Jan 29
NOTES ON OTHER BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM WINNERS by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Jan 29, 2014

(Part 3)

Here are four more foreign films that won at least one best foreign language film award from a film critics association, circle or society. For the last two week, our FAP website ran capsule write-ups on seven other foreign language film winners.

These are France’s Blue is the Warmest Colour by Abdellatif Kechiche; Italy’s The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino; Iran’s The Past by Asghar Farhadi; Belgium’s The Broken Circle Breakdown by Felix van Groeningen; Denmark’s The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg, Japan’s The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki; and Norway’s The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer.

The BAFTA and the Oscar are two remaining bodies scheduled to hold their awards nights on February 6 and March 2 respectively.

The BAFTA nominees include Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Great Beauty, The Act of Killing, Wadjda and United Kingdom’s Metro Manila by Sean Ellis. The Oscar nominees are The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, Cambodia’s The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh and Palestine’s Omar by Hany Abu-Assad.

Following are the additional four best foreign language film winners:

Women Film Critics Circle best foreign language film
(Runners-up: Imah Allah/Augustine/Hannah Arendt)
Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour
Country: Saudi Arabia/Germany

Wadjda is a 2012 Saudi Arabian–German film, written and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour. It is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and is the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director.

Wadjda, an 11-year-old Saudi girl living in Riyadh, dreams of owning a green bicycle that she sees in a store on her way to school. She wants to race against her friend Abdullah, a boy from the neighborhood, but riding bikes is not a sports for girls.

Wadjda’s mother refuses to buy one for her daughter. Wadjda tries to find the money herself by through forbidden activities in the school yard. She decides to participate in a Qur’an recital competition with a cash prize that would pay for the bike. She wins the competition but announces her intention to buy a bicycle with the prize money. She is told that the money will instead be donated to Palestine on her behalf. Wadjda returns home to find that her father has taken a second wife, and that her mother has bought the green bicycle from the toy store. Wadjda wins her race against Abdullah.

Georgia Film Critics Association best foreign language film
(Nominees: Expedition to the End of the World/The Great Beauty/Lore/The Past)
Directed by Pablo Larraín

No is a 2012 Chilean drama film directed by Pablo Larraín. The film is based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito, written by Antonio Skármeta. The film focuses on an advertising man working in Chile in the late 1980s when advertising was widely used in political campaigns. The campaign in question was the historic 1988 plebiscite of the Chilean citizenry over whether general Augusto Pinochet should have another 8-year term as President. René Saavedra, a successful advertisement creator, is approached by the “No” side committee to consult on their proposed advertising. Enticed with this marketing challenge and his own loathing of Pinochet’s tyranny, he proposes with the advertising subcommittee to take a lightheartedly upbeat promotional approach stressing abstract concepts like “happiness” to challenge concerns that voting in a referendum under a notoriously brutal military junta would be politically meaningless and dangerous. Eventually, Saavedra’s boss, Lucho, finds out about his employee’s activities, but when Saavedra refuses an offer to become a partner if he withdraws, Lucho goes to head the “Yes” campaign as a matter of survival.

Although the government tries to interfere with the “No” side with further intimidation and blatant censorship, Saavedra and his team use those tactics to their favor in their marketing and public sympathy shifts to them. On the day of the referendum, it momentarily appears that the “Yes” vote has the lead, but the final result turns out to be firmly on the “No” side. However, the final proof of their victory only comes when the troops surrounding the No headquarters strangely withdraw as the news of the Chilean senior military command forcing Pinochet to concede comes through. After the success, Saavedra, undecided as to what to think about it, and his boss resume their normal advertising business with a new Chile being born.

Drug War
San Diego Film Critics Society best foreign language film
(Nominees: Blue is the Warmest Color/No/The Broken Circle Breakdown/The Hunt)
Directed by Johnnie To
Country: China/Hong Kong

Drug War is the story of a Hongkong police captain who partners with a drug lord (Louis Koo) after he is arrested. To avoid the death penalty, Choi agrees to reveal information about his partners who operate a methamphetamine ring. Zhang grows suspicious of Choi’s honesty as several police officers began a raid on the drug ring. The film was billed as To’s first action film to be entirely shot and set in Mainland China.

The Grandmaster
Denver Film Critics Society best foreign language film
(Nominees: The Great Beauty/The Hunt/Blue is the Warmest Color/The Broken Circle Breakdown)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Country: Hong Kong/China

The Grandmaster is a 2013 Hong Kong-Chinese martial arts drama film based on the life story of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man.

The film chronicles the life of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man from the 1930s in Foshan, his flight to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the events leading to his death.

The movie begins with Ip Man fighting under the rain between a dozen combatants. Ip Man wins, and experiences flashbacks of his life, from his early training at the age of seven to his induction into martial arts by his master Chan Wah-shun, and his marriage to his wife Cheung Wing-sing. Ip Man’s peaceful existence is threatened by the arrival of Gong Yutian, a martial arts master from northern China, who announces that he has already retired and has appointed Ma San as his heir in the North. He then concedes that the South should have its own heir. The Southern masters decide on Ip Man to represent them, and Ip proceeds to be tested by three Southern masters before he challenges Gong Yutian. However, the “fight” between Ip and Gong turns out to be actually an exchange of philosophical ideas. Gong declares Ip the winner and returns to northern China. However, his daughter Gong Er sets out to regain her family’s honour by challenging Ip Man, and they agree that if anything breaks, Ip loses. “Kung Fu is about precision”, so whoever breaks a piece of furniture during the fight will be the loser. An intense fight breaks out between Ip Man and Gong Er, which concludes with victory for Gong because Ip broke a step at the very end. Ip and Gong then part on friendly terms, with Ip saying he wants a rematch. Everything is disrupted by the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938. During the war, Ip Man and his family descend into poverty and he loses his two daughters due to starvation. In the meantime, in northern China, Gong Yutian is killed by Ma San. When Gong Er returns, she is told by her elders that her father’s final wish was for her to be happy and not to seek vengeance. Gong Er refuses to accept that, and she vows to never teach, marry or have children her entire life, in order to choose the path of vengeance.

Ip Man moves to Hong Kong in the hope of starting a career as a martial arts teacher, but there are also numerous other martial arts masters. He defeats them soundly and earns a reputation. He meets Gong Er again on Chinese New Year’s Eve 1950 and asks her for a contest one more time while implying that she should start rebuilding her martial art school. But Gong Er refuses, stating that many martial arts disappeared in the course of history; and that hers would not be the only one.

A flashback reveals that Gong Er defeated Ma San at a train station on Chinese New Year’s Eve 1940.

The film then fast-forwards to 1952, when Ip Man and Gong Er meet each other for the last time. Gong confesses to Ip that she has had romantic feelings for him right from the beginning. She dies shortly after. Ip explains in a voice over that in the fight with Ma San, Gong was injured so badly she turned to opium for the pain and this was her downfall. The final scenes offer a visual montage as Ip Man’s school flourishes, including a statement that Ip made Wing Chun popular worldwide and his most famous student was Bruce Lee. Off screen, it is stated that Ip Man died in 1972.

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