As the Filipino film Noy vies for a nomination in the foreign language film category of next year’s Oscar Awards, let us start reviewing the 21 other local films that aspired but had the singular fate of falling short.
But first, a capsule primer on the best foreign language film category. According to wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, when the first Oscar Awards ceremony was held on May 1, 1929—to honor films released in 1927 and 1928—there was no separate category for foreign language films.
From 1947 to 1955, the Oscars presented special/honorary awards to the best foreign language film released in the US. These awards were not regularly handed out. Neither were they competitive since there were no nominees and simply one winning film per year.
On the 29th Oscar Awards in 1956, a competitive academy award of merit (known as the best foreign language film award) was created for non-English speaking films. Until today, it is an Oscar award not presented to a specific individual but an award to the submitting country as a whole.
The first Filipino film entered in the Oscars was Genghis Khan in 1953. It was a historical epic based on the life of the legen-dary Mongol chieftain Temujin (more popularly known as Genghis Khan). The film was directed by Manuel Conde (who also played the role of Temujin) and Lou Salvador Sr. It gained distinction for being the first Filipino film to be shown at the Venice Film festival in 1952 where it was cited for outstanding technical achievement.
Originally filmed in Tagalog, Genghis Khan was released in the US by United Artists with voiceover narration by noted film critic/screenwriter James Agee.
Unfortunately, the Oscars did not give an award for best foreign language film that year.
In 1956, the film Anak Dalita of Lamberto V. Avellana was the country’s entry. Produced by LVN Pictures and filmed in black and white, it is about the slum dwellers of the bombed out ruins of Intramuros who are being ejected from their shanties and their Herculean efforts to survive with their dignity intact. The cast included Tony Santos, Rosa Rosal, Vic Silayan, Leroy Salvador and Oscar Keese.
But the best foreign language film for 1956 was La Strada (The Road) of Italian director Federico Fellini whose record of winning four best foreign language film trophies remains unmatched up to this time.
La Strada stars Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart and Giulietta Masina (Fellini’s wife) and is a neorealist drama about a young woman sold by her mother to a travelling circus strongman.
In 1961, our entry to the Oscars was The Moises Padilla Story which starred Leopoldo Salcedo as the assassinated political leader with Joseph Estrada as his killer. Directed by Gerardo de Leon, the film was scripted by Cesar Amigo based on the story of Philippine Free Press writer Leon O. Ty. The cast also included Lilia Dizon, Ben Perez, Max Alvarado, Rosa Aguirre and Robert Arevalo.
But the best foreign language film for 1961 was Through a Glass Darkly by legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. The film takes place in a single 24-hour period, features four family members acting as mirrors for each other, and takes place entirely on an island.
In 1967, the Philippine entry was Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak, directed by Luis Nepomuceno and written by Jose Nepomu-ceno. The cast includes Charito Solis, Ric Rodrigo, Liza Lorena, Paraluman and Rod Navarro.
But the best foreign language film for 1967 was Closely Watched Trains, a Czechoslovak film directed by Jiri Menzel. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.
Nine years later in 1976, our Oscar entry was Ganito Kami Noon…Paano Kayo Ngayon?, directed by Eddie Romero. The film stars Christopher de Leon, Gloria Diaz, Eddie Garcia, Leopoldo Salcedo and Jaime Fabregas.
With the onset of the 20th century as backdrop (which covered the revolution against Spain and the Filipino-American war), the film follows a naïve peasant played by De Leon as he undergoes his leap of faith to become a nationalistic member of an imagined Filipino community.
But the best foreign language film for 1976 was Black and White in Color, a French film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. It depicts French colonists at war with the Germans in the Ivory Coast, Africa, during World War I. With a strong anti-militaristic point of view, it ridicules the French more harshly than their German counterparts.
In 1984, the Philippine entry was Karnal, directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya and starring Philip Salvador, Charito Solis, Cecille Castillo, Vic Silayan and Joonee Gamboa. It was written by Ricardo Lee based on a short story of Teresita Anover-Rodriguez.
But the best foreign language film for 1984 was Dangerous Moves, a French-language film about chess directed by Richard Dembo. It tells the story of two men competing in the world chess championship—a 52-year-old Soviet Jew who is the champion and a 35-year-old chess whiz who defected to the West.
The next year, 1985, our entry was Bayan Ko…Kapit sa Patalim, a film directed by Lino Brocka which was entered in the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. It stars Philip Salvador, Gina Alajar, Carmi Martin, Claudia Zobel, Raul Aragon, Paquito Diaz and Rez Cortez.
But the best foreign language film for 1985 was The Official Story, an Argentine film directed by Luis Puenzo. The film is about an upper middle class couple in Buenos Aires who adopts a child who turns out to be the daughter of a desa-parecido (a victim of forced disappearances) during Argentina’s dirty war in the 1970s.
(Next week: RP’s entries to the Oscar’s best foreign language film 1995-2003)
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