Tuesday, July 7, 2015


It's that time of year again! Here are my predictions for the Oscar Foreign Film award for 2016. Over the next few months, all the countries of the world will be invited to send their Best Film of the year to the Oscars. Every country- big or small- gets to enter just one film. Last year, a record 83 countries entered. This year's deadline is October 1st but one country (Hungary) has already announced. 

Over July and August, I'll be making predictions in five equal installments- 
Part 1- Afghanistan to Chile
Part 2- China to Guatemala
Part 3- Hong Kong to Luxembourg
Part 4- Macedonia to Romania
Part 5- Russia to Vietnam

Over the years, a total of 111 countries have entered the race, . Many like Belarus or Chad are unlikely to send a film this year, but this blog considered them all as equals, Olympic-style. Let the games begin!

1. AFGHANISTAN- "Mina Walking" Afghanistan has become a surprising source of quality films about women. Their past four submissions were brave films about the impact that Afghanistan’s wars and traditional patriarchal culture have on the lives of young women, as was Golden Globe Winner “Osama” in 2003. That trend looks likely to continue as Afghanistan’s two strongest choices are also about the plight of Afghan women. The front-runner is “Mina Walking” which was screened in the Youth Film section of the Berlin Film Festival. Directed by a Canadian of Afghan heritage, it’s the story of a 12-year old girl who supports her abusive male relatives by working and taking care of the house. The only other recent Afghan film I know of is “Utopia”, featuring three seemingly unconnected stories revolving around an Afghan woman who travels abroad for fertility treatment. Shot in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India and the UK, it co-stars Iranian star Homayoun Ershadi, who recently co-starred in “Most Wanted Man” with Willem Dafoe. Dark horse: Siddiq Barmak is said to be working on a new film called “Eclipse”. I don’t think that it will premiere in time so “Mina” should win this fairly easily.

2. ALBANIA- "Bota" Albania has a rather confusing race this year. Last year, Albania was the only major European country not to send a film, despite two registered candidates (“Amsterdam Express”, and “Ada”) who answered an open call for submissions. If it’s released by September 30,  I'd say “Distant Angels” is a sure thing.  First, it’s directed by one of the country’s greatest modern directors (Gjergj Xhuvani; selected to represent Albania in 2001 and 2010) and it stars talented heartthrob Nik Xhelilaj (who starred in their 2008 and 2009 submissions). It also features a baity nationalist plot (the war in neighboring Kosovo). They'd need to make sure Kosovo doesn’t nominate it first (like when Germany pipped Austria to select their expected candidate, “The White Ribbon”). However, the film still appears to be in post-production. If it does NOT premiere in time, the Albanians will have a dilemma. The most widely-seen Albanian film is “Sworn Virgin”, but that film is a majority Italian production with an Italian director. Albania was embarrassingly forced to withdraw “The Forgiveness of Blood” (with an American director) after local director Bujar Alimani whined about the selection of a foreigner. Alimani has a new film at Karlovy Vary (“Chromium”) which could contend, but their most likely alternate is “Bota”, a dramedy about a number of quirky characters at a café, which has played quietly at a number of festivals. It will all come down to “Angels” release date. 

3. ALGERIA- "Crépuscule des ombres" Algeria will almost certainly send “Crépuscule des ombres” by 81-year old Palme d’Or winner Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, who came out of retirement to make his latest film. Lakhdar-Hamina’s films were submitted by Algeria three times in the 70s and 80s, but he hasn’t made a film in nearly thirty years. The film was screened in Algeria in November and was reportedly scheduled for a spring release in local cinemas. Set against the backdrop of the Algerian War for independence (yet another reason for Algeria to choose it), it’s the story of three mena brutal French army officer, a deserting French soldier and an Algerian POW. While it’s certainly true I’ve heard better things about “The Man From Oran” (L’Oranais) by Lyes Salem (who repped Algeria in 2008), the movie was almost banned in Algeria for its controversial take on the country’s history and the authority of its long-serving leaders (Algeria was one of the few Arab countries whose long-serving ruler avoided an Arab Spring). In a weaker year, “Fadhma N'Soumer” (2nd Prize at FESPACO), a historical biopic about a rare, female resistance leader who fought against French colonial rule, might be chosen, but Lakhdar-Hamina’s pedigree should be enough to push her into second place. Submitting “The Man from Oran” or childhood village drama “Chronicles of My Village” would be a shock. 

4. ARGENTINA- "The Clan" True-crime drama “The Clan” is the most anticipated movie in Argentina this year. Based on the bizarre true story of an upper-class family that terrorized Argentina in the 1980s with a series of kidnappings and murders, it opens in mid-August and is set to be a big hit. I was actually debating between “The Clan” and Cannes drama “Paulina”. The director of “Paulina” (Santiago Mitre) was hotly tipped to represent Argentina in 2011, eventually finishing a surprise second to western “Aballay”. So, Mitre is owed. “Paulina” got two prizes (Critics Week Grand Prize and one of the FIPRESCI awards) at Cannes, and great reviews for its story of a schoolteacher who is gang-raped soon after moving to a small town to take up a teaching position. The director of “The Clan”, Pablo Trapero, has been sent to the Oscars twice without success and I thought the Argentine Academy might want to give someone else a chance. However, “El clan” just got a berth at the Venice Film Festival and if it’s half as good as its buzz, it really shouldn’t have a problem being selected over “Paulina”. The story of the Puccio clan is notorious in Argentina, the trailer looks excellent and early buzz is very positive. And obviously, the last time Argentina won this award was for another crime drama. Ironically, Mitre and Trapero have frequently collaborated together in the past so hopefully this doesn't turn personal. Period drama “Jauja”, co-starring Viggo Mortensen, may be the only other film that receives any votes. For those of you keeping track, Ricardo Darin and Uruguayan actor Daniel Hendler  (who seem to be every single Argentine submission) don't have any eligible local films this year.

5. ARMENIA- "Moskvich, My Love" Armenia canceled their National Film Awards this year (the Hayaks), saying that they would consider two years worth of films at next year’s ceremony. They’ve only submitted two films in the past ten years so it's iffy whether they will enter this year. The most prominent Armenian production this year is “1915”, an English-language US co-production looking at the 1915 genocide, which has gotten decidedly mixed reviews. If they submit anything, it’s almost certain to be “Moskvich, My Love”, a sweet-looking drama about an elderly village couple who struggle to make ends meet, but who dream of buying the car they were promised (but never received) during Soviet times. Oscar loves old people!! It's also the only domestic feature playing at the Golden Apricot Film Festival. Also possible: “Anahit”, a beautiful, animated fairy tale (using hand-drawn and 3D animation) that was a big hit with audiences and critics during the Christmas holidays. 

6. AUSTRALIA- "The Fish in Me" Australia has managed to send quality films made by Australian directors in German, Lao and the indigenous Yol-Ngu language the past three years. This year, they may struggle to find something that's eligible. The front-runner should be “Salt Bridge”, a Hindi-language film about the experience of the first Indian immigrants to Canberra. Its directed by Indian-born, Canberra-based Abhijit Deonath but, as of July, it appears it is st. They could consider sending “The Fish in Me”, a quirky Turkish film co-produced by Australia about a marine biologist with mental and physical problems (bipolar disorder and a "fin"-like hand). It’s supposed to be funny and well-done. They could also go for acclaimed 2013 documentary “Ukraine is Not a Brothel” following topless female protest group “Femen” over the course of 14 months. It won the 2015 Australian Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and is in Ukrainian and Russian. I believe it has only screened at festivals, but if it got a regular run in Australian cinemas, they could consider it. I’ll pencil in “Fish” as my prediction, but they may bow out gracefully this year. I don’t think there are any film in Aboriginal languages.

7. AUSTRIA- "Amour Fou" Austria had a very strong 2014 at international film festivals but three of their biggest festival entries didn’t open in Austria until this eligibility year, namely “Amour Fou” (Cannes '14), “Macondo” (Berlinale '14) and “Goodnight Mommy” (Venice '14). This year the Austrians have been fairly invisible at major festivals although hedonistic lesbian bondage drama “The Last Summer of the Rich” did play at Berlinale 2015. I’m feeling  fairly confident Austria will select Jessica Hausner’s “Amour Fou” from last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Though Austria tends to eschew costume dramas, “Fou” has built quite a nice amount of buzz and the film's combination of humor, melodrama and pageantry could appeal to the American Academy. "Fou" is a black comedy-cum- costume drama about a young poet who tries to entice his beautiful cousin into a romantic suicide pact. It lost most of the 2015 Austrian Film Awards to last year’s Oscar submission “The Dark Valley”.  Also in contention are two modern dramas (which Austria tends to prefer), namely “Macondo”, about a Chechen refugee child trying to adjust to Austrian life, and “Gruber Geht”, about a family man who discovers he has cancer. Rounding out the Top Five are “Good Night Mommy” (Venice), a horror-thriller about two twins who believe a woman is impersonating their mother and “Those Who Fall Have Wings (Karlovy Vary 2015), about a number of diverse characters dealing with grief. Unlikely: road dramedy “Bad Luck”, horror-comedy “Therapy for a Vampire”, coming-of-age drama “Beautiful Girl”, tragicomedy “3 Eggs in a Glass”, and well-reviewed action-comedy “Life Eternal”, which might have been considered if it was not a sequel.  I’m feeling pretty confident for “Amour Fou”. 

8. AZERBAIJAN- "Black January" Azerbaijan selected a film I had never heard of last year; the obscure “Nabat” has gone on to represent Azerbaijan at festivals in the Middle East and elsewhere. This year, the world’s most obscure film industry has three possibilities. I predict they send “Black January”, a dramatization of a crackdown by Soviet forces in 1990 that led to a resurgence of sentiment for national independence. The country unexpectedly won independence the following year. "January" is patriotic and has been well-received at home. “Down the River” represented Azerbaijan at Karlovy Vary in 2014. It's about a rowing coach wracked with guilt when his son disappears the day after he expelled him from the school’s rowing team. It premiered in Azerbaijani cinemas in December 2014.  Although it hasn’t premiered yet, Ilgar Safat’s psychological thriller “Inner City” could challenge, if it’s good, or it may contend next year. Safat was selected in 2010. I predict “January”, with “Down the River” a distant second place.

9. BANGLADESH- "Shongram" Bangladesh has been rather quiet on the film scene lately. More films are being produced but most of them are strictly for domestic consumption. Last year they chose a film that I had never heard of and wasn’t on IMDB (yet). This year, the Bangladeshis have had two films screening quietly on the film festival circuit, namely “Under Construction” (Seattle) and “Jalal’s Story” (Fajr, Busan). “Under Construction”’s controversial female director was maligned at home for making a movie in 2009 about a romance that develops between a Bangladeshi woman and an enemy Pakistani soldier during the war for independence. The movie was quickly pulled from cinemas and she will probably never be forgiven for that. The arty “Jalal” is a possibility, as it sadly chronicles the path of an orphan boy’s life from foundling baby to young gangster. Two other potential contenders are “The Cart” (a.k.a. Ghaariwala), about the lives of two impoverished young brothers living with their sick single mother, who try to build a car, and “Shongram”, about a foreign correspondent (Asia Argento) interviewing a Bangladeshi war veteran on his deathbed about his experiences during the war (which are shown in flashbacks). My guess is the partriotic “Shongram”, though “Jalal” and “The Cart” are potential spoilers.

10. BELARUS- "Bela Rossi: The Return" Belarus is the only country in Europe that is completely inactive at the Oscars. The only other European countries that failed to send films last year were Albania (who last sent a film in 2013), Armenia and Greenland (which each last sent in 2012). Belarus last sent a film in 1996. I’m not sure why, as they do have a small film industry (certainly bigger than Greenland, Montenegro or Moldova) but their films are not made for the market outside the CIS. Their most likely candidate this year is “Bela Rossi: The Return” ( Белые Росы; a play on words with the name of the country), a new comedy-drama about a city dweller who decides to start a fresh new life in the countryside. When he gets to his new home, he releases he’ll need to evict some of the villagers to make his dream home a reality. It’s some sort of sequel or remake of a popular Soviet film from the 1980s. There’s also thriller “Encounter”. 

11. BELGIUM- "The Brand New Testament" Belgium always makes things difficult since their French (Walloon) and Dutch (Flemish) film Boards think they are from separate countries. A few years ago, they even set up separate "National" Film Awards for the two halves of the country. However, they are not separate countries, and each year they must get together and choose a single film. Belgium does try to alternate sending films from the two regions although, contrary to popular belief, there is no rule that they must do so (i.e. from 2000-2004, they selected four Dutch films and one French one). From French-speaking Wallonia, they’d probably select “The Brand New Testament”, a breezy comedy about the daughter of God coming down to Earth to correct a slew of misunderstandings about Christianity, due to the inaction of her lazy father (God) who lives in Brussels. It stars Catherine Deneuve, Yolande Moreau and Benoit Poelvoorde as God. Director Jaco von Dormael appeared in Director’s Fortnight at Cannes 2015 (one of the only Belgian films competing at a major festival this year) and represented Belgium twice in the past  (for “Toto the Hero” and “The Eighth Day”, with both reportedly coming close to a nomination ). However, they did choose a French film last year, so it’s really the turn of the Flemish. Unfortunately, most of the Flemish front-runners won’t arrive until after September 30, including two new films by Belgian Oscar nominees- “Ay Ramon” (Stijn Coninx) and “Belgica” (Felix van Groeningen), as well as crime drama “The Ardennes” and  time-travel drama “Sum of Histories” . So, it’s difficult to see what the Flemish side could send- perhaps gritty indie “Image”, about a reporter researching the Muslim Arab community or tragicomedy “Paradise Trips”, about a bus driver who has a life-changing experience taking a group of partygoers to a music festival in Croatia. “Cub”, an odd slasher film featuring children has gotten good reviews, but horror (about killing children!) is unlikely to appeal, and musical-comedy “Belgian Rhapsody” hasn’t gotten the best reviews. None of those seem particularly likely to me. Alternates from the French-Walloon side include “Alleluia”, about a woman accompanying her serial killer boyfriend for thrills, “L’annee prochaine”, a coming-of-age drama about two best friends who head to the big city, and buddy comedy “I’m Dead But I’ve Got Friends”. In an extremely weak year for Belgium, I think Catherine Deneuve should get “Brand New Testament” to Hollywood with “Paradise Trips” the runner-up. Quite a weak year for les belges, though next year looks incredibly strong. 

12. BHUTAN- "Kushuthara: A Pattern of Love" Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom, entered the Oscar race once in 1999 with football comedy “The Cup”. They could enter a second time with “Kushuthara: A Pattern of Love”. I predicted this film last year, but it did not end up premiering in Bhutanese cinemas until February 2015. Made by Bhutan’s first female director, it prominently incorporates Bhutanese arts and culture in the story of a woman who falls in love with a foreigner who then leaves the country. I’m picking it in large part because I know the film has already been subtitled for a hoped-for international release. It won three minor awards at the local National Film Awards, losing the big ones to Best Picture winner “Drimey Kunden”, a traditional opera co-produced with the Tibetan community-in-exile. Dark horse: Australian co-production “Arrows of the Thunder Dragon”, a village tale made by an Australian director in Bhutan ((“The Cup” was also partly funded by Australia)

13. BOLIVIA- "Juana Azurduy" Bolivia returned to the Oscar race after a five-year absence last year, and they have about a dozen releases scheduled for 2015. The most likely choice seems to be “Juana Azurduy”, the patriotic biopic of a 19th century female guerrilla and army commander who fought against the Spanish for Bolivian independence. 78-year old director Jorge Sanjines is a Bolivian film icon and the film makes a strong statement in line with Bolivia’s current anti-colonial/anti-imperialist political ideology. “Juana” faces strong competition from two other movies about major events in Bolivian history, namely “Boqueron” (the Chaco War) and “Cuando los hombres quedan solos” (about the 1980s military dictatorship), whose director sadly passed away during production. All three have a strong shot and it may come down to who’s willing to fill out the paperwork. Dark horses: gothic vampire drama “Olalla” and “Norte Estrecho”, about the travails of Bolivian women working illegally in the United States, make this a particularly strong year for the bolivianos

14. BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA- "Our Everyday Story" Bosnia became the seventh (and final) former Yugoslavian republic to join European Film Promotion a few weeks ago, which should integrate them more into the European film world. This year's Oscar race seems to be between “Our Everyday Story”, a drama about a “typical” Bosnian family going through a series of modern-day crises, and “Hundred”, a dramedy set in Tito’s Yugoslavia circa 1955. “Everyday Story” co-stars Emir Hadzihafizbegovic as the family patriarch. He frequently stars in Bosnia’s submissions, so that’s my choice, with “Hundred”, about a miner plucked from obscurity to serve as a Socialist national symbol, as the runner-up. Somewhat less likely: father-son drama “Racket” and Bosnia’s first animated feature, “Birds Like Us”.  None of them have premiered yet, but I expect all four to be screened at this year's Sarajevo Film Festival. The line-up should be announced later this month and perhaps one film will make a better impression than the others…I think “Dew” (aka Rosa), about a Colombian student in Bosnia, will have too much English to qualify. 

15. BRAZIL- "The Second Mother" Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, was nominated a remarkable three times in four years in the 1990s (1995-1998) but hasn’t been nominated since. That of course includes a snub for “City of God”, though ironically that film got four Oscar nominations in mainstream categories. This year, one Brazilian film has risen head and shoulders above the rest and that is “The Second Mother”.  Awarded at Berlinale (Audience Award, Panorama) and Sundance (Jury Prize, Best Actresses), it’s the story of a live-in maid working for a rich family in Sao Paulo, whose estranged teenaged daughter moves in and proceeded to violate all the rules of her employer’s house. Variety calls it a savvy, socially conscious crowdpleaser that occupies a rare middle ground between genteel and intellectual world cinema”. With excellent reviews praising the filmmaking and its accessibility, it has a real chance at appealing to AMPAS. I think Brazil will select it. Brazil has a few other candidates, though none seem to be as strong as “Second Mother”. They include “Blue Blood”, a surreal, visually interesting but lackluster drama about a circus performer that swept the awards at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, “Casa Grande”, another class drama, about a wealthy young boy growing up amidst his family’s spiraling economic problems, “Farewell”, about a 92-year old man who decides he’s ready to die, “Metanoia”, about a mother searching for her missing child, and “Tim Maia”, the biopic of a famed singer whose died in poverty. Lastly, there’s comedian-turned-filmmaker Selton Mello’s new film “A Movie Life”, starring French actor Vincent Cassel and based on an Antonio Skarmeta novel (he wrote “Il Postino”), about an educated young man who returns to his hometown after college, seeking to make a difference in his community. It has no release date but could be a last-minute threat. But for now “Mother” is safe, with “Casa Grande” and “Farewell” coming closest.

16. BULGARIA- "The Judgement" Bulgaria has a tough two-way race this year between Stephen Komandarev’s “The Judgement” and Kristina Grozeva’s “The Lesson”. Both have dominated the past year in Bulgarian cinema awards (though not necessarily the box-office). Komandarev made it to the Oscar shortlist for the first time in Bulgarian history six years ago. “The Judgement” is a father-son drama about a widower who gets involved with trafficking illegal immigrants between Turkey and EU Bulgaria when he falls on hard times. I predicted it last year but it didn't premiere in Bulgarian cinemas until October 2014. Before that, it had played the film festival circuit internationally, and won Best Bulgarian Film at the 2014 Golden Rose Awards. In 2015, the dominant Bulgarian film has clearly been “The Lesson” which dominated the Sofia International Film Festival for its story of a scrupulously honest woman teacher faced with a moral dilemma when her family falls on hard times. There’s clearly a lot of moral dilemmas and hard times in Bulgaria these days! This is a tough one to call. Komandarev deserves credit for getting Hollywood’s attention six years ago, but “The Lesson” has gotten slightly better reviews. The cliquey Bulgarian Academy seems more likely to choose “The Judgement”. Despite good reviews, “The Petrov File” (about an actor who learns after Communism that his mentor betrayed him to the secret police) and the dreamlike “Buffer Zone” (by a rather famous director) likely won’t even be considered in such a competitive race. Iglika Triffonova’s “False Witness” should contend next year.

17. BURKINA FASO- "Eye of the Storm" Burkina Faso had a chaotic coup d’etat in 2014, overthrowing President Blaise Campaore, who ruled the country for 27 years. Many thought that the country's bi-annual FESPACO African Film Festival would be canceled due to internal chaos. However, the world’s most respected African Film Festival went ahead on schedule, featuring two local Burkinabe films in competition- “Eye of the Storm” (L’oeil du cyclone) and “Cellule 512”. Although Burkina Faso hasn’t competed at the Oscars since 1989, it is possible the new government will send "Eye of the Storm”, a gritty film about a former child soldier (now adult) named Hitler Mussolini. It won Third Prize at the FESPACO festival, the best placing of any film from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Best Actor and Best Actress. “Cellule 512”, about a woman imprisoned for accidentally hitting a reckless young man with her car, won two minor awards.

18. CAMBODIA- "The Last Reel" Cambodia got a shock Oscar nomination for Rithy Panh documentary “The Missing Picture” in 2013, outdoing its Southeast Asian neighbors (Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand) who have been trying to get a nomination for years. They failed to send a film last year, but they have a contentious two-way race this year. Last year, I predicted the Cambodians would send “The Last Reel” (Tokyo), a drama about a rebellious young woman who discovers her mother was a former film star who hid her past to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide. Actress Dy Saveth (who plays the mother) did much the same thing in real life. "Reel" did not end up premiering in Cambodia until late 2014 so it's eligible this year. Young female director Kulikar Sotho faces stiff competition from Rithy Panh himself- Cambodia’s leading international director and sole Oscar nominee. The France-based Panh has a new documentary, “France is Our Country”, an unconventional French-language compilation of archive footage constituting a critique of colonialism. Will the Cambodian Oscar committee choose an authentically Cambodian film, or a new film by their most respected director? Against the odds, I think “The Last Reel” will prevail as Panh’s documentary is not really a Cambodian film.  

19. CAMEROON- "Turbulences" Cameroon was the first country to send a film directed by a Black African director to the Oscars. That was Daniel Kamwa, way back in 1980. Competing against eventual winner “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” and some of the greatest auteur directors of the time (including Francois Tuffault, Istvan Szabo and Akira Kurosawa), Kamwa failed to be nominated. 35 years later, the 72-year old Kamwa has directed what is being billed as Africa’s first-ever 3D animated film, “Turbulences”, the allegorical story of a hunter seeking to leave his forest home. Unfortunately, Cameroon no longer has any functioning cinemas, although they do have a small number of mobile cinemas (which have been used to meet screening requirements in Iraq) and foreign cultural centers which screen movies (which were used to qualify Saudi Arabia’s “Wadjda”). I can confirm “Turbulences” did screen in Cameroon, though it likely didn't meet AMPAS screening requirements. However, it would be nice to see them back.

20. CANADA- “Félix et Meira” As usual, Canada has no shortage of foreign-language candidates, mostly in French but also in other languages due to Canada’s multi-cultural communities. I think the most likely candidate is the multi-lingual “Félix et Meira” (in French, Yiddish and English), about the odd romance that blossoms between a  40-something bachelor and a married, Hasidic Jewish woman in modern-day Montreal. It won Best Canadian Film at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival (a strong sign of precursor support) and has quietly garnered strong reviews throughout the year. Canada knows well that Jewish-themed films play well at the Academy, so that may also help. However, “Felix & Meira” don’t have an easy road to Hollywood and several other films will be hoping to stand in their way. Its main challenger would appear to be “Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre“ (Guibord's Going to War) but that film has one major problem. Directed by Philippe Falardeau (“Monsieur Lazhar”), “Guibord” would certainly be the most likely candidate to knock “Felix & Meira” off their pedestal. A political drama, it follows an independent Canadian MP who holds the deciding vote on whether the country sends troops to a controversial war. He opposes the war, but is offered a political deal that will offer major benefits to his long-suffering constituents. It sounds great but the problem is that “Guibord” is scheduled to open two days too late on October 2nd. Canada sometimes does an Oscar qualifying run if they feel like it (the Oscar candidates status also helps promote the brand-new film) and that could potentially spell bad news for “Felix & Meira”. Rounding out the Top Five choices are “Chorus”, about a long-separated couple reunited after the body of their missing child is discovered, “The Passion of Augustine” (Lea Pool), about a group of nuns who offer women a musical education, and “In Her Place”, a Korean-language drama about a rural mother and daughter approached by a city woman with a delicate proposition.  We may see some more interesting entries at Toronto although most of the buzz appears to be for English-language titles, including Deepa Mehta’s “Beeba Boys”.  Dark horses from Canada could also include “Corbo” (Berlin), about a young terrorist from the Quebecois independence movement, “Love in the Time of Civil War” (Sundance), about street hustlers in Montreal, “The Wolves”, about a city woman who visits a remote island community for unknown reasons, and “Le dep” (Karlovy Vary), a thriller about a young indigenous Innu woman who is the victim of a convenience store robbery. 

21. CHAD has submitted films to the Oscars twice and the country has been using some of their newly discovered oil money to promote its fledgling film industry. They hosted their first-ever film festival (the Toumai Film Festival) over three days in October 2014, and the country is said to be proud of Cannes Jury Prize winner “A Screaming Man” as well as the low-budget “Mariam” which won some local African awards. The country's most famous director- Mahamat-Saleh Haroun- has a new documentary feature in production, but it won’t be finished until 2016 at the earliest. There were reportedly some local Chadian films shown at the inaugural Toumai Film Festival in N’Djamena, but they were probably shorts and I can’t find a list anywhere. They’ll surely sit this year out but could be back next year.

22. CHILE- "El club" Chile's two previous Oscar nominees both have new films this year and they will likely be duking it out to represent Chile in 2015. The front-runner is certainly Pablo Larraín (nominated for “No”) and his latest film “The Club”, about a retreat for disgraced priests and nuns under investigation for a variety of crimes, including child abuse. It won the Jury Prize at Berlinale 2015, already has a U.S. distributor and will likely represent Chile. However, you should never count out two-time Oscar nominee Miguel Littin who has the political “Allende en su laberinto”, about the last seven hours in the life of martyred President Allende. While in political exile, the Chilean Littin was nominated for two Foreign Oscars, first representing Mexico and then Nicaragua. “Allende” hasn’t been as warmly received as “The Club”, but Chile did controversially choose a political film by Littin over the acclaimed “The Maid” in 2009. Other options include yet another film about the victims of the Catholic Church- “El bosque de Karadima”, which focuses on the adult victims of a powerful pedophile priest- and “La memoria del agua” about a romance tested by grief, directed by two-time Chilean representative Matias Bize, who calls "Agua" his best film. Unlikely: documentary “The Pearl Button”, about the cultural genocide of Chile’s indigenous people during the military dictatorship, and “Aurora”, about a woman trying to do a good deed by burying the body of an abandoned baby. Films like “A Horse Called Elephant”, “The Oak’s Shadow” and “You’ll Never Be Alone” probably won’t premiere in time. This is “The Club”’s to lose. I’m confident Chile will send it and it may even take Larrain to the shortlist a second time.

POSSIBLE DEBUTS: BAHRAIN could debut with “The Sleeping Tree”, the first Bahraini feature at a major film festival in years (Dubai 2014). It’s an abstract tale about a Bahraini family struggling to raise a daughter with cerebral palsy. Although the story sounds straightforward, it’s said to be confusing and weird, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it “poetically inclined but ultimately incomprehensible”. BURMA’s biggest film of the year- “The Monk” (Karlovy Vary, Busan 2014) got a special premiere screening at a small local film festival in Rangoon on September 27th, 2014, but it seems the director wasn’t able to get a cinematic release. “Be Deserving of a Successor” has repped the country at a few ASEAN film festivals but I know nothing about it.



FaBiO said...

Hi dzong! it's a pleasure to see that you keep on writing this blog! It's kind of a a niche subject maybe, but very intersting for me! You make me always discover interesting and unknown movies! Cheers from Italy :-)

dzong2 said...

Grazie Fabio! I appreciate your kind words! It's nice to know other people are interested in world cinema.

Any advice for ITALY next week? I'm thinking Moretti for now, but not sure.

FaBiO said...

Well, I think Moretti's film and Martone's "Leopardi" are the most likely choices at the moment, since we have a lot of ineligible english language films this year! I don't see other possibilities unless something comes out of Venice selection...

Brian Perry said...

I love Bota! I saw it at the San Francisco film festival in April.
I look forward to compiling this year's Foreign Oscars noms like I did last year...

Spartak said...

Brazil - The audience seems to like "The Second Mother", I liked it a bit less, but the film is pretty connectable.

Bulgaria - I can't explain, how, but I did miss "The Judgement" at Haifa Film Festival last year, so now I'm looking forward for an opportunity to catch up ("The World is Big..." was one of my favourites)... "The Lesson" is unappealing film, full of strange desicion, while its morale side is quite questionable.

Chile - Personally, I thought that "Dawson, Isla 10" was a better film than "La nana", but never mind... I'm also confident about "El Club", first of all it's a very good, gritty and unordinary (stylistically) film, much close to "Tony Manero" (which was also chosen to represent Chile) than to "No". “The Pearl Button” is a beatiful film, but I can hardly see it getting submitted, never mind being a documentary, but lack of main theme (I wasn't sure if the film is about connection with narute, genocide of Indians or war crimes)...

kill dill said...

There are many Films from Pakistan as well...last year we sent Daughter for nominees ......this year we have about 3 dozens of films i am waiting for Pakistani Oscar selection commitee's announcement which will be announced on 15th of August 2015.....hope that this year best foreign language film award goes to Lollywood(Pakistan Film industry)........fingers crossed

dzong2 said...

Thanks for the comments.

Kill Dill...I predicted "Moor" for Pakistan this year. I'll be going to Pakistan next year so looking forward to learning more about their movies.

And I'm looking forward to "Bota" too, though I doubt I'll ever get to see it here in Korea. Albanians movies are usually original and quirky. It's sad there isn't a bigger audience in Balkan film.

Spartak....I'm feeling more confident about "El club" and "The Judgement". And while I thought "La nana" was overrated, I thought it was better than "Dawson, Isla 10" and it definitely had a better chance with the Academy.

Mariam Arthur said...

You are right! Cambodia submitted The Last Reel. Now let's see if it gets a nomination... or a win!

Joseph said...

Afghanistan has submitted "Utopia" as its entry to the 2015 Oscars. As it is correctly stated here, "Mina Walking" should have been a shoe-in for this; however, it seems that unfortunately politics has once again gotten in the way of fairness. Although a great move, Utopia clearly does not meet the criteria set out in the Academy Award Rules for Foreign Language Film Award and risks being disqualified by the Academy.
A foreign language film is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. While it is difficult to determine the primary language of Utopia, a good portion of the movie's dialogue is actually in English. But aside from this technicality, the more serious eligibility issues have to do with Article 5 of the Eligibility Rule for Foreign Movies which states "... creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of citizens or residents of that country". As you correctly alluded to it, the writer and director as well as some actors of Utopia are non-Afghans. In contrast, Mina Walking's dialogue is 100% in Dari (one of Afghanistan's two main languages), the writer, director, cast and crew are all 100% Afghan.
Mina Walking with only a fraction of the production budget of Utopia had its world premiere at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival which speaks to the artistic quality of the film. It has so far received 5 awards from 8 festivals as compared to Utopia's two awards from about 10 festivals.

dzong2 said...


Yes, it's so good to see Cambodia back in the race! I can't wait to see "The Last Reel" and I'm proud that your committee has chosen the film.


I hope we can all be happy for "Utopia". As co-productions become the norm in international film, AMPAS has gotten more liberal in allowing countries to submit films that they feel represent them. In previous years, the films from Afghanistan, Australia, Finland, France, Ireland, Montenegro and Thailand might have been disqualified....This year, only "Wolf Totem" was cut (which I also think was silly). So, I wish "Utopia" well....I know I will definitely look forward to seeing both "Utopia" and "Mina Walking" if I can.

I've heard that "Utopia" is in Dari, Hindi and English, but that the majority of the film is in a foreign language. If that's not true, then the film will be disqualified after its screening, which is what happened to Singapore's "Be With Me" a few years ago, and I think also to "Jerusalema" (though that was never confirmed to me).