Friday, August 15, 2014


Here are the likely submissions from Japan to Peru. I'll actually add Japan later this month.
Incidentally, the race is in full swing! Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey have made their official selections ("White God", "Ida", "Japanese Dog" and "Winter Sleep" surprises there) and Germany and Israel have announced their shortlists.
1. JAPAN- TBD They're notoriously hard to predict, but perhaps Yoji Yamada's "Little House"
2. JORDAN- "Theeb" Jordan has only sent a film once and that was the delightful “Captain Abu Raed”, the first Jordanian feature to be made in decades. Since then, film output has been steady (2 or 3 a year) but they’ve never sent in films even when they’ve been well-received this year. This has been an unusually lean year and (as of June) I don’t know that they have anything eligible. However, I do think that “Theeb”, a lush period drama currently in post-production, could potentially be released in time and become Jordan’s second submission. Set in 1916, it’s about a young Bedouin boy in Ottoman-era Arabia who secretly follows his brother on a dangerous journey to find a hidden well important for a cadre of Allied soldiers. If it gets a domestic release before September 30, it might be in.

3 KAZAKHSTAN- "Harmony Lessons" Kazakhstan is likely to send Berlinale 2013 Silver Bear winner “Harmony Lessons”. It finally opened in Kazakhstan in December 2013 after a very successful year screening around the world. The film, about a young boy being bullied by an older student, has been slightly controversial for its dark portrait of Kazakh society, but it certainly has the best reviews of any Kazakh film this year (and possibly, ever). They have four other contenders that have been entertaining the film festival circuit, namely (A)- “Adventure” (Karlovy Vary 2014), based on a Dostoevsky story about a man with a dull job who meets an exciting young woman,(B)- “Little Brothers” (Venice 2013), about a 9-year Kazakh boy from a dysfunctional family, which Variety recently called a kinder, gentler version of Harmony Lessons…It was the only Kazakh film in competition at their biggest domestic film festival, Eurasia Film Festival, (C)-“Nagima” (Busan 2013, Berlin 2014), about the lives of three women living on the fringes of society. It received a Gala Premiere at Busan. And (D)-“The Owners” (last-minute addition at Cannes Special Screenings 2014), about three orphans (age 25, 16 and 12) struggling against a corrupt justice and land distribution system. The prolific Yermek Tursunov, the last Kazakh to make it to the shortlist, has two new films this year, comedy “Kempyr” and drama “Kenzhe” which is in post-production. Independently produced family comedy “Kempyr”, about an elderly village couple who learn that there will be a new addition to the family, is a departure from his brooding artistic masterpieces. Director Tursunov said Kazakhs need more of a reason to laugh these days. He’ll return to form with “Kenzhe”, the third film in his dark trilogy (alongside “Kelin” and “Shal”). Unlikely: Busan premieres “The Book” and “Story of an Old Woman” (shot in one-take) haven’t got any buzz and the upcoming “Voice of the Steppes”, starring Gerard Depardieu has no release date. Festival films often take a very long time to come out domestically (like “Harmony Lessons”). I think "Lessons" will be selected anyway, but their biggest threats should be considered to be “Kenzhe” and “Little Brothers”, if released at home.

4. KENYA- "It's Us" Kenya submitted a movie two years ago and reportedly came close to the shortlist for the gritty “Nairobi Half Life” which sadly never got a US release (I saw it at a Smithsonian Museum screening in Washington, DC and it’s quite good). If they submit this year, I’m fairly certain it will be “It’s Us” (aka “Ni Sisi”). This Swahili-language film is easily the most critically acclaimed Kenyan film of the year, focusing on how a series of rumors and lies quickly destroys the fragile ethnic harmony of a small village. It’s a parable for the deadly events that occurred in 2008. The only handicap: Director Nick Reding is British, not Kenyan. Since he’s based in the country I don’t foresee a problem. 

5. KOREA- "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" There's always one country that I don't feel like researching. I live in South Korea and 16th century action drama "Roaring Currents" has dominated conversation ever since its release this summer. This big-budget action drama is a patriotic war film about the historic defeat of the invading Japanese navy despite being Korea being vastly outnumbered. I've seen the film and it would be a poor choice. The visuals are great, but the plot is confusing for non-Koreans and yet predictable and formulaic at the same time. However, it's the #1 hit of all time and has been slickly marketed as a real national film. That's my prediction, although "Wish", a wrenching drama about a child rape victim would be a smarter choice and is the only other film that could possibly challenge the juggernaut of "Roaring Currents". Two others that will likely be shortlisted: legal drama "The Attorney" and LGBT drama "Night Flight" (Berlin).

6. KUWAIT- "Cut: Unforgettable" Kuwait was the first and only Gulf Arab country to enter the Oscar race until last year, when Saudi Arabia joined the competition. However, Kuwait hasn’t sent a film since 1978 (the longest absence of any country other than Cote d’Ivoire), even on the rare occasions when they have a good one to send (“Tora Bora”). This has been a relatively weak year for premiering new Arab films; the Cairo, Damascus and Doha Film Festivals were all canceled. I think only two Kuwaiti films are eligible- an amateurish thriller shot on video, and a childish comedy about Kuwaiti men seeking Ukrainian wives. What a choice! For the sake of completing this chart: horror film “Cut: Unforgettable Night”. 

7. KYRGYZSTAN- "Queen of the Mountains" Few countries have an easier decision this year than the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. First of all, “Queen of the Mountains” (aka “Kurmandjan Datka”) is said to be the biggest film in their national history. It’s an expensive national epic ($US 1.5 million, very high by local standards) about a woman who helped unite divided tribes into a cohesive nation. As such, it’s also a long-awaited patriotic affair that easily has the nationalist credentials to get the Kyrgyz to enter the race. Most importantly, it doesn’t have much competition! Kyrgyz cinema has been pretty quiet this year and the big winner at the National Film Awards (comedy “Salam, New York”) and Kyrgyzstan’s surprise nominee for Best Foreign Film at Russia’s Nika Awards (drama “Passion”) were released in last year’s eligibility period. Count on the “Queen”.

8. LATVIA- "Man in the Orange Jacket" Latvia is now the laggard of Baltic cinema (it was traditionally Lithuania, which now seems to be doing rather well). There were only two majority-Latvian productions released in 2013 (last year’s Oscar submission, plus a stoner comedy) and the films that are being released in 2014 are mostly co-productions in English. This year, Estonia and Lithuania jumped ship from "Baltic Films" joint three-nation membership in EFP, leaving Latvia with no seat at one of Europe’s key film networking fora. The Latvians could conceivably skip this year, though they’ll probably enter with creepy thriller “Man in the Orange Jacket”, a violent, bloody thriller about a man who’s just been fired terrorizing a wealthy couple.  Trailer looks really good. Runner-up: “Modris”, a drama about a young gambler and his mom, with quirky animated film for adults “Rocks in My Pockets” in third. Unlikely: docudrama “Escaping Riga” probably has too much English and geriatric army comedy “Then It’s Hi Hi Hee!” (about a group of pensioners who join the Latvian Army) will be too silly.

9. LEBANON- "Ghadi" Lebanon changed its mind at the last minute last year when their official pick “Ghadi” postponed its release date. That means “Ghadi”, an Amelie-type story about the influence an eccentric  little boy (an angel?) has on the lives of people in his community, should be considered the frontrunner. The other major contender is “Heritage”, a documentary by Philippe Aractingi (selected to represent Lebanon twice), a touching and emotionally resonant film about his family’s third evacuation from Lebanon due to various wars. Feel-good comedies “Bebe” and “Neswen” would be extremely unlikely.

10. LITHUANIA- "The Gambler" Lithuania has the least-developed film industry of the three Baltic republics, although they’ve been doing better in recent years. This year’s big box-office hit- “Redirected”- described as “The Hangover as directed by Guy Ritchie” is mostly in English so I think they’ll opt for “The Gambler”, which dominated the local film awards this year (the Silver Cranes) winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. It’s a thriller about a paramedic  forced into an illegal gambling game due to his debts. However, Lithuania’s Academy is a weird one and they have ignored “obvious choices” before. In fact, out of Lithuania’s six Oscar submissions, three have been documentary shorts, barely over the 40-minute AMPAS requirement. So, running neck and neck with “The Gambler” will be documentary “Cenotaph” by a previously submitted director. It’s a rather interesting story….about a man who tries to find the bodies of three soldiers secretly buried on his land by his father during WWII in order to give them a dignified burial.
11. LUXEMBOURG- "Heemwei" Luxembourg held its bi-annual Film Awards in March and the big winner was last year’s Oscar submission “Blind Spot”. Its main competition was “Heemwei” which will probably get to represent Luxembourg this year. “Heemwei”, mostly in Luxembourg’s local dialect, is about two Luxembourgian boys who desert the Nazi German army in 1944 France and try to return home to their occupied country. Made on a shoe-string budget, it tells a genuine Luxembourg story, which the country has favored doing since being disqualified for the multinational “Your Name is Justine” in 2006. Luxembourg’s two most famous directors also have contenders this year- Andy Bausch has “Fifties”, a documentary about Luxembourg in the post-war period, while Pol Cruchten has “Les brigands”, a French-language crime thriller with some famous names (Tcheky Karyo, Maximilian Schell), which has no release date. “Les Brigands” probably won't be released by September 30, so I’m predicting “Heemwei”.

12. MACEDONIA- "To The Hilt" Macedonia was the surprise absentee from last year’s race. Two films with fairly good reviews applied to represent the country but the Macedonian Association of Filmmakers said that neither film was “appropriate”. Oddly enough, one of those two films postponed their release date (“Balkan Is Not Dead”) so it is technically eligible again this year. If you include “Balkan”, I think five films are eligible this year. I’m pretty sure the nominee will be long-awaited costume drama-cum-western  “To the Hilt” set in 1907 in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. It failed to get a major festival slot as hoped but it's still the front-runner. In second place: “Lazarus”, about a pair of human traffickers facing a chilling moral dilemma. In third: family drama “Children of the Sun” has good buzz but the trailer looks dull…..Out of luck: “Honey Night” and the second go round for “Balkan Is Not Dead” (which I think looks pretty good!)

13. MALAYSIA- "Laga" If the world were fair, Malaysia would surely send “The Journey”, a critically-acclaimed film about a grandfather and his grandson. It was a critical and financial success, becoming the highest-grossing film in Malaysian history in February this year. Its main problem, however, is that it’s a Chinese-language film and due to the Malaysian government’s bias (racism?) towards Malay-language culture, I doubt the Malaysian Academy will submit it. It’s the story of a gruff Chinese-Malaysian father coerced into a road trip with his daughter’s British fiancé to hand-deliver a number of wedding invitations all around Malaysia. I think it’s more than 50% in Chinese and I would love for the Malaysians to prove me wrong and send it to Hollywood. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. Out of their Malay-language films, there isn’t much to choose from (They even seem to have forgotten to schedule their National Film Awards this year, which were last held in March 2013). Out of a slew of silly comedies and horror movies, I see only two real contenders, namely “Laga”, a warmly received drama about conflict and intrigue in a small village that specializes in cockfighting . and“Apokalips X”, a big-budget post-apocalyptic action film set in a school, which is said to have an exceptionally original style merged with a Japanese manga look. Their last Oscar submission was an action film set in a village so they seem to like these two themes. I choose “Laga”.

14. MEXICO- "Cantinflas" Mexico announced a longlist of no less than 21 films, but the race isn’t nearly as competitive as it sounds. Six movies on the list are unlikely documentaries and one (“Las lagrimas”) is a graduation film. In fact, I would be pretty surprised if they chose anything but biopic “Cantinflas”which seems to check every box….It’s a genuinely Mexican film about a beloved film star, and buzz is positive (though no one has seen the film yet LOL). Director Sebastian del Amo was probably almost selected three years ago for “Juan Orol”,so there’s a feeling he’s owed. The film already has a US distribution deal and although biopics don’t generally do well in the Foreign Film category, Cantinflas appeared in some American films and the film has some English scenes (including Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli) which often goes well in this category. The competition is fairly weak. The only Ariel winners on the list are theatrical farce “Tercera llamada” (Best Screenplay) and documentary “Quebranto”(Best Documentary). It’s true that “Guten Tag, Ramon” (about a Mexican who tires of being deported from the USA and moves to Germany instead) and B&W arty road comedy “Gueros” (more likely for the Goyas) have gotten good reviews, and Internet users are talking about the upcoming political dramedy “La dictadura perfecta”, I think “Cantinflas” is safe.

15. MOLDOVA- "The Unsaved" The former Soviet republic of Moldova entered the Oscar race for the first time last year (the 13th republic to do so, out of 15) with low-budget adoption drama “All God’s Children”. I predict this year they’ll be back with “The Unsaved”. Moldova shares a language with neighbouring Romania and their films appear to be eligible to enter Romania’s National Film Awards. “The Unsaved" is a Romanian (Moldovan?) New Wave arthouse piece about a disaffected young man trying to improve his lot in life. Unlike last year’s “Children”, the director is actually Moldovan and it’s one of the few Moldovan films ever to screen in a major festival (Karlovy Vary 2013).

16. MONGOLIA- "Remote Control" Mongolia's Oscar experience is limited to Byambasuren Davaa’s animal-based docudramas. They submitted her first two films (but not the third) for Best Foreign Film in 2003 and 2005 (reportedly coming close both times) and got a Best Documentary Oscar nomination for the first film "Story of the Weeping Camel". This year, “Remote Control” became the first Mongolian film in a decade to win a major international Film Festival award, winning one of the top prizes at Busan 2013. It’s the story of a young man from the countryside who seeks to influence the life of a beautiful, wealthy girl in Ulaanbaatar by controlling the television in her apartment by remote control. I saw the film in Busan and it’s a small, sweet movie (with a somewhat Iranian style) though it won’t make an impact in Hollywood. Other possibility: slick action movie “Trapped Abroad”, which was an enormous success at the box-office and which dominated the Mongolian Academy Awards this year ("Remote Control" wasn't eligible but not sure why).

17. MONTENEGRO- "The Kids From Marks and Engel Street" Montenegro, the smallest of ex-Yugoslavia’s republics, entered the Oscar race for the first time last year. They’ll probably enter again with “The Kids from Marks and Engel Street”, a long-awaited project set in the early 1990s when Yugoslavia was falling apart. Two young brothers are facing climactic moments in their lives- one is about to kill a man, while the other is going to lose his virginity. “Kids” features stars and musicians from all over the former Yugoslavia, but proudly claims to be a very Montenegrin story. It's a sure thing, and the only other contender is “Little Buddho”, about a Montenegrin teen who flees to Serbia to avoid a blood feud.

18. MOROCCO- "Adios Carmen" Morocco has been enjoying a film renaissance in recent years. Production has reached roughly 24 films a year and their films routinely win awards internationally, particularly in Arab-themed festivals. It also continues to be the filming venue of choice for international productions in the Arab World (alongside Jordan). They’re also the only African nation besides South Africa that can be reliably counted on every year to send a movie to the Oscars (5 of the past 6 years). This year, I was sure they would send “Fevers”, a drama about a rebellious teenager in Morocco who is forced to move to France to be with his absentee father when his mother is sent to jail. Director Hicham Ayouch is the brother of Nabyl Ayouch who has repped Morocco three times already. However despite festival play, it won’t be released in Moroccan cinemas until mid-October. It’s now a tight three-way race between “Adios Carmen” (Dubai), about a young boy from an abusive home who befriends a Spanish emigree in 1975, “Kanyamakan”, an exciting big-budget Hollywood-style action film about a bank robbery gone wrong, and “Sotto Voce”, a film about militants on the Morocco-Algerian border during Algeria’s civil war. “Sotto Voce” (Dubai) was the big winner at the Festival of Moroccan Film (winning three awards including Best Picture) when most Moroccan releases compete against each other, but I think its leftist, militant politics will keep it from being sent.  “Kanyamakan” boasts American-style entertainment, but it’s definitely a genre film and not an Oscar contender. A few other dark horses in a strong year:  “Aria Delma” (2nd Prize at Moroccan Film Festival) a Berber-language film about a man trying to emigrate to Europe on a sinking ship, “Sara”, a dramedy about a thief and the girl he has illegally adopted, and “They Are the Dogs”, a black comedy about a falsely accused political dissident released from prison after thirty years amidst the Arab Spring. Unlikely: the sexually explicit “Pillow Secrets”, the gay-themed “L’armée du Salut” and the American-helmed “Traitors” have got good reviews but will be too controversial. My Top Five: “Adios Carmen” reps Morocco with “Kanyamakan” and “Sara” runner-ups.
19. NEPAL- "Red Monsoon" Nepal rejoined the Oscar race last year for the first time since 2006 with lesbian drama “Soongava”. This French co-production was definitely more of an “international” arthouse effort rather than the Bollywood-style musicals that Nepali largely produces. That means the most likely pick for Nepal this year would be “Red Monsoon”, a non-musical film about the intersecting lives of a cast of characters in a modern-day Kathmandu slum. It played at Mumbai and has stood out as the strongest Nepali film of the year. Other possibilities: “Kabaddi”, a love triangle romance and probably the best-reviewed of Nepal’s commercial films, “Jhola”, about the ancient practice of bride burning (sati) or “Kollywood”, a film prepped for international release about the country’s local film industry.

20. NETHERLANDS- "Lucia de B." The Netherlands  is a former Oscar power, but although they continue to send good films ( “Borgman” was the best film on the list last year), the Dutch haven’t been nominated in over 10 years, in large part because they have a silly habit of sending children’s films half the time. I know the Dutch have a proud tradition of  making quality films for children, but they’re unlikely to score here (as the Nordics, also renowned in this genre, already know). I see two front-runners for the Netherlands- “Lucia de B.” (by Oscar nominee Paula van der Oest), a true-story legal thriller about a DA who helps convict a nurse for murder but who later sets out to prove her innocence, and “Secrets of War”, a family-friendly war film set in 1943, about Christian classmates who have to help a Jewish family escape during German occupation. Which to choose? “Lucia” has better reviews, but “Secrets” has exactly what the Dutch Academy likes (kids and WWII). I’m predicting “Lucia” but not confident. In third place is “Kenau”, a fairly big-budgeted warrior woman historical drama about war between the Dutch and the Spanish. Rounding out the Top Five: “Nude Area”, an inter-racial lesbian tale about a Dutch and Arab woman who begin a relationship in a female sauna; and female coming-of-age drama “Nena” (set to debut in September). Among the other films the Dutch might very well consider worthy: “The Dinner”, a dark conversational drama similar to Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”, “Farewell to the Moon”, a coming-of-age drama set in 1972, Rotterdam thriller “Helium” and “Land.”, about a Moroccan who falls for a Dutch tourist and seeks to travel to Europe to see her on a surfboard. As I mentioned earlier, the Dutch do have a (silly) habit of sending children’s films with no chance to advance, so that could mean they choose “Above Us All”, “Confetti Harvest” or “Finn”, but none of these really has the gravitas to be sent to Hollywood.  

21. NEW ZEALAND- "The Dead Lands" New Zealand has submitted twice with films in Pacific Island languages (Maori and Samoan). This year's candidate could be intriguing Maori-language action movie “The Dead Lands”. Set in the 16th century before the arrival of the British, it’s about a young man who survives the massacre of his tribe and sets out to seek avenge his comrades. It’s certain to be New Zealand’s next Foreign Oscar submission. "Dead Lands" has been selected for this year's Toronto Film Festival in September but won't premiere in Kiwi cinemas until October 30. They could do an Oscar qualifying run, but I think they'll wait until next year.

22. NICARAGUA released its first movie in over 20 years in 2010 courtesy of French filmmaker Florence Jaguey, who has lived in Nicaragua since the 1980s. The film was a huge domestic hit, and the film was promptly entered into innumerable Latin American film festivals as well as the Foreign Oscar contest. Jaguey’s second fiction feature, “The Broken Screen” (La pantalla desnuda) sounds even better than her first (and I quite liked the low-budget drama of “La Yuma”). It’s about a young man obsessed with his best friend, who uses a sex video to destroy his friend’s relationship with a beautiful local girl. “The Broken Screen” just finished filming this spring and is scheduled for release in November 2014, making it ineligible. The prolific Jaguey also has a mid-length documentary out this year called “Class Days” in which she follows a poor rural class of students for one year.

23. NIGERIA- "B for Boy" Nigeria frequently claims to make the largest number of movies in the world each year (that’s not really true….most of them are low-budget, straight-to-video productions, never to be shown in a cinema….I still consider the global winner to be India) but they’ve never sent a movie to the Oscars before now. However, they confirmed on May 1st, 2014 that they would be assembling a committee to enter the Oscars for the first time. As a multi-ethnic nation, Nigerians typically use English as a lingua franca so like Canada or Singapore, many of their films are not eligible. With the biggest contender mostly in English (“Half of a Yellow Sun”, starring Oscar winner Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton, both British actors of Nigerian descent), I see two main contenders to represent Nigeria for the first time in Hollywood. The favorite is probably “October 1st”, an oft-delayed mystery by a prominent local director, set against the backdrop of a small town on the eve of Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The film will have the Academy getting out the stopwatch….The trailer is roughly half in English and half in the three major local languages of Nigeria (Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba). Delayed a year, the release is now scheduled (surprise, surprise) for October 1, 2014 meaning it would need a preview screening to qualify. Because of these two issues, I’m predicting dark horse “B for Boy”, in the Ibo language, gets the nod. It’s gotten very good reviews at home and in Africa (winning Best African Language Film at the AAFA Awards), and unlike most Nigerian fare, it has played at festivals abroad (London, Rotterdam). It’s the tragic story of a pregnant, upper-class woman under extreme pressure to give birth to a baby boy to carry on the family name.
24. NORWAY- "Blind" Norway essentially has a two-way race between two titles from Berlin, namely drama-thriller “Blind” and violent black comedy “In Order of Disappearance”. All the buzz overseas is for “Disappearance” which competed in the Main Section of Berlin and stars Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard. Frequently compared (favorably) with “Fargo” and the Coen Brothers, "Disappearance" is about a father who goes on a killing rampage to avenge the murder of his son. “Blind” (which competed in Berlin Panorama as well as Sundance) is about a woman who has just gone blind, and who retreats to safety of her apartment where her fantasies take over. While “Disappearance” has better reviews overseas, it is “Blind” which dominated the Norwegian Amanda nominations (winners will be announced today August 16th), whereas “Disappearance” was mostly snubbed with just a single nod for Best Actor. In the end, I’m not sure the cerebral “Blind” or the violent “Disappearance” will do so well with Oscar, though I’m rooting for “Disappearance”. The Norwegians waver between choosing Hollywoodesque spectacles (“Kon-Tiki”, “Max Manus”) and snubbing them (“Pioneer”) and doing the same with arthouse (“I Am Yours” and “Angel” made it….”Oslo, August 31st” and “A Bothersome Man” did not). In 2010, the Norwegians had to postpone their announcement since they couldn’t come to a decision, and it will likely be very close again this year. In the end, I think it will be “Blind”. As a footnote, the Norwegians usually choose a three-film shortlist. The third film on the list will probably be 1960s coming-of-age drama “The Beatles” or immigrant tale “Letter to the King”. Out of the running: “1000 Times Good Night” (starring Juliette Binoche) and thriller “Sleepwalker” both have too much English.  

25. PAKISTAN returned to the Oscars last year after a record 50-year absence. Unfortunately, I heard from certain sources that this historical moment in Pakistani cinema was marred by the fact that they forgot to send a version with subtitles to Los Angeles.  In any case, the Pakistani selection committee (headed by Pakistan’s first Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy) elected a critical darling black comedy (“Zinda Bhaag”) over a nationalist historical drama (“Chambaili”) and two other films, in what appears to be a very fair decision. Instead of congratulating their rival, the team behind “Chambaili” and its backers in the press complained loudly that “Zinda Bhaag” violated the rules because it was selected before screening in cinemas (which many countries do, ) and because it was a majority-Indian-production (blatantly untrue, though one of the five lead actors was Indian and so was the co-director). Director Nawaz should be ashamed of himself for making these allegations without understanding AMPAS rules. Anyway, Pakistan has already confirmed they will be back this year. It’s a great opportunity to showcase Pakistani cinema. My prediction was originally dark horse “Hijrat”, a beautifully shot love story set on the Afghan-Pakistan border during the Afghan Civil War. My runner-ups were “Saya-e-Khudaya e Zuljalal”, a patriotic historical drama set in the 1960s (Pakistan ignored a similar nationalist epic last year, but this one looks better) and “Moor” another visually beautiful borderland drama, this time set in Baluchistan (might be politically sensitive) with a larger budget. Both were scheduled for August release. However, everything seems delayed, which has been a major problem in general for Pakistani films this year (See here for more on that story). Of those films which have actually been released, the most likely are smash hit action flick “Waar” (which looks much more professionally made that other hits like “The System” or “Operation 021”) and “Kaptaan”, a biopic of national sports hero Imran Khan. Or will they release one of their arthouse films before the deadline (“Daughter”, about a mother “kidnapping” her 10-year daughter to save her from a child marriage or "Price of Honour", about honour killings would be topical choices). Well, it all depends on who can get their film in cinemas in time. As of today, I'll guess the arthouse films all fall to be released but that "Saya-e-Khudaya e Zuljalal" makes the cutoff, followed by smash hit "Waar".

26. PALESTINE- "Palestine Stereo" Palestine got their second nomination last year for exciting thriller “Omar”, cementing their status as one of only two Arab countries (along with Algeria) to be nominated (although Israel has also been nominated for a mostly Arabic-language film with an Arab co-director). Palestine used to produce barely one film a year, but they now have about ten films in pre-production, including two by two-time Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad (one as producer, one as director) and one by Annemarie Jacir (whose films were submitted twice and who I had the pleasure of chatting with last year at a screening in DC), which bodes well for Palestinian cinema. Only a few have been released so far this year. Of those that have, the front-runner is tragicomedy “Palestine Stereo”, about two brothers whose happy lives are destroyed when the Israeli army destroys the third floor of their apartment building to kill a terrorist….destroying their fifth floor apartment in the process, killing one man’s wife and rendering one of the brothers (a sound engineer) deaf. It was warmly received in Toronto 2013, slightly more than “Giraffada” (also at Toronto 2013), a comedy about a zookeeper and his kids who try to smuggle an Israeli giraffe to the Occupied Territories. Of those that haven’t been released, the most prominent choices are expensive Jesus Christ drama “The Savior” and drama “Eyes of a Thief”, about a man searching for his missing daughter after 10 years in an Israeli prison. Abu-Assad’s two projects “Lamya” and “The Flag” will probably face off next year. This year, I think this is a close battle between “Stereo” and the upcoming “Thief”. My prediction: assuming “Thief” gets a Ramallah premiere in time, female director Najwa Najjar will be the second woman to represent Palestine.

27. PERU- "The Gospel of the Flesh" Peru  will probably send “The Gospel of the Flesh” (El evangelio de la carne), an Inarittu-style multi-strand drama of three men (an undercover cop, a bus driver and a football coach) searching for redemption and a better life.  It won Best Audience Award at the Lima Film Festival (the only Peruvian fiction feature to win anything).  It faces a strong challenge from “Trip to Timbuktu”, following a young middle class couple’s romance from childhood through the turbulent years of Shining Path terrorism in the 1990s. These two films are certainly the frontrunners. Dak horses include: “The Blue Hour”, a thriller based on a famous novel about a man investigating his late father’s past during the years of Peru’s military dictatorship;  “The Mute”, a black comedy by the Vega brothers (who represented Peru in 2011) about a hard-ass, conservative judge who is struck dumb by an assassin’s bullet; “Old Friends” (Viejos Amigos), a geriatric road movie about two friends who kidnap a third to go to a football game. Not eligible: “The Vanished Elephant”, a thriller by the director of the brilliant “Contracorriente”, sadly robbed of a nomination in 2010/2011. It’s scheduled to open two days after the deadline and Peru does not tend to do Oscar qualifying releases.  I predict “Gospel”, but Peru made a surprise choice last year (a horror-drama that flopped at the box office and got middling critical reviews), so who knows?


In addition to NIGERIA (see above) which has confirmed its participation, I believe we'll see two new debutantes this year. KOSOVO has already expressed an interest in participating and there's no doubt it will be anything other than "Three Windows and a Hanging" (Sarajevo), a story about rape victims forced to hide what happened to them due to the shame it brings upon their village. It's said to be the best film ever from the tiny nation's brief history. The question is whether AMPAS will accept them as a country. Without getting into politics, they are recognized by more countries than Taiwan and Palestine, including the USA and the European Film Promotion organization, so I hope they'll compete. We can also expect to see the first film ever from MALTA, namely "Simshar" a big-scale shipwreck drama based on a true story, and the first local film pushed for international distribution. Out of luck will be Abderrahmane Sissako's Mali-set drama "Timbuktu", a majority French production set in Mali and co-produced by MAURITANIA. The film doesn't seem to have screened anywhere in West Africa. Other possibilities: mystical Guarani/Spanish-language treasure hunt drama "Costa Dulce"(Rotterdam) from PARAGUAY and "Incompatibles" a romantic comedy and a genuine MONACO production from the principality of 30,000 people. Less likely: the first feature film from LESOTHO, "The Forgotten Kingdom", a US-South Africa co-production about a man who returns to his country after years working in Johannesburg. It got a "Best African Film" nomination at the African Academy Awards and finally premiered in Lesotho cinemas in April 2014, and student romantic drama from LAOS, "Spring in Return", which has repped the country at some ASEAN Film Festivals.

 NEXT: The final tranche of predictions from Philippines to Vietnam

1 comment:

Spartak said...

Kazakhstan - I didn't like "Harmony Lessons", it was very dark and violent (including a scene of cow slaughting to pieces)... Regarding "Kenzhe" (both "Kelin" and "Shal" were great, so I can't wait to see the last part of the thriology), it should be premiered in autumn (but I don't know if it's before the deadline or after it).

Kenya - "Ni Sisi" was released in Kenya more than a year ago.
Nairobi Half-Life was released in Germany and so the dvd, so if someone want to watch it, one can buy it from Amazon (it's worth it!).

Malaysia - I think you can watch "The Jorney" even if it's not submitted to Oscars (as far as I understand the DVD is out), I certainly will.

Netherlands - "Nude Area" may be inlegible due to the language. Anyway, it's by Urszula Antoniak and I'll bookmark the film to watch, when it's possible.