bit too low-key. “Gone Fishing” is a droll character study (looks like a Uruguayan film) while “My German Friend” admittedly could be a dark horse- it’s about the adult children of German refugees who fall in love- one set of refugees were Jews, the others were Nazis. Both films lost to last year’s Oscar submission, “Clandestine Childhood”. Oscar winner Juan Jose Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) works mostly in American television these days, but he made his first feature film since his Oscar win this year. Unfortunately, it's a strange-looking animated comedy (“Metegol”). Argentina chose a children’s animated film once, but I hope they won’t make that mistake again. Top three: “Thesis of A Homicide”, “Wakolda” and“My German Friend”.

 2. BOLIVIA- "Yvy Maraey: Tierra Sin Mal" Bolivia has had five official submissions to the Oscars, and three of them were directed by Juan Carlos Valdivia. Although it hasn't premiered yet, it would thus be foolish to bet against Valdivia’s latest “Yvy Maraey: Tierra Sin Mal” (previously titled “Kandire”), a road movie about an explorer delving deep into indigenous Guarani lands in modern-day Bolivia. The Bolivian government is very interested in promoting indigenous cultures, and this film fits well with that image. Valdivia also stars in the film and wrote the screenplay. The runner-up will likely be “Pacha”, the story of an impoverished shoeshine boy, determined to get back the tools stolen from him. Without them, he will have no way to do his job and earn money to eat. I also predicted it as runner-up last year, but it didn’t premiere on Bolivian screens until Spring 2013. Local comedies like “Sleeping Beauties” and“The Orchard” won’t come into play. Assuming it opens, bet on Valdivia getting a fourth Bolivian nod.

3. BRAZIL- "Time and the Wind" I was pretty stumped by Brazil this year but I finally opted for historical drama "Time and the Wind", based on a popular series of novels set amidst two centuries of Brazilian history. Co-starring Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, ("Central Station"),  "Time and the Wind" begins in the 18th century Portuguese colonial era and is said to look at history through the eyes of two families. It's scheduled to premiere on September 20, its director has found favor with the Brazilian Academy before (Jayme Monjardim was selected in 2005 for another historical drama, "Olga") and it's my pick for Brazil. In second place, I'm going to guess "My Father's Chair", an arty thriller produced by another Brazilian Oscar nominee (Fernando Meirelles, "City of God") about a man desperately searching for his missing son. But with Brazil absent from the film festival circuit this year, it's almost anybody's game. Also in my top five: Odd little thriller "Neighboring Sounds" has probably been seen the most internationally, "Faroeste caboclo" is a western set in the 1980s and "Once Upon A Time, I, Veronica", a Bridget Jones-esque dramedy character study of a sensual Brazilian woman. That last one is the dark horse, having won quite a few awards at Brazil's seemingly endless number of local film festivals. Brazil usually releases the world's longest shortlist (generally more than a dozen films) so you can also expect to see titles like "Between Valleys" (two identical men with different lives), "My Sweet Orange Tree" (a family drama), "Eden" (a religiously themed drama about faith) and "Good Luck Sweetheart" (a restless artist), but not Bruno Barreto ("Four Days in September", also an Oscar nominee!)'s  lesbian dramedy "Reaching for the Moon". Too much English.

4. BURKINA FASO- "Moi Zaphira" Burkina Faso, despite its remote location, has been the site of Africa’s most prestigious festival for African cinema (FESPACO) since 1969. After winning two awards at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, the Burkinabes sent their first film to the Oscar competition (Yaaba ). Despite a great filmmaking tradition and a small domestic film industry, they have yet to send a second film. This year they have two interesting choices, though they are unlikely to enter. “Moi Zaphira” is a sort of African take on ”Gypsy”, about a mother in a small village who wants her young daughter to become a fashion model, though the career itself is unknown in her community. It  was the only Burkinabe feature in competition at the biannual FESPACO Film Festival in Ouaga and director Apolline Traore used to work in Los Angeles, signalling she may be savvy enough to get a new Oscar selection committee formed. The other choice would be "Soleils", a road movie about an old man who journeys with a young amnesiac girl (sounds like The World is Big and Salvation Lies Around the Corner ) around Europe and Africa. Some have grumbled about Zaphira"'s modest tech creds, but "Soleils" hasn't premiered yet so I'll go with "Zaphira".

5. CAMEROON- "Nina's Dowry" Cameroon hasn’t sent a film in over 30 years....more precisely since 1980, when Daniel Kamwa became the world’s first Black African director to compete here. Of course they won’t enter, but they do have two well-reviewed possibilities. "Nina’s Dowry" won the Jury Prize at the 2013 African Academy Awards (I believe this is the highest honor Cameroon has ever received there) and it tells a socially relevant story of a woman trying to flee an abusive marriage in the village of her late father. The politically sensitive "Le President", about an African dictator, is by one of Africa’s most senior directors (Jean-Pierre Bekolo) but it is having difficulty getting permission to screen at home, so "Dowry" would be much more likely to get the nod.

6. CANADA- "Gabrielle" Canada has an exemplary record in this category- seven spots on the shortlist in ten years (the twitchy Academy ignored their two outstanding gay-themed entries).  Considering the small size of Canada’s French (7 million) and Inuktikut (30,000) populations- smaller than Belgium or Sweden- that is quite an impressive record. Quebec is outperforming English-speaking Canada too….Eight of the past ten winners of the Canadian Screen Awards (the Genies) were French-language films and all three of Canada’s new Berlin/Cannes entries this year were from Quebec. So, what will Canada pick this year? I’m feeling confident it will be "Gabrielle", a drama about a mentally challenged musical prodigy, and her efforts to build an independent life for herself. The Foreign Oscar committee loves musicians ("Beyond Silence", "The Chorus", "Departures", "Farinelli", "As If It Is Heaven", just to name a few) and Oscar in general loves people with mental problems. As if that weren't enough, "Gabrielle" comes from the production house that delivered critically acclaimed Oscar nominees "Incendies" and "Monsieur Lazhar". We'll see how "Gabrielle" is received in Locarno, but I'm feeling pretty good about it to represent my Northern neighbors. I’m also getting good vibes from biopic “Louis Cyr: The Strongest Man in the World”, about the 19th century Canadian strongman who performed feats of amazing strength. The film has been successful with critics and audiences, and could also potentially pique the interest of the Oscar voters and their biopic fetish (though they don't often go for biopics of foreign people they've never heard of!). Two of the other strong contenders have a monkey on their back. As I mentioned before, the mostly conservative Oscar committee has ignored outstanding LGBT films (are you really telling me that the dull, forgettable “Don’t Tell” was somehow better than the brilliant “C.R.A.Z.Y.” ? Or that “Milk of Sorrow” could fairly defeat “I Killed My Mother”? I think not!) So, I’m not sure that bodes well for Cannes lesbian thriller “Vic & Flo Saw A Bear” (compared to Tarantino and the Coen Bros.), about a pair of lesbian ex-cons locking horns with a parole officer or “Tom At the Farm”, the latest from hot, 24-year old wunderkind Xavier Dolan, about a gay man who attends the funeral of his lover, only to discover the parents were ignorant of their son’s sexuality. It’s only fair that I also mention a trio of films showing that Canada is not just divided between white English- and French-speaking halves. “Les meneges humains” looks at racism and Islamophobia in modern Canadian society, while “Maina” (Shanghai) is an epic historical thriller about an Inuit woman negotiating tribal intrigues prior to the arrival of the Europeans. And then there’s Oscar nominee Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children”. I predicted it last year despite good-but-not-great reviews, but this film about the birth of independent India didn’t actually premiere in Canadian cinemas until November 2012. Others might predict “Sarah Prefers to Run” (Berlin 2013), a dramedy about a teenaged girl, or “Le Demantelement”, a version of “King Lear” set amidst Quebec’s sheep farms, but reviews have been lukewarm. Others might (foolishly) predict French-language Inuit-themed animated hit “The Legend of Sarila”, the biggest Quebecois hit of the year, but Canada is serious about the Oscars and is unlikely to pick a cartoon. And honestly, they could pick something new from September’s Toronto Film Festival. Prediction for now: "Gabrielle" defeats “Louis Cyr”, followed by “Vic & Flo” and “Midnight’s Children".

7. CHAD- "Gris Gris" Chad is the most likely of all the sub-Saharan African countries to submit a film this year (bar South Africa) because of "Gris Gris" (aka "Grigris"), a drama about a disabled, aspiring dancer (?!) who gets involved with a gang of petrol smugglers. Impoverished, isolated Chad competed for the Palme d’Or for the second time this year, both times thanks to Mahamet Saleh Haroun. Haroun won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2010 for "A Screaming Man" and the Venice Jury Prize in 2006 for "Daratt". But for him, Chadian cinema would not exist. Chad didn’t send either of these films to the Oscars (though they did send one of Haroun’s unheralded earlier works in 2002), but the Chadian government has recently reopened a cinema in the capital, and has started to invest in both a film academy and in films ("Grisgris" received some government support) I’m predicting Chad becomes the first sub-Saharan African country ever to send a film to the Oscars twice (bar South Africa). For an interesting article on the current state of cinema in Chad, see here.

8. CHILE- "Gloria" Chile will be looking to make it two in a row after getting their first-ever Oscar nomination last year (on their 17th try) for “No”. I thought “No” was well-made but mostly forgettable and that Chile should have already had two Oscar nominations (for “Los Debutantes” and “En la Cama”)….but I’m not an Oscar voter! This year’s best-reviewed Chilean film is hands-down “Gloria”, a drama about a free-spirited (and maybe a little lonely?) 50-something woman that received raves and a few awards at Berlin 2013. “Gloria” would make a fitting submission for the up-and-coming Chilean movie industry.  Also, the rest of Chile’s contenders seem a bit weird (including the long-awaited fantasy drama “Caleuche”, whose reviews have been lukewarm), making “Gloria” look even more attractive. Two potential challengers by two previously submitted directors are “Il Futuro”, a drama in Italian, Spanish and English about two siblings who get involved with a plot to seduce and rob a handicapped man (played by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer), and political drama “Allende, tu nombre me sabe a hierba”, by two-time Oscar nominee Miguel Littin. Having said that, “Allende” probably won’t be released until Christmas and “Il Futuro” hasn’t had the same buzz as “Gloria". Dark horse: “Thursday Through Saturday”, about a tense family road trip.  Possibly on the shortlist but far too weird for Oscar: “Dance of Reality”, “Dog Flesh”, “The Passion of Michelangelo”, “Summer of Flying Fish” and “The Zoo”. I think Chile has an easy choice and “Gloria” should win this easily.

9. COLOMBIA- "Roa" Colombia may not have any Oscar nominations yet, but they are one of the most successful countries in the world at getting their films distributed in the United States. All but one of their submissions since 2001 got either a DVD, Netflix streaming or theatrical release in the United States (the exception was the well-meaning but dull “Crab Trap”). This year I predict los Colombianos will send “Roa”, a historical drama about the assassination of the mayor of Bogota in the 1940s, directed by Andres Baiz who directed my personal favorite of Colombia’s Oscar submissions (the tragic “Satanas”) and co-starring Colombia’s first and only Oscar nominee, Catalina Sandrina Moreno ("Maria, Full of Grace"). “Roa” has been well-received (though not by everyone) and it opened the 2013 Cartagena Film Festival. “Roa” will face stiff competition from “La Playa DC”, which was Colombia’s submission to the Goya Awards last year, but which (according to my sources) premiered in October 2012 making it eligible for the Oscars this year. “La Playa DC”, whose director the Hollywood Reporter said was “Colombia's most notable cinematic export since Oscar-nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno is about Afro-Colombian youth in the capital. It was also featured in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2012. Reviews seem better than “Roa”, though the film is less Oscary and I’m not 100% certain its eligible. The controversial “Operation E” has also gotten warm reviews for its story of the infant child born of the union between a FARC guerilla and a female hostage, whose real-life equivalent sued (but failed) to prevent the film’s release. Rounding out the Top Five possibilities: “The Lighthouse”, an arty film about the lonely keeper of a lighthouse who meets a down-on-her-luck woman (sounds very much like the films Colombia usually submits) and black comedy “Edificio Royal”, about the quirky inhabitants of a large apartment building. Less likely: romance “Sin Palabras”, about a Colombian courting a Chinese woman (who speaks no Spanish) trying to illegally emigrate to the United States, “Anina”, a well-reviewed animated film which won Best Colombian Film in Cartagena (though “Roa”, “Operation E” and “Playa DC” weren’t competing), and retro-comedy “Quien tiene el control”.

10. CONGO-KINSHASA- "Kinshasa Kids" Congo was represented at the Oscars last year by Canadian drama “War Witch”, a drama filmed in Congo with a Congolese cast but with a Canadian director and mostly Canadian crew. Congo sent an obscure film to the competition in 1997, but didn’t send hit drama “Viva Riva” in 2011 when it was an actual contender. This year, they’re sure to be absent, but I’d like to make a push for them to send “Kinshasa Kids”, a well-received drama about Congolese street children who start a band. It has been seen a lot on the Film Festival circuit (including Toronto, New York and Thessaloniki) and has a good Oscar pedigree, including the breakout star of “War Witch” (Rachel Mwanza) and director Marc-Henri Wajnberg who represented his native Belgium in the Foreign Oscar race for his first film in 1993. The cast is all Congolese but the crew is all European. It might be disqualified for this, but Oscar seems to be more liberal on this point lately, i.e. when they accepted Greenland’s “Inuk” last year, which had a similar situation.

11. COSTA RICA- "Princesas Rojas" Costa Rica last year chose to submit a film for the Spanish Goyas (“Three Marias”) against a dozen other Spanish/Portuguese films, but declined to enter the more competitive (71 countries!) Oscar race. With only two films likely to be eligible this year, they may make the same decision. If they send a film, it’s almost certain to be “Princesas Rojas”, about the 9-year old daughter of Communist revolutionaries living an unstable life between Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Miami (it sounds an awful lot like last year’s “Clandestine Childhood” from Argentina). “Princesas” premiered at Berlinale in the Generation 14+ Section, and is much more likely than Mexican co-production “Puerto Padre”.

12. COTE D'IVOIRE- "Burn It Up Djassa!" Cote d'Ivoire entered the Oscar contest once in 1976 and they won! But “Black and White in Color” was not really an Ivorian, or even an African film….the cast, crew and director were all French. It’s unlikely the Cote d’Ivoire will enter the race after 37 years away, but they do have a contender in “Burn It Up Djassa”, a low-budget drama about street life in an Abidjan slum. Racking up festival bookings in Berlin, Carthage and Toronto, it’s one of the first films ever from Cote d’Ivoire to play internationally.

13. CUBA- "Si vas a comer, espera por Virgilo" Cuba has submitted a film roughly every other year since 1987. Though they’ve skipped two of the past three years, they were a shock nominee for the Spanish Goyas for subversive zombie comedy “Juan of the Dead” (Juan de los muertos), even more so when they eventually won the award, beating the boring, sentimental favorite “Clandestine Childhood”. It was the first time Cuba won since 1999. If los Cubanos submit a film this year, I predict it will be either “If you’re going to eat, then wait for Virgilio”, a talky drama set in the 1970s about two friends with different views on life, or “A Movie About Ana”, a topical comedy about an actress who pretends to be a prostitute. "Ana" won the Critics Award for Best Cuban Film of 2012, despite its controversial subject matter. “Ana” looks like a better film, but “Virgilio” looks like the government will prefer it. It's based on a famous stage play, and will be released to coincide with the anniversary of the Cuban Film Institute. In third place: “Verde Verde” is a gay-themed thriller (gay-themed “Strawberry & Chocolate” brought Cuba its only Oscar nomination) that premiered last year but only got a regular cinematic release in 2013….Is it eligible? Probably out:  “Molasses”, about a family living in a town where the local factory has closed down, has represented Cuba at a number of film festivals, but I’ve heard the government originally tried to get it pulled from the national film festival; “Esther Somewhere” has an all-star cast but production values look quite old-fashioned. 

14. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC- "Color of the Night" (El color de la noche) The Dominican Republic has submitted films by four Dominican directors between 1983 and 2012 (a fifth submission was directed by a Cuban-American) and all four of them have new films this year, making the Dominican race unusually competitive. The front-runner is probably going to be “Color of the Night”, whose director Agliberto Menendez is widely credited with making the first wholly Dominican feature film in 1988. “Color of the Night”, which took a couple of years to make in part due to financing difficulties, is the biopic of a renowned Afro-Dominican politician of Haitian descent, who overcame adversity to become the mayor of Santo Domingo. The respected director and his desire to make this film as a labor of love will make this the front-runner. Not far behind is another historical drama, “Lieutenant Amado” (aka “The Hell and the Glory") about one of the military officers who carried out the assassination of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961. In third place is “Ritmo de Fe”, some sort of dance drama, à la “Pina”, with a Christian slant (sounds weird). “Cristoy Rey”, a Romeo & Juliet-style love story set in the slums of Santo Domingo and “Night Circus”, a domestic-violence-drama-cum-murder-mystery are both by previously submitted directors, probably won’t be released in time, but could be competitive if they are.  

15. ECUADOR- "Monkeys and Chickens" (Mono con Gallinas) Ecuador has traditionally been the laggard of South American cinema, but growing investment by the government has meant that production is up to about five features a year and growing (in contrast, there were roughly five Ecuadorian features total made in the 1990s). Ecuador has only entered the Oscar race twice but recent increased visibility may coax them back. If they decide to enter, I predict they’ll send either “Porcelain Horse”, a gritty adolescent drama about two spoiled wealthy teens who pawn their parent’s possessions to get drugs, or “Monkeys and Chickens”, a historical drama about a teenage conscript captured as a prisoner-of-war in 1941 during a war with Peru, while his country believes him to have been killed in battle. “Porcelain Horse” has represented Ecuador at numerous film festivals this year (along with another adolescent drama, “No Autumn, No Spring”) while “Monkeys” will premiere in September right before the deadline. They could also opt for “La llamada”, a comedy-drama about a mother having one hell of a bad day, or “Quito 2023”, Ecuador’s first sci-fi thriller. It’s 50-50 that they send a film….I’m predicting “Monkeys”.

16. ETHIOPIA- "Medal of Honor" Ethiopia sent a single film in 2010. Their most likely submission this year is “Medal of Honor” (aka “Nishan”), a thriller revolving about a woman, her family and a priceless antique pistol. Director Yidnekachew Shumete was the recipient of a grant during the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and the film has played at FESPACO (Ouagadougou) and Seattle- that's pretty good exposure for an Ethiopian film.

17. GUATEMALA- "Dust" (Polvo)- Guatemala hasn’t sent a film since their 1994 debut (“The Silence of Neto”) but I’m predicting they enter the race this year with “Polvo” (Dust), a drama about the aftermath of the Guatemalan civil war. The film played at Locarno (a major achievement in itself for Guatemalan cinema) and concerns a troubled adolescent who has grown up with his mother. The mother and son were the sole survivors of a brutal village massacre by the Guatemalan military in the 1980s, in which his father died. It’s said to be a difficult film to watch but with the former Guatemalan military ruler in court for genocide, the film would be a topical and important submission.  Film production is up in Guatemala but it’s difficult to see anything else coaxing Guatemala back to the Oscars.

18. KENYA- "Something Necessary" Kenya entered the race for the first time last year with “Nairobi Half Life”, and though it wasn’t nominated it has developed a devoted core of fans and admirers...It may even have come close to the Final Nine. "Half Life" was co-produced by German director Tom Tykwer (“Run, Lola, Run”) and he has stayed involved in Kenya. Tykwer's production company is working with “Nairobi” director Tosh Gitonga on his second feature for a 2014 release, and they also co-produced this year’s Swahili-language  “Something Necessary”, about a woman and her family who become the victims of the post-election ethnic violence that devastated the country in 2007. That's pretty sensitive subject matter in Kenyan society, but it's clearly their most likely submission if they decide to become a regular participant in the Oscar race.

19. MEXICO- "The Golden Cage" (La jaula de Oro)- Full disclosure. I'm writing the Mexican entry several months after making my predictions for the rest of the countries on this list. Mexico has announced a 15-film shortlist and will announce their Oscar nominee in three days.
In my opinion, eight of these films can be eliminated right away- documentary “Miradas Multiples”, dark comedy “The Zebra”, historical dramas “Talking Walls” and “Tlalteco: Spring of 1968” and sad family dramas “Amazing Catfish”, “Lu’s Dream” and “She Doesn’t Want to Sleep Alone”, plus the film I most want to see on the list- morality play “A Tooth for A Tooth”. These eight films simply don’t have enough buzz. The other seven really do have a chance. The two most buzzed about films are Cannes Director winner “Heli”, a brutally violent and realistic film about drug cartels, and popular hit comedy “Instructions Not Included” (Las paredes hablan) about a single father threatened with the loss of his daughter. Simply put, neither of these films has a chance to get Mexico to the shortlist. Everyone agrees “Heli” is a brilliant film, but even its fans agree it is not “likable” and the brutality on screen is hard to stomach. “Instructions” is a popular hit in Mexico, but reviews in the States have found it silly (in the first half) and maudlin (in the second half). If Mexico picks them, they’re out of the race. The other contenders including two dramas about Central American immigrants trying to make it to the United States via Mexico: “The Golden Cage” (La jaula de oro) and “The Precocious and Brief Life of Sabina Rivas” (La vida precoz y breve de Sabina Rivas), plus lavish period drama “Cinco de Mayo”, arthouse favorite “The Prize” (El premio) and a new yet-to-premiere about four lovers of Pancho Villa who meet at his funeral, “Apasionado Pancho Villa”. “The Prize” won the Silver Bear in Berlin in 2011….Movies in Mexico sometimes take ages to hit the screen. Buzz is gone and a lot of people didn’t like the film anyway. The two immigration dramas have a better shot and are both very relevant, but will they cancel each other out due to their identical plots? Mexico has chosen immigration dramas in the past. “The Golden Cage” has better reviews, but more people are talking about “Sabina Rivas” in the chat rooms, and the director of “Sabina” is the only one on the list who has represented Mexico before (and he deserved the Oscar for “Innocent Voices”, a shock snub in 2005. The last contender is big-budget “Cinco de Mayo”, a Hollywood-style look at Mexican history. Reviews have been good but not great, but its tech credits are the best on the list. Mexico went with “Arrancame la Vida”, another little-heralded historical drama, and made the shortlist. So, in the end….I’m stumped. I’m predicting “The Golden Cage”, followed by “Cinco de Mayo”, “Sabina Rivas” and the uber-violent “Heli” in fourth.

20. NICARAGUA- "Magic Words- Breaking A Spell" (Palabras mágicas (Para romper un encantamiento)) Nicaragua's 2010 submission “La Yuma” was not only the first Nicaraguan feature film in two decades, but also a local success and a darling of Latin American Film Festivals. French-born director Florence Jaugey is working on her second Nicaraguan feature, but it won’t be released until January 2014, meaning it’s a sure thing for next year. This year, Nicaragua will likely be absent, although I suppose they could choose to send documentary " Magic Words- Breaking A Spell", a critical film about life before and after the country's current Sandinista government came to power through elections.

21. PERU- "Chicama" Peru has close to a dozen eligible releases this year, including the new all-time Peruvian box-office champ- “Asu Mare”. “Asu Mare” is a broad comedy reuniting the cast of a popular sitcom, so it won’t be a contender for the Peruvian Oscar nominee. The favorite is “Chicama”, which dominated the inaugural Peruvian Film awards (winning Best Peruvian Film from both the audience and the Ministry of Culture) at the 2012 Lima International Film Festival, before being released in cinemas this year. It’s the story of a young teacher who decides to accept an assignment to a remote school high in the mountains, far from Lima. “Chicama” should easily fend off the main challenger, namely “Casadentro”, about an 80-year old woman whose quiet household is disrupted by the sudden arrival of her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. “Casadentro” is directed by the daughter of one of Peru’s most famous directors, Francisco Lombardi. Unlikely but possible: “Ana de Los Angeles”, the biography of a Peruvian sainted nun, and “Lima 13”, an inter-generational dramedy by a previously submitted director about a teen and two elderly people at New Year’s. I think horror-tinged “The Cleaner” (which has won some awards for its story of a mysterious plague) and “General Cemetery” will be frozen out of the running.

22. PUERTO RICO- "I Am A Director" Puerto Rico was unceremoniously disinvited from the Foreign Oscar competition in 2010, even though they had been participating since the 1980s, garnering one Oscar nomination (better than Egypt, Korea or Romania have ever done). Puerto Rico protested and appealed the decision, so I still include them in my predictions. They’ve had a fairly weak this year, but if they were allowed to send a movie, I predict it would be “I Am A Director”, an independent film/satire about a Puerto Rican filmmaker in Hollywood who moves back home to make his first movie. It looks better than faith-based drama “The Last Minute” and bank-heist comedy “Espera Desespera”.

23. SOUTH AFRICA- "Elelwani" South Africa has eleven official languages, but their local films are approximately 50-60% in English and 30% in Afrikaans, with the rest in local African languages, particularly Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho. This year’s front-runner however is “Elelwani”, the first-ever film in the Venda language, spoken by 2% of South Africans, mostly in the country’s Limpopo Province (formerly the semi-independent bantustan also known as Venda) . “Elelwani”, which opened Durban 2012 and played in Berlin 2013, is the story of one woman’s attempt to live a modern life and escape the conservative traditions of her Venda family.  If chosen, director Ntshaveni Wa Luruli will be the first Black director to represent South Africa at the Oscars. In second place, I’ll predict “Black South-easter” (in Xhosa and English), a gritty crime drama about a cop who uncovers evidence of police corruption when investigating a gang war. In third place, I’ll predict Afrikaans-language “The Windmill”, a drama about a teen who moves in with his grandfather. “Windmill” looks like an excellent film, but South Africa usually shies away from choosing stories about White South Africa in the contest (they only did that twice, in 1997 and 2011...both years there were few other contenders...). As good as these three films probably are, I’m personally rooting for raucous inter-racial romantic comedy “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola”, about a Zulu girl and an Afrikaner boy (they speak English together) who decide to get married despite mutual familial objections. The South Africans chose the delightful “White Wedding” in 2009 over heavier fare, so you never know. Dark horse: the as-yet-unreleased “The Story of Rachel de Beer” (filmed simultaneously in Afrikaans and English versions), a famed South African story of a white South African girl who died to save her little brother when lost in the wilderness. Unlikely: “Forgotten Kingdom” (in Sesotho), about a Johannesburg man who returns to his native village in the Kingdom of Lesotho and “Traitors” (in Afrikaans), about the 19th century Anglo-Boer war. I’m ruling out Oscar nominee Darrel Roodt’s drama “Stilte” (in Afrikaans) due to poor reviews and HIV drama “Accession” (in Zulu), about an amoral sex addict, which supposedly has polarized audiences so much that half the theatre has been known to walk out.

24. TANZANIA- "Mdundiko" Tanzania submitted a film once in 2001 and is unlikely to send a film this year. The most likely nominee is “Mdundiko”, a Swahili-language feature about the traditional folk art of ngoma drumming. I may change my mind after hearing the winner of the African Film Development Foundation Awards on August 31.

25. URUGUAY- "Mr. Kaplan" Uruguay has a few films to choose from this year and, as usual, most of them are droll comedies. The clear favorite for the Uruguayan submission is “Tanta Agua” (So Much Water), a coming-of-age dramedy about a lower-middle-class family which competed in the main competition in Berlin. However, in 2009, Uruguay ignored a Berlin favorite (“Gigante”) for an unheralded, quirky comedy by director Alvaro Brechner. I predict the same thing will happen this year and that the Uruguayans will go with Brechner’s latest comedy, “Mr. Kaplan”, about a 70-year old Uruguayan Jew who decides to capture a local restauranteur he is convinced is secretly a Nazi. If it premieres after September 30, then “Tanta Agua” will likely get the nod. Unlikely but possible: two other dramedies, “Solo” (Best First Film in Miami 2013), about an army musician forced to make an agonizing decision, and “Darwin’s Corner”, a male-bonding road movie (Uruguay chose one of these in 2002-2003).


26. VENEZUELA- "Azul no tan rosa" I expected the Venezuelans would submit “Libertador” the lavish $2 million biopic of national hero Simon Bolivar, but since the release date was moved to January 2014, I now expect it will be submitted next year. It was initially announced for July 24 (Bolivar's birthday) but was delayed for unknown reasons. The Venezuelan National Film Festival featured fourteen eligible films this year, but the big winner was last year's Oscar submission, "Rock, Paper, Scissors" (Best Film, Director). Venezuela often prefers gritty urban dramas but I think they'll go more upscale this year. “Azul y no tan rosa”, a controversial but well-received drama about homophobia in Venezuela, came in second place, netting the Special Jury Prize, Screenplay and two others. "Azul" is my prediction to represent Venezuela, with its story of a gay Caracas man who moves in with partner at the same time his young son moves back home from Spain. “Azul” will probably compete with Fina Torres’ “Liz in September”, about the friendships between a group of seven women. Venezuelan domestic cinema is pretty obscure but other contenders could include "Azu”, a historical drama about slaves in colonial Venezuela, "La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos", a Venezuelan ghost story that won the Audience Award at the Film Festival, "The Law", about a judge who returns from Spain to claim an inheritance, and "The Longest Distance", a road movie. There's also another Bolivar biopic ("Bolivar, el hombre de lasdificultades") which may open before September, but I think they'll wait for "Libertador".  Prediction: "Azul y no tan rosa" benefits from the absence of "Libertador", with "Liz en septiembre" the runner-up.

PARAGUAY is the only country in South America that has never shown an interest in the Oscars. However, they sent an inquiry to AMPAS last year about joining (presumably for thriller “7 Cajas”, one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year) but they were told they had asked too late. This year, they could send “Lectura Segun Justino”, about a rural area in 1955 where Germans fleeing WWII co-existed with native Paraguayans.  HAITI could submit for the first time with “Twa Timoun” (Three Kids), a story about three 12-year olds who run away from their group home the day before the disastrous 2010 earthquake. It’s directed by a Belgian. And HONDURAS could become the fourth Central American nation to enter the race if they choose to send the intriguing low-budget sci-fi drama “El Xendra”, about four scientists who become involved in a mission rooted in Mayan mythology.  

From the African continent, the most likely debut of 2013 is SENEGAL whose popular human trafficking drama “La Pirogue” (Cannes 2012) belatedly premiered in Dakar this year. Though I doubt MOZAMBIQUE will fill out the paperwork, “Virgin Margarida”, a touching film about girls forcibly sent to re-education camps after the 1975 revolution would be a fitting debut for the Southern African country. Less likely:

ANGOLA could conceivably enter the Oscar race for the first time with “All is Well”, a drama about two sisters who emigrate to Lisbon, Portugal after fleeing war at home. It was one of two Angolan films competing in FESPACO in Burkina Faso, and also competed in Carthage. Strangely enough, one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries- GUINEA-BISSAU- has two films on the international film festival circuit this year and the Mandingo-language “Battle of Tabato”, a dark, whimsical drama about a émigré who returns from Europe for his daughter’s wedding, would be a great addition to the race on the off chance it could get a qualifying run in Guinea-Bissau (which I believe has no cinemas). NIGERIA has one of the world’s largest film industries but most films are trashy straight-to-video releases in English , but they have a French-language feature this year called “One Man Show” about a Cameroonian living in Paris. UGANDA has “Kampala Story”, about a 14-year old village girl forced to travel to the big city to discover what happened to her father after he stops sending remittance money. Tiny MAURITIUS, made their second feature film ever with “Children of Tourmaron”, based on a famous novel that focuses on four youngsters including a teenage prostitute, living on the island. Finally, war-torn MALI made “Spider Webs”, about a political prisoner in the 1970s. It won two prizes at FESPACO but probably was never screened at home.

Next: Coming in August (after my vacation), the 26 countries of Western and Central Europe, including returning champion Austria and superpowers France, Germany, Italy and Spain.


Alquimista Artificial said...

I think Colombia`s choice will be between La Playa D.C and Roa, with Roa being the favorite.

There is also La Eterna Noche de las Doce Lunas, a documentary about an ancient tradition. I think is the first colombian movie made in an indigenous language. It got great reviews in the Cartagena Film Festival and also in Berlin. Althoug it is very unlikely that the colombian academy selects it.

It is always so nice to read your post. And I got a question. What do you think Colombia needs to get a nomination?.



Spartak said...

Canada - First of all, "Vic & Flo Saw A Bear" played at Berlin and not at Cannes... Secondly, it's a total boredom (or maybe, I was just tired, because it was my 6th film at this day during the JFF, but I doubt), it has a bad screenplay with too many holes in it.
BTW, I liked "The Milk of Sorrow" and yeah, "I Killed My Mother" probably deserved to be at least in top 9, though for example there also was Iranian "About Elly" by Asghar Farhadi, which was also ignored...

Chile - "Il Futuro", never mind just being a VERY bad film, it seems to be not Chilean enough... And "Thursday Till SUNDAY" (and not Saturday) is a nice pic, but seems to be too small.

Colombia - What about there last year's submission (I mean the release), even that IMDB mentions a DVD release in USA, I couldn't find any information about it?

Cuba - What's the original title of "A Movie about Ana"? Because I can't find any info in the net...

Kenya - If you have seen "Nairobi...", I suggest to buy a DVD, it's worth it!

Uruguay - "Tanta Agua" was in Panorama section and not in main competition.
Paraguay - I join to you with the praises about "7 boxes" (though it's not "one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year") and somehow I began to be a little sceptical about countries submitting films just in order to submit a film...

Senegal - What about FESPACO winner "Today" or is it too French? I missed both of the films at JFF 2012, so their submission will be a little punishment for me.

MartinZ said...

Hungary's Notebook is not based on a Agatha Christie story but of a novel by Agota Kristof ;)

alfredo cruz said...

You should watch the movie "Thy Womb" from the Philippines, it worth sending tho the Oscar, it high time a film from the Philippines be acknowledge, it is directed by the Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza

alfredo cruz said...

I think you have good choices.