Friday, August 10, 2018


And here are my predictions for the 24 countries from The Americas and Oceania. Last year, a record 19 of these countries sent films, including first-time entrants from Haiti and Honduras. 
1.   ARGENTINA- "Acusada” (Dolores) Argentina has five main contenders although I’m confident that they will select crime drama “Dolores” (Acusada), a drama premiering in competition at Venice about a young woman accused of murdering her best friend. It seems like the sort of noir film that the Argentine Academy likes. It has major starpower (Gael Garcia Bernal) and is strategically scheduled to open right before the Oscar deadline. “Acusada” faces its strongest competition from two thrillers with Oscar pedigree- “Animal”, written by the Oscar-winning team who wrote 2015 Best Picture winner “Birdman”, and Pablo Trapero’s “The Quietude”, starring Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo (nominated for 2012 Best Picture winner “The Artist”) in a film about a pair of long-lost sisters. Argentina has selected Trapero three of the past ten years with no luck. I think Argentina may want to give someone else a chance. Others are mentioning serial killer drama “The Angel” (Cannes), based on the true story of a 19-year old sociopath who terrorized Buenos Aires in the 1970s. However, reviews have been unimpressive.  Rounding out the top five is comedy “My Masterpiece” (Mi Obra Maestra) by the team who made “The Distinguished Citizen”. I’m pretty sure it will be “Acusada”, but “Animal” is a potential dark horse.

2.   AUSTRALIA- “One Less God” Obviously most Australian films are in English but they often have films eligible because of films made in Australian aboriginal languages (2006, 2009 and 2014), films set in their vibrant immigrant communities (1996, 2001 and 2007) and the penchant of Australian directors for working abroad (Bhutan, Germany, Italy, Laos and Vanuatu between 2012-2017). For the films made in Australia, it’s often difficult to figure out which meet the 50% foreign language requirement. I think the two most likely options this year are “Star Sand” (filmed in Japan) and “One Less God” (set in India), both made by Australian directors. Based on their trailers, both seem to meet the language requirement. “Star Sand” is about an injured Australian soldier who is taken in by Okinawan locals towards the end of World War II. “One Less God” (which I predicted last year) is a multi-lingual drama about a number of international travelers trapped in a luxury hotel during the 2008 Mumbai hotel attacks. “Sweet Country” (directed by Warwick Thornton) is in English, so the most likely indigenous film is documentary “The Song Keepers”….but I think that has too much English is well. “One Less God” looks thrilling and terrifying…I can’t understand why it doesn’t have more buzz. Less likely: Greek-language romantic comedy “An Island Named Desire” looks too much last year’s breezy Mediterranean romance “The Space Between”. 

3.    BOLIVIA- “El rio” (The River) Bolivia has a confusing race as three of their strongest options don’t have a release date yet. That being the case, I’m predicting they send the debut feature by Juan Pablo Richter- “El rio”, a slow-burn rural drama about a teenager from the city sent to live with his estranged father in the countryside, where he encounters lust, misogyny and violence. It received good notices at the Miami Film Festival and got an August 2018 release at home. Three upcoming films- controversial historical documentary “Algo quema?”, LGBT-themed “I Miss You” (Rodrigo Bellott) and Chaco War drama “Fuertes”- will all have a chance if they are released in time, but I predict only “Algo quema” meets the deadline. This Bolivian history lesson will likely be too obscure for US audiences. Bolivia’s Top Three: “El rio”, thriller “Muralla” (about a man who must commit a crime to earn money to pay for medical treatment for his son) and drama “Eugenia” in third.

4.   BRAZIL- “The Great Mystical Circus” If you look at Brazil’s recent submissions, they don’t always choose the most critically acclaimed film of the year. “Little Secret” and “Lula, Son of Brazil” were rumored to be politically motivated choices while the selection of “Elite Squad 2” and even “The Clown” was probably motivated more by star-power and spectacle than critical acclaim. For these reasons, I’m predicting Caca Diegues’ circus soap opera “The Great Mystical Circus” even though the film has not gotten the best of reviews. 78-year old director Carlos “Cacá” Diegues has represented Brazil six times, and this is his first feature in more than a decade. It played at Cannes 2018, co-stars French actor Vincent Cassel, and production values are high…even if the story about 100 years in the life of a Brazilian circus has been called silly. It seems to be what the Brazilian Academy usually picks. If they want to go more arthouse, the three front-runners are “Gabriel and the Mountain” (Cannes 2017), about a Brazilian travelling around Africa, “Loveling” (Sundance), a drama about the life of a typical middle-class Brazilian mom, and “Good Manners”, a werewolf horror-drama that has picked up some of the best reviews and won Best Brazilian film at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Film Festival. Brazil typically has a long “shortlist” (averaging 15-20 films) so we’ll probably also see “Araby” (Cartagena), docudrama “The Dead and the Others” (Cannes), “Rust” (Sundance), historical drama “The Seamstress” (by previously submitted director Breno Silveira), and “Vazante” (Berlinale Panorama) on the list. My prediction: “Mystical Circus” gets this, with “Loveling”, “Gabriel & the Mountain”, “Good Manners”, and “The Seamstress” the most likely runner-ups.

5.  CanadaCANADA- “The Fall of the American Empire” Canada has had its films shortlisted eight of the past 15 years, but Denys Arcand is the only Canadian director ever to win the prize. With most of Canada’s international directors working in English lately (including Oscar nominees Kim Nguyen, Denis Villeneuve, Philippe Falardeau, and Jean-Marc Vallee, plus Xavier Dolan), Arcand has less competition than you would think. An English-language movie won Best Picture at the Canadian Oscars (only the second time that’s happened in nine years) and a French-language zombie movie (“Ravenous”) won the Quebecois version (now called the Prix Iris). Now, even a really great zombie movie is not going to represent Canada; they've made it clear they want a nomination every year. Rounding out the Top Six options for Canada (in order): “Ava” (in Persian), a drama about a rebellious Iranian high-school girl,  “Great Darkened Days” (Toronto), a turn-of-the-century drama co-starring French actor Romain Duris, “La Bolduc”, a 1920s music biopic, indigenous drama “Edge of the Knife” (Toronto), the first film ever made in the Alaskan Haida language, and “The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches”, about a young woman traumatized by the death of her father.

6.         CHILE- “La Isla de los Pingüinos” (Penguin Island) Chile is the returning champion in this category for the first time in Oscar history. Strangely enough, this is actually a really weak year for Chile. None of their films seem particularly likely and I'm unsure what they'll choose. Among their options: “Oblivion Verses” won Best Screenplay at Venice 2017 and is arguably the best reviewed local film of the year, but I’m not sure Chile would choose a film by a foreign director. “Too Late To Die Young” (Locarno) has gotten good reviews but seems too small to be selected, as does “Les perros” (Cannes ’17). Dark comedies “I’m Not Crazy” (No estoy loca!) and “Calzones Rotos" both seem too light.  “Murder Me Monster” (Cannes ‘18) is too weird. “And Suddenly, Dawn” (Y de Pronto el Amanecer) would make a sentimental choice since it’s the first film in 14 years by Silvio Caiozzi, the first-ever director to represent Chile. It won Best Picture at the Montreal Film Festival, but it’s over three hours long and has no buzz. Thriller “Some Beasts”, starring Paulina Garcia, hasn’t been released. I’m going out on a limb and predicting the unheralded “Penguin Island”, about a recent series of student protests. But that doesn’t seem right either.  

7.   COLOMBIA- “Pajaros de Verano” (Birds of Passage) This week, Colombia announced a list of eleven eligible films that will be whittled down to four finalists, to compete to be Colombia’s next Oscar submission. There’s little point as Colombia is certain to choose “Birds of Passage”, Ciro Guerra’s critically acclaimed follow-up to the country's first-ever Oscar nominated film “Embrace of the Serpent”. “Birds” has arguably gotten even stronger reviews for this narco-drama set amongst the Wayuu-speaking indigenous people of Colombia. It’s also a clear threat for the Oscar's Final Nine. Colombia's four-film shortlist will likely also include revenge drama “Killing Jesus” (the probable Colombian runner-up, which has quietly been winning awards at festivals worldwide), transgender documentary “Senorita Maria” and weird animated feature “Virus tropical”....but I can’t see any of them having a chance.

8.  COSTA RICA- “Violeta al fin” (Violeta Has a Plan) Film production is way up in Costa Rica, with approximately a dozen local features being released in the past year. This year’s front-runner is “Violeta Has a Plan", a drama about a 72-year old woman determined to stop the bank from repossessing her home. It’s gotten warm reviews and some festival play, and director Hilda Hidalgo was selected once before. On paper, its chief competition is “Medea”, an experimental film about an accidental pregnancy that won Best Central American Film at the 2017 Costa Rica Film Festival. The more mainstream “Violeta” is clearly a better choice....AMPAS loves old people! Also possible: the upcoming “The Two Fridas” about Frida Kahlo’s relationship with her Costa Rican caretaker will be released in the fall. 

9.  CUBA- “Sergio & Sergei” Cuba was the only major country that opted not to send a film last year, and relations between Cuba and the U.S. have just been getting worse…They might send a movie this year, they might not, but the most likely choice is “Sergio & Sergei”. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a satisfyingly wild ride”, and the film has won awards in Cuba (including the Audience Award at the Havana Film Festival, where it was the only Cuban feature to win anything) and in the United States (Best Screenplay at the Cuban Film Festival in New York), showing it can entertain Western audiences while also passing the Cuban censors. Based on a true story and co-starring American actor Ron Perlman (“Hellboy”), it’s set in 1991 Cuba at a time when a Soviet cosmonaut was stuck in space due to the collapse of the USSR. Stranded, the cosmonaut began having conversations with a local radio enthusiast in Cuba. It’s chief competition is “The Translator”, starring Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro as a professor brought in to translate for victims of the Chernobyl disaster, who were brought to Cuba for medical treatment. That certainly would show Cuba in a positive light. In third place: feminist drama “¿Por qué lloran mis amigas?”. Two of Cuba’s most prominent Communist-era directors- Arturo Sotto Diaz and Fernando Perez- have promising new movies coming out, but I don’t expect they will be released in time.

10.   DOMINICAN REPUBLIC- “Veneno” Since last year, I’ve expected that the Dominican Republic would send “Cocote”, a drama-thriller about a deeply religious man who returns to his hometown to attend his father’s funeral. There, he is pressured by family members to take part in an act of revenge against his father’s alleged killer. The film has been the most visible Dominican film on the film festival circuit (Locarno, San Sebastian, Istanbul) and is said to have an interesting visual style blending music and images. However, it now has strong competition from wrestling drama “Veneno”, the first film in a trilogy about one of the DR’s most important sporting heroes. “Veneno” has gotten surprisingly good reviews, a limited US release, and is said to be a game-changer for Dominican cinema. Will they go for the festival favorite or the domestic hit? On July 31st, “Veneno” crushed the competition (including “Cocote” and last year’s Oscar candidate “Woodpeckers”) at the national Silla Awards so I think it has the edge to win here. I'd personally rather see "Cocote". 

11.     ECUADOR- “Cenizas" (Ashes) Ecuador is likely to choose “Cenizas” (Miami), a family drama about an awkward father-daughter reunion that occurs when a desperate woman visits her estranged father after her home is threatened by a volcanic eruption. Not only is it the best-reviewed Ecuadorian film of the year, but it also has the backing of “Moonlight” producer Andrew Hevia. Dark horse: B&W indie comedy “Black Hole” (Agujero Negro) Possible but unlikely: commercial rom-com “Verano no miente”. Trivia: Last year, Ecuador became the last of the 10 South American countries to choose a film by a female director.

12.   FIJI- Nothing eligible. Fiji’s film industry is primarily as a filming location for international productions. Fiji recently announced that 2018 was a record year for the country, with 74 foreign productions filming on the islands, ranking from Bollywood to Hollywood to Survivor to French TV shows. Fiji has only ever submitted one film, way back in 2005 when they sent “The Land Has Eyes”, directed by Hawai’i-based Vilsoni Hereniko. I'm pretty sure they don't have anything eligible.

13.   GUATEMALA- “Los gigantes no existen” (Giants Don't Exist) Guatemala has only sent films twice before, but they could very well send “Giants Don’t Exist” (Los gigantes no existen) this year. It’s a baity drama set during the military dictatorship of the 1980s about a young boy who survives the massacre of his village, and is adopted by the family of one of the killers.

14.    HAITI- “Impression” Impoverished Haiti submitted a film for the first time last year with “Ayiti mon amour” directed by Haitian-American Guetty Felin. I don’t think Haiti will submit films regularly but for the sake of completion, I’ll predict low-budget wedding comedy-drama “Enpresyon”, about a Haitian-American family in Boston whose daughter is pursued by two suitors.

15.  HONDURAS- “Una luz en el camino” Honduras sent a film to the Oscars for the first time last year, when they had several eligible releases. This year, they don’t have much. I only know of three films that are eligible, namely a Christian-themed drama, an adolescent soap opera and a silly Christmas comedy. The religious film- “Una luz en el camino”- looks like the most serious of the bunch but Honduras probably won't bother sending it.

Image result for Alfonso Cuaron Roma16.   MEXICO- "Roma"

17.     NEW ZEALAND- “Waru” There will be questions about eligibility for New Zealand’s Maori drama “Waru” which is in English and Maori. The film has gotten great reviews for its unique structure in which eight female Maori directors each tell one ten-minute part of the story of a young Maori child who has been killed. If the film is more than 50% in the Maori language, the film is certain to be their third Maori-language submission. If not, they’ll probably opt for Chinese-language fashion documentary “Yellow is Forbidden”, about a designer trying to succeed with original designs in the land of high-end knockoffs. Kiwi filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly was selected in 2016 for a film she made in Afghanistan.

18.    NICARAGUA- “Heredera del Viento” (Heiress of the Wind) Nicaragua has only sent one film to the Oscars in the past thirty years. Last year, they sent a film to the Goyas but opted not to enter the Oscar race. This year, they’ll almost surely sit out, but their best chance would be documentary “Heiress of the Wind”, which explores the aftereffects of the 1979 Sandinista Revolution in which the parents of director Gloria Carrion were heavily involved. The film did get a domestic release in April but the political turmoil and violence in Nicaragua against the current Sandinista government would make this an awkward selection. Very unlikely.

19.     PANAMA- “Diciembres”- Panama (pop: 4 million) has seen a big upswing in film production recently, including a number of successful local comedies and respected documentaries. This year, their Oscar pick will probably come down to documentary vs. fiction. “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”, a documentary about one of Panama’s most famous musicians, is the most visible Panamanian film of 2018 and it won an Audience Award at SXSW. “Diciembres” is a fiction film about the American invasion of 1989, and the effect it had on the lives of three characters a decade later. Panama has selected documentaries twice (2014 and 2015) but I think “Diciembres” will get this. Unlikely but possible: sexual assault drama “Sin voz” and silly World Cup comedy “Frozen in Russia”, the country’s highest-grossing film e‎ver. 

20.  PARAGUAY- “Las herederas” Paraguay doesn’t have a very large film industry so when you screen at Berlin and win Best Actress, that’s a pretty good indication you’re going to the Oscars. “The Heiresses” is a story of two aging lesbian lovers who have fallen on hard times, but it's a film about individualism and loneliness. I saw it last month and thought it was good, though I confess I forgot most of the story the following day….In any case, it’s guaranteed to represent Paraguay. 

21.   PERU- “Retablo” Peru is really unclear. Most of their films in 2018 have been silly comedies aimed at domestic audiences, while the more serious films are patiently awaiting a domestic release. That includes front-runner “Retablo”, an LGBT film about a conservative father who learns his son is gay. It’s one of the first films ever made in Quechua, the most-spoken indigenous language in South America. It won a youth film award at Berlinale 2018, and was named the Best Peruvian Film at the 2017 Lima Film Festival. Peru has chosen an LGBT-themed film once before and if “Retablo” can get released it will probably be selected. The 2017 Lima Film Festival had three other Peruvian fiction features; only two have been released- “Winaypacha”, the first film made in Aymara, an indigenous language which has official status alongside Spanish and Quechua, and “The Grandfather”, about an old man who reveals a decades-old secret when his family takes him home to his ancestral village. The third- “Delicious Dried Fruit”, about a vivacious older woman with a new lease on life- has not. The 2018 edition had seven more Peruvian debuts, none of which have been released. We should know which of them is strongest on August 11th, when they announce this year's Best Peruvian Film award, but I’d guess that village festival drama “Mataindios” will take home that prize. For now, expect “Retablo” to get this with “Dried Fruit” in second place.

22.   PUERTO RICO- “El silencio del viento" (Silence of the Wind) Puerto Rico was inexplicably and unfairly “uninvited” from the Foreign Oscar race in 2010 when AMPAS sent the Corporación de Cine de Puerto Rico a letter saying that it would be the last year they could send a film. The reasons for this were never explained. Puerto Rico had sent eleven films over the years with no problems and had earned one Oscar nomination. AMPAS said all "US protectorates" would no longer be invited, but this only affected Puerto Rico. Interestingly enough, Palestine was invited (after being rejected in 2002) in 2003, and Greenland (a Danish “protectorate”) was invited beginning in 2010, the same year Puerto Rico was banned. So, it’s quite ridiculous and very unclear why AMPAS is picking on poor Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has launched an appeal this year to get the decision reversed. If AMPAS relents, the most likely Puerto Rican submission is “Silence of the Wind" (El silencio del viento), a drama about human trafficking and the feature debut of a short film director who was nominated for Best Short Film at Cannes in 2012. Another option would be "Who Are You?” (¿Quién Eres Tú?), a drama about a politician who cares for his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  It would theoretically be a closely fought contest. Write a letter to AMPAS and get Puerto Rico back in the competition!

23.     URUGUAY- “La noche de 12 años” (A Twelve-Year Night) Uruguay has a fairly easy decision this year and will almost certainly send Alvaro Brechner’s military dictatorship drama “A Twelve-Year Night” (La noche de 12 años). Brechner has been selected twice before for the well-reviewed comedies “Bad Day to Go Fishing” and “Mr. Kaplan” (I preferred “Fishing”), the film earned a prestigious berth at the Venice Film Festival, and stars respected Spanish actor Antonio de la Torre. It’s opening in Uruguay and Argentina in late September, and I think that’s been done on purpose to qualify for the Oscars. Based on a true story, it’s a dark drama about political prisoner José Mujica (later to become Uruguay’s president) who was jailed and abused for 12 years from 1972-1985. Uruguay’s other promising films have either disappointed critics (horror film “You Shall Not Sleep” and time-travel dramedy “The Waves”) or failed to get sufficient buzz (creepy horror film “Wood Eyes” and abortion drama “Breathe”). I’m still excited for Araki-esque comedy “Neptunia” which is yet to be released, but “La noche” should win this easily. 

24.     VENEZUELA- “El amparo” Venezuela is on the brink of economic and social collapse, but their film industry is somehow doing better than ever. They had 19 new features at the national film festival in Merida (which I think is a record) and started their own national film awards. This may come down to a race between the winners of the 2017 and 2018 Festival de Cine Venezolano. Last year, it was “El amparo”, based on the true story of a group of innocent fisherman massacred on the border due to a political conflict between neighbors Colombia and Venezuela. This year, it was incestuous “Blue Lagoon”-esque drama “Children of the Salt” (Hijos de la Sal). You can add to the list of possibilities, poverty stricken father-son drama “La familia” which finally got a domestic release more than a year after its 2007 Cannes premiere, and serial killer drama “The Lake Vampire”. Rounding out the top five choices in a strong year is senior citizen comedy “Más vivos que nunca” about a bunch of friends who escape a nursing home. My predictions: “El amparo” gets this but if they don’t want to choose a movie about the Venezuelan military shooting people, it’s “La familia”, “Children of the Salt”, “Lake Vampire”  and “Mas vivos”.  
Image result for La palabra de Pablo25.   EL SALVADOR- "La palabra de Pablo" (Pablo's Word) With last year's entries of Honduras and Haiti, El Salvador is now the only country in Latin America that has never sent a film to the Oscar competition. If they are embarrassed by that, they could enter "Pablo's Word", a film noir re-telling of "Othello" about a young man trying to sabotage his father's relationship with a younger woman. It has played at a number of Latin film festivals but so far as I know has not premiered in San Salvador. 


Ilia Ginzburg said...

Unfortunately, I've seen very little of Latin American cinema this year so I don't have much to add.

Chile - Probably you're right and the chances are low, but I wish that they'll consider submitting "Oblivion Verses". It masterfully uses the genre of magical realism.

Paraguay - I've seen "Las herederas" on its premiere at Berlinale this year and was pretty surprised to find very positive reviews on the film (though it's still a way better than dreadful "Touch Me Not", whose winning the main award seems to be so kind of revenge of the jury for making them to watch it). Anyway, I can not say that it's bad and totally forgetful but mainly boring with unconstant cinematic style (as far as I can remember).

Evan said...

Chile's Too Late to Die Young is now bound for the New York Film Fest... I suspect they're making a push and just may get the Oscar berth.

dzong2 said...

Hi Evan,

I've heard that "Too Late to Die Young" won't premiere in Chile until 2019, but it's entirely possible they will do a qualifying release.

You're right that the movie keeps getting into festivals but I just have a feeling that Chile will be one of the year's surprise entries.