Nine film entries made it to the semifinal shortlist of the best foreign language film category for the 2012 Oscar awards as announced on Wednesday, January 18. The Philippine entry, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank of Marlon Rivera, did not make the semifinal cut.
The five final nominees will be announced around January 24, simultaneously with the other categories.
The 84th Oscar Awards—which will honor achievements in 2011—will be held at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on February 26, 2012.
The nine films in the semifinal shortlist are:
Belgium’s Bullhead by Michael R. Roskam; Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau; Denmark’s Superclasico by Ole Christian Madsen; Germany’s Pina by Win Wenders; Iran’s Nader and Simin, A Separation by Asghar Farhadi;
Israel’s Footnote by Joseph Cedar; Morocco’s Omar Killed Me by Roschdy Zem; Poland’s In Darkness by Agnieska Holland and Taiwan’s Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale by Wei Te-sheng.
Hereunder are the capsule write-up of each film, presented alphabetically:
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.
The Hollywood Reporter describes this gritty crime drama about a beefed-up cattleman who injects his cows and himself with growth hormone as an ‘emotionally driven tale of revenge, redemption and fate.’
Canada—Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau)
Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically. While the class goes through a long healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir’s painful former life; nor that he is at risk of being deported at any moment. Adapted from Evelyne de la Cheneliere’s play, Bachir Lazhar, depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression. Using great sensitivity and humor, Philippe Falardeau follows a humble man who is ready to transcend his own loss in order to help children recover from the death of their former teacher.
The Hollywood Reporter writes: This nearly perfect gem begins as a tiny slice of life, but it sneaks up on you and packs a wallop by the time it reaches its conclusion. The film won honors in Locarno and Toronto where it took the jury prize for best Canadian feature.
Denmark—Superclasico (Ole Christian Madsen)
A comedy of marital discord, the film follows 40-year-old Christian, whose wine business is close to bankruptcy, and whose wife Anna has left him for a soccer star, now a successful football agent in Buenos Aires.
The Hollywood Reporter calls this film a refreshingly light entry from the country that gave us Director Lars von Treer and the more somber 2011 Oscar best foreign language film winner In a Better World.
Germany—Pina (Wim Wenders)
This 3D docu is a tribute to the late modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a cinematic synthesis of the arts, harmoniously combining dance, music and film.
The Hollywood Reporter says: Along with being a technical marvel, Wender’s 3D tribute to the late, great dance choreographer Pina Bausch packs an emotional punch.
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.
The Hollywood Reporter stresses: A Separation is proof that even the harshest state censors can’t stop a great filmmaker from telling a com-plex, politically powerful story. The clear frontrunner in the foreign language Oscar race, A Separation cleaned up on the fest circuit and was named best foreign film by the National Board of Review, the Berlin Film Festival and the Golden Globe awards.
Israel—Footnote (Joseph Cedar)
The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The son has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while his father is a stubborn purist with a fear and profound revulsion for what the establishment stands for, yet beneath his contempt lies a desperate thirst for some kind of recognition. The Israel Prize, Israel’s most prestigious award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation.
The Hollywood Reporter says: Jewish audiences in particular might respond to this drama though Cedar’s style is deliberately mainstream, giving Footnote the potential for wider appeal. It won at the Cannes Film Festival.
Morocco—Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem)
The true story of a Moroccan immigrant imprisoned for murder near Cannes. The film examines a penal system in which French police and prosecutors were eager to pin the crime on a convenient suspect.
The Hollywood Reporter cites this film for the mesmerizing lead turn from Sami Bouajila and its still newsworthy subject matter.
Poland—In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland)
This film tells the story of Leopold Soha who risks his own life to save a dozen Jewish refugees from certain death. Initially only interested in his own good, the thief and burglar hides the refugees for 14 weeks in the sewers of the Nazi-occupied town of Lvov.
The Hollywood Reporter says: Twenty years after her Oscar-nominated Europa, Europa, Holland returns to the Holocaust. This look at an anti-Semitic sewer worker who ends up saving more than a dozen Jews is dedicated to Jewish-Polish activist and author Marek Edelman.
Taiwan—Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Te-Sheng Wei)
During the Japanese rule of Taiwan, the Seediqs were forced to lose their own culture and give up their faith. Men were subjected to harsh labor and kept from traditional hunting whereas women had to serve the Japanese policemen and their families by doing the household work and giving up their traditional weaving. Above all, they were forbidden to tattoo their faces. These tattoos were seen as the Seediqs’ traditional belief to transform themselves into Seediq Bale (true humans). Mona Rudao, the film’s protagonist, witnessed the repression by the Japanese over a period of 30 years. Sometime between autumn and winter of 1930, when the slave labor is at its harshest, a young Seediq couple are married and a joyful party is thrown. At the same time, a newly appointed Japanese policeman goes on his inspection tour to this tribe. Mona Rudao’s first son, offers wine to the policeman.
The Hollywood Reporter points out: Action master John Woo co-produced this true-to-life war story about the rebellion of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples against Japanese colonizers in the 1930s. The foreign language committee loves historical epics, but the 276-minute running time could test Academy members’ endurance skills.
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