Feb 25
THE FINAL FIVE by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Feb 25, 2011

(Vying for the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film)

It is O-Day on Monday (February 28) here in the Philippines. And O stands for Oscar, the much coveted film award which is now on its 83rd year.

For many of us in the local film industry who have been aspiring for at least a first nomination of a Filipino film in the best foreign language film category, our mutual interest again focuses on who will win in this category, obviously the most international of all the Oscar Award categories.

Again, the Philippines had been left out in the cold after our entry failed to make the short list of nine films which was later trimmed down to the five final nominees. And five countries are now vying for the best foreign language film, namely Algeria, Canada, Denmark, Greece and Mexico.

A wikipedia search provides us information on the five countries and their nominated films:

Algeria—Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi), directed by Rachid Bouchareb

Canada—Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve

Denmark—In a Better World (Haevnen), directed by Susanne Bier

Greece—Dogtooth (Kynodontas), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Mexico—Biutiful, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Now, for a film by film and country by country breakdown on these nominations.

Algeria’s Outside the Law

Outside the Law is an Algerian and French drama film in Arabic and French that is a follow up to Days of Glory (2006), also directed by Bouchareb.

The film’s story takes place between the years 1945 and 1962, focusing on three Algerian brothers who survived the Setif massacre and are already living in France.

The film was produced with a budget of 19.5 euros thru a co-production venture led by Tessalit Productions with companies in France and Belgium. The five-month filming began in July 2009 with locations in Paris, Algeria, Tunisia, the Belgian cities of Charleroi and Brussels, Germany and the United Nations Headquarters in the United States.

Before this film, Algeria has already won one Oscar trophy (in 1969 for Z, directed by Costa Gavras) and received three nominations. Two were also for Bouchareb films (Dust of Life, 1995 and Days of Glory, 2006). The other nominated film was The Ball by Ettore Scola in 1983.

Canada’s Incendies

Incendies, a Canadian film from Quebec, is written and directed by Villeneuve, adapted from the acclaimed play of Wajdi Mouawad of the same title. It is in French and Arabic.

The film follows two young adults as they undergo a voyage that eventually engulfs them in deep-rooted hatreds, never-ending wars and enduring love.

The film premiered at both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in September 2010 and was released in Quebec on September 17, 2010.

Like Algeria, Canada also won the best foreign language film category once (in 2003 for The Barbarian Invasions by Denys Arcaud) and was nominated for three other films—The Decline of the American Engine by Denys Arcaud, 1986; Jesus of Montreal by Denys Arcaud, 1989; and Water by Deepa Mehta, 2006.

Denmark’s In a Better World

In a Better World, written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, has already won the 2011 Golden Globe award for best foreign film. It also garnered awards in the Rome International Filmfest, the Sevilla Filmfest, the Tallinn Filmfest and the Thessaloniki International Filmfest.

Its Danish title, Haevnen, means The Revenge. The film is a family drama about a Danish doctor who works at an African refugee camp. He and his wife Marianne, with whom he has two young sons, are separated and facing divorce. Their older 10-year-old Elias is being bullied at school until he is defended by a new pupil, Christian. The two form a strong bond but Christian later involves his new friend in a dangerous act of revenge. The parents ultimately help the boys come to terms with the complexities of life.

Denmark won consecutive Oscar trophies for best foreign language film in 1987 and 1988 for Babette’s Feast by Gabriel Axel and Pelle the Con-queror by Bille August. Five Danish films were also nominated—Qiritoq by Erik Brilling, 1958; Paw by Astrid Henning-Jensen, 1959; Harry and the Butler by Bert Christensen, 1960; Memories of a Marriage by Kaspar Rostrup, 1989; and After the Wedding by Susanne Bier, 2006.

Greece’s Dogtooth

Dogtooth is the story of a married couple who literally keep their adult son and two daughters imprisoned within their compound and pretend that everything is normal. They promise that the children will be ready to venture outside the compound once they lost a dogtooth.

The film was the feature film debut of Boo Productions, an advertising company in Athens.The Greek Film Center supported the project with 200,000 euros.

The film premiered at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and won the Prix un Certain Regard. Its US premiere was held on June 25, 2010.

Greece has not yet won an Oscar trophy for best foreign language film but has already four nominations tucked under its belt. These were for Electra by Michael Cacoyannis, 1962; The Red Lanterns by Vasilis Georgiadis, 1963; Blood on the Land by Georgiadis again, 1965; and Iphigenia by Cacoyannis again, 1977.

Mexico’s Biutiful

The film follows the story of Uxbal, an underworld figure but devoted single father. Played by Javier Bardem, Uxbal attempts to reconcile with a past love and secure a bright future for his children as his impending death draws near.

Biutiful is director Inarritu’s first directorial feauture since Babel and his first film in Spanish since his debut feature Amores Perros. The title refers to the orthographical spelling in Spanish of beautiful as it would sound to native Spanish speakers.

Bardem was nominated for best actor in this year’s Oscars, making his performance the first entirely Spanish language performance to be nominated for that award.

Like Greece, Mexico has not won a best foreign language Oscar trophy but seven Mexican films have been nominated through the years. These are Macario by Robert Gavaldon, 1960; The Important Man by Ishmael Rodriguez, 1961; The Pearl of Tiayucan by Luis Alcariza, 1962; Letters from Marusia by Miguel Littin, 1975; Love’s a Bitch by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2000; El Crimen del Padre Amaro by Carlos Carrera, 2002; and Pan’s Labyrinth y Guillermo del Toro, 2006.

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