By noon of Friday, September 23. there are only 24 official nominees submitted or declared for the best foreign language film category of the Oscar awards slated next year. Sixty-five countries are expected to send their nominations this time around.
With October 3 as the deadline for the submission of all requirements for the nominated foreign language films, the list will surely hew close to the expected 65 entries within that 10-day period.
The Philippines has already nominated—through the Oscar committee of the Film Academy of the Philippines—the film The Woman in the Septic Tank which faces an uphill battle to garner a first nomination in this category for the country.
Getting into the final five: is it a tall order, an achievable goal or simply an impossible dream?
All we can do right now is to scan the competition at a glance. Hereunder is a country-by-country listing of their nominated entries (with storylines when available):
Austria—Breathing (directed by Karl Markovics)
A 19-year-old comes out of prison and tries to rebuild his shattered life but he cannot deal with his guilt. This film won the 2011 Cannes Filmfest Directors’ Fortnight award for best European Film.
Belgium—Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam)
Jacky, a young cattle farmer, is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret in Jacky’s past set in motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.
Finland—Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki)
The director’s 16th film concerns an African boy refugee who is thrown by fate to meet Marcel, a well-read bohemian who works as a shoe-shiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering solidarity of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the African boy refugee for deportation.
France—Declaration of War (Valerie Donzelli)
A young couple wrestles with their child’s cancer diagnosis.
Germany—Pina (Wim Wenders)
No storyline. But this film won best film in the German Film awards.
Greece—Atternberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
No storyline. But this film won the special jury award in the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Hungary—The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitsky)
In 1889, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse while travelling in Turin, Italy. He wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck to protect it then collapsed to the ground. In less than one month, Nietzsche would be diagnosed with a serious mental illness that would make him bedridden and speechless for the next 11 years until his death. This film is a fictionalized story of what happened to the horse. The man who whipped the horse is a rural farmer who makes his living taking on carting jobs into the city with his horse-drawn cart. The horse is old and in very poor health but does its best to obey its master’s commands. The farmer and his daughter must come to the understanding that the horse will soon be unable to go on sustaining their livelihoods. The dying of the horse is the crux of this tragic tale.
Iran—Nadir and Simin, a Separation (Asghar Fahadi)
A couple (Nadir and Simin) has to make a decision to leave Iran to ensure a better future for their daughter (Termeh) or to stay and take care of Nadir’s father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. However, the couple’s marriage may end in divorce as Simin is determined to leave the country with her daughter.
Japan—Postcard (Kaneto Shindo)
Lebanon—Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki)
A group of Lebanese women try to ease religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village.
Lithuania—Back to Your Arms (Kristijona Vildziunas)
Morocco—Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem)
Norway—Happy, Happy (Anne Sewitsky)
Philippines—The Woman in the Septic Tank (Marlon Rivera)
The film chronicles a day in the life of three ambitious, passionate but misguided filmmakers as they set out to do a quick pre-production at Starbucks, a courtesy call on their lead actress, Eugene Domingo, and an ocular inspection of their film’s major location, the Payatas dumpsite.
It is a comedy about misguided ambitions, the art of making art and the romanticization of poverty.
(Continued next week)
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