Film entries from Belgium, Canada, Iran, Israel and Poland are the final five nominees in the best foreign language film category of the 84TH Oscar awards as announced on Tuesday, January 24.
Films from Denmark, Germany, Morocco and Taiwan made it to the shortlist but were finally eliminated. The Philippine entry, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank of Marlon Rivera, did not make the shortlist or semifinal cut.
The 84th Oscar Awards—which will honor achievements in 2011—will be held at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on February 26, 2012.
The five final nominees are:
Belgium’s Bullhead by Michael R. Roskam
Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau
Iran’s Nader and Simin, A Separation by Asghar Farhadi
Israel’s Footnote by Joseph Cedar
Poland’s In Darkness by Agnieska Holland.
Only Canada had won an Oscar trophy for best foreign language film. This was in 2003 with its entry The Barbarian Invasions, directed by Denys Arcand.
Israel, however, had already chalked up 10 nominations, followed by Poland with nine; Belgium with six; Canada with five; and Iran with two.
Israel’s other nominations included: Sallah by Ephraim Kishon (1964); The Policeman by Kishon (1971); I Love You, Rosa by Moshe Mizrahi (1972); The House on Chelouche Street by Mizrahi (1973); Operation Thunderbolt by Menachem Golan (1977); Beyond the Walls by Uri Barbash (1984);
Beaufort by Joseph Cedar (2007); Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman (2008); and Ajami by Saandar Copti and Yaron Shiri (2009).
The other nominated films of Poland were: Knife in the Water by Roman Polanski (1963); Pharaoh by Jerzy Kawalerowicz (1966); The Deluge by Jerzy Hoffman (1974); The Promised land by Andrzej Wajda (1975); Nights and Days by Jerzy Antczak (1976); The Maids of Wilko by Wajda (1979); Man of Iron by Wajda (1981); and Katyn by Wajda (2007).
The other nominations of Belgium were: Peace in the Fields by Boris Szulzinger (1970); The Music Teacher by Gerard Corbiau (1988); Daens by Stijn Coninx (1992); Farinelli by Corbiau (1994); and Everybody’s Famous by Dominique Deruddere (2000).
Canada’s other nominations included: The Decline of the American Empire by Denys Arcand (1986); Jesus of Montreal by Arcand (1989); Water by Deepa Mehta (2006); and Incendies by Dennis Villeneuve (2010).
Iran had another nomination way back in 1998 for Children of Heaven by Majid Majidi.
Hereunder are the capsule write-ups of the five nominated films:
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.
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.
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.
The five final nominees were winnowed out of the shortlist of nine films by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. From January 20 to 22, they viewed three films each day then cast their ballots to finalize the nomination process.
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