Selecting the best foreign language film for the year is actually a very complicated process unless we accept the Oscar winner in this category as the best indeed. The complications arise when we consider that there are so many film academies and film critic associations that also bestow such award annually.
Late breaking news revealed that the final nominees in the best foreign language film category in the forthcoming Oscar Awards, set for March 2, are the following:
Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown by Felix van Groeningen; Italy’s The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino; Denmark’s The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg;
Cambodia’s The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh; and Palestine’s Omar by Hany Abu-Assad
Just last January 12, the Golden Globe picked as the best foreign language film The Great Beauty from Italy and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The BAFTA (British Academy of Films and Television Arts) has already finalized their nominees for Best Film Not in the English Language. The BAFTA Awards will be held on February 6.
Interestingly, the BAFTA nominees also included The Great Beauty and, more importantly, Metro Manila, a film in Tagalog shot in the country by young British director Sean Ellis. Metro Manila was also submitted to the Oscar by the United Kingdom but did not make the shortlist of nine films. The three other BAFTA nominees are France’s Blue is the Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kerchiche, Norway’s The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer and Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda by Haifaa al-Mansour.
In the Golden Globe, the losing nominees also included Blue is the Warmest Color, Iran’s The Past by Asghar Farhadi, Denmark’s The Hunt and Japan’s The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki.
But the overall picture about the best foreign language film of 2013 reveals other angles after a cursory glance at the awards on this category from the point of view of some film critics circles, societies or associations through the Wikipedia.
A total of 25 such associations have already announced their best foreign language film awardees even before last year ended. And take note: Twelve of these film critics groups singled out Blue is the Warmest Color as the best of 2013. Three critics groups selected The Great Beauty and two others opted for Denmark’s The Hunt.
One group each picked Iran’s the Past, Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Act of Killin, Japan’s The Wind Rises, No, Drug War, and Hongkong’s The Grandmaster by Wong Kar-wai.
The twelve groups which unanimously opted for Blue is the Warmest Color as the best foreign language film of 2013 are the Austin Film Critics Association, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, the Florida FC Circle, the Las Vegas FC Society, the Los Angeles FC Association, the National Society of FC, the New York FC Circle, the Online FC Society, the Phoenix FC Society, the San Francisco FC Circle, the St. Louis Film Critics Association and the Utah Film Critics Circle.
The three groups that selected The Great Beauty are the Boston Society of FC, the Southeastern FC Society and the Toronto FC Association.
The North Carolina FC Association and the Vancouver FC Circle picked The Hunt.
To round things off here are the pairings of associations and winners: Iran’s The Past by Asghar Farhadi (the National Board of Review); The Broken Circle Breakdown (the Washington DC Area FC Association);Norway./Denmark/U.K.’s The Act of Killing (the Chicago FC Association); Japan’s The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki (Central Ohio FC Association); Chile’s No by Pablo Larrain (Georgia FC Association); Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda by Haifaa al-Mansour (Women FC Circle); Hongkong’s Drug War by Johnnie To (San Diego FC Society); and India’s The Grandmaster by B. Unnikrishnan (Denver FC Society).
Let us now go through capsule overviews of these 11 winning films as a guide on what a best foreign language film is:
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Blue Is the Warmest Colour, also known as Adele: Chapters 1 & 2, is a 2013 French coming of age film. At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the film unanimously won the Palme d’Or from the official jury. It is the first film to have the Palme d’Or awarded to both the director and the lead actresses. Blue Is the Warmest Colour is based on the 2010 French graphic novel by Julie March which was published in North America in 2013.
The plot revolves on the lesbian relationship of Adèle, a high-school student and the blue-haired Emma, an advanced Fine Art student. Emma’s family is very welcoming to the two lovers, but Adèle introduces Emma to her family as just a friend. Over the course of several years, the two women live happily together.
Adèle finishes school and joins the teaching staff at an elementary school, where one of her male colleagues shows an interest in her. Jealous of Emma’s apparent intimacy with one of her friends, Adèle agrees to go out with him. Emma discovers the brief affair and kicks Adèle out of the apartment they share, leaving Adèle heartbroken and alone.
Sometime later, Adèle and Emma meet at a restaurant. Adèle is still in love with Emma, but Emma is in another relationship and is no longer in love with Adèle.
Despite Adèle’s advances, which Emma accepts, Emma tells Adèle she does not love her anymore, but will always think fondly of her. The two forgive each other and Adèle moves on with her life.
The Great Beauty
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
The Great Beauty premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it was screened in competition for the Palme d’Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and at the 2013 Reykjavik European Film Festival.
The film opens with a quote from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” It is about an aging socialite, Jep Gambardella, who once wrote a famous novel in his twenties, only to retire into a comfortable life writing cultural columns and throwing parties in Rome. After his 65th birthday party, where he is feted at his plush apartment overlooking the Coliseum, he walks through the ruins and city streets, encountering the various characters, reflecting on his life, his first love, and sense of unfulfillment.
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
The Past is a 2013 French drama film written and directed by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
The film is about Ahmad who returns to France after four years to finalize his divorce papers. He meets his (soon to be) ex-wife Marie and her daughters from her previous marriage. She is in a relationship with an Arab man named Samir who has a son and whose wife is in a coma. The relationship of the older daughter, Lucie, and Marie is strained because Lucie disapproves of her mother’s relationship with Samir.
The Broken Circle Breakdown
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen
The Broken Circle Breakdown is a 2012 Belgian drama film based on the play written by Johan Heldenbergh. The film has been selected as the Belgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, making the January shortlist.
The film is set in Ghent, Belgium and explores the lives of Didier and Elisa over \seven years as they fall in love through their passion for bluegrass music and eventually have a daughter who will change their lives forever.
(Next week: Capsule overviews of other best foreign language film winners)
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