Many local film enthusiasts believe that the present decade of the 2010s is the most opportune time for a Filipino film to be nominated and win the country’s first ever Oscar best foreign language film trophy. In effect, the country will be a member of one-time winners in this category.
Records show that three first time winners broke into this magic circle in the 1970s; only one in the 1980s; and two more in the 1990s. All these winning films were included in last week’s first part of this article.
Five countries achieved their first Oscar win during the first decade of the new century. The latest member of this group is Iran which won in 2012 for the Separation.
Hereunder is the othr half of the first-time winning films from six other countries:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Ang Lee
This film was actually an international co-production between companies in four regions: the Chinese company China Film Co-Production Corporation; the American companies Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Sony Pictures Classics and Good Machine; the Hong Kong company EDKO Film; and the Taiwanese Zoom Hunt International Productions Company, Ltd.
It is based and adapted from the storyline of the fourth book in the novel series of Wang Du, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, published in the late 1930s.
The film focuses on three women. There is Jade Fox who is denied entry to the Wudang monastery because she is a woman. She is forced to poisons Li Mu Bai’s master and steals a manual to learn Wudang fighting on her own, which sets in motion the events of the film. Then there is Jen, a young woman battling between her desire to be accepted and respected by her family and society and her wish to be free.Finally, there is Shu Lien who lives the life of a warrior but adheres strictly to the moral codes and traditions of the patriarchal society she lives in.
2002/Bosnia and Herzogovina
No Man’s Land, directed by Danis Tanovic
The film is a war drama that is set in the midst of the Bosnian war. The film is a parable and marked the debut of Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanović. Aside from winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2001, in total, it won 42 awards, including the European Film Academy Award for Best Screenplay, the André Cavens Award, the César Award for Best Debut in 2001 and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002.
Two wounded soldiers, a Bosniak and a Bosnian Serb are caught between their lines in the no man’s land, in a struggle for survival. But there is another wounded Bosniak soldier from unconsciousness. A land mine had been buried beneath him by the Bosnian Serbs; should he make any move, it would be fatal.
An English reporter arrives on the scene and tries to pressure the United Nations high command to try to save the soldiers.
A row between the stressed out enemies gradually escalates. even after being rescued. Eventually, the Bosniak shoots the Serb and is in turn shot by a UN peacekeeper. After this confrontation, it is found that the mine cannot be defused. The UN high command tries to save face and lie that the third man has been saved and they leave the area, along with the reporters and everyone else.
The Barbarian Invasions, directed by Denys Arcand
The film won France’s 2004 César Award for Best Picture and Best Director, plus Best Original Screenplay for Denys Arcand. At the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, it won two awards: Best Screenplay Award and Best Actress Award for Marie-Josée Croze. The film also won prizes at other international festivals (Bangkok International Film Festival, Cinema Brazil Grand Prize, Toronto International Film Festival, and the Czech Lions).
The plot revolves around the character Rémy’s battle with terminal cancer, and the efforts of Sébastien, his estranged son to make his dying father more comfortable in his last days. Finally the father and son travel to Vermont in the United States to receive medical care. The son gather the various other friends and family members from his father’s past who come to visit and comfort him. During Rémy’s last days, he and his friends travel to the cottage of their past and discuss philosophy, politics, and past sexual and intellectual exploits.
Tsotsi, directed by Gavin Hood
The film is an adaptation of the novel Tsotsi, by Athol Fugard. Set in an Alexandra slum, near Johannesburg, South Africa, the film tells the story of Tsotsi, a young street thug who steals a car only to discover a baby in the back seat.
The film won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.
Tsotsi is a leader of a gang who shoots Pumla, a young woman, while stealing her car, only to discover a three-month-old baby in the back seat. Tsotsi takes the baby back to his shack. Pumla survives the attack and works with the police artist to track down Tsotsi. After several violent incidents, Tsotsi is persuaded by a woman friend to return the child to his parents. Tsotsi sets off to return the baby. But the police arrive before Tostsi can leave. Holding the baby in his arms, Tsotsi is convinced by the baby’s father to give up the baby. Tsotsi emotionally returns the baby to its father, puts up his hands when he turns himself in and the film ends.
The Counterfeiters, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
The film fictionalizes Operation Bernhard, a secret plan by the Nazis during the Second World War to destabilize the United Kingdom by flooding its economy with forged Bank of England bank notes. The film focuses on a Jewish counterfeiter, Salomon ‘Sally’ Sorowitsch, who is coerced into assisting the Nazi operation at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
The film is based on a memoir written by Adolf Burger, a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned in 1942 for forging baptismal certificates to save Jews from deportation, and was later interned at Sachsenhausen to work on Operation Bernhard.
The film appeared on some critics’ top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Josh Rosenblatt of The Austin Chronicle named it the 4th best film of 2008, and Ella Taylor of LA Weekly named it the 8th best film of 2008.
A Separation, Directed by Asghar Farhadi
A Separation focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class carer for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
The film received the Golden Bear for Best Film and the Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, becoming the first Iranian film to win the Golden Bear. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award, a rare occurrence for a foreign language film.
The film has been met with universal acclaim from film critics. Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter wrote from the Berlinale: “Just when it seemed impossible for Iranian filmmakers to express themselves meaningfully outside the bounds of censorship, Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simin, A Separation comes along to prove the contrary. Apparently simple on a narrative level yet morally, psychologically and socially complex, it succeeds in bringing Iranian society into focus for in a way few other films have done.”
A Separation was voted the second best film of 2011 in the annual Sight & Sound critic poll, as well as in the LA Weekly Film Poll 2011. The film was also voted No. 3 in the annual indieWire critic survey for 2011, No. 4 in the 2011 poll by Film Comment, and was ranked No. 5 on Paste Magazine’s 50 Best Movies of 2011. Roger Ebert ranked the film No. 1 on his The Best Films of 2011 list and wrote: “A Separation will become one of those enduring masterpieces watched decades from now”.
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