EXCLUSIVE: Although Amour, which is also one of the rare Foreign Language nominees also to be simultaneously nominated for Best Picture, is a heavy betting favorite to be named this year’s Best Foreign Language Film, the field is a rich one with the final five coming from a record 71 entries from around the world. Norway’s Kon-Tiki, Chile’s first-ever nominee No, Denmark’s A Royal Affair and Canada’s War Witch also provide for a varied and exciting blend of some of the best international cinema 2012 had to offer. Standing out as perhaps the most unique entry is War Witch because there is hardly anything on the surface that is obviously Canadian about it. From Quebec-based director Kim Nguyen, it tells the story of a young 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by African rebels, forced to kill her parents at gunpoint and then fight as a child soldier against the government. With an extraordinary central performance by Rachel Mwanza that won her the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival, the film will open in NY on March 1st through Tribeca Films and expand after that. First, it is going to the Oscars. Here’s an exclusive featurette.
NEWS, NOTES AND ANALYSIS FROM AWARDS SEASON:
Today’s narrowing to nine finalists out of 63 entries puts the Academy’s Foreign Language process back in the spotlight. Although there were surprising omissions — notably Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki’s brilliant and clever Le Havre, one of several Cannes competition entries snubbed by the Acad’s foreign-language committee (perhaps its position as the first of the 63 films shown back in October kept it out of mind in the end) — there likely won’t be any raging controversy over these mostly admirable choices. Controversy was the reason the Academy switched to its new system a few years ago where the larger, mostly older and more mainstream volunteer committee would get their six top vote-getters in and the Acad’s Foreign Language executive committee — headed by Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson — would get to choose three more generally edgier movies with strong international reputations whose omissions might have caused an outcry. That was the case in the past when movies like City Of God were bypassed in favor of more conventional fare.
This year’s list generally jibes with what I had heard coming out of the committee over the past three months and in conversations with some exec committee members. The entries from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iran, Israel and Poland were all much-buzzed-about contenders. Belgium’s Bullhead, Morocco’s Omar Killed Me and Taiwan’s 4 1/2-hour epic Warriors Of The Rainbow: Seediq Bale all played in the final 10 days of the three-month screening process, likely to much smaller groups of voters who ranked them very high. In fact, I heard Warriors’ Saturday morning screening January 7 was sparsely attended but enthusiastically received. It causes a problem for this weekend’s final nine screenings (to a committee of 20 members in LA and another 10 in New York) who will be blurry-eyed at the end of the process of viewing all these contenders. Poland’s In Darkness is just under 2 1/2 hours itself.
The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:
Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director;
Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar,” Philippe Falardeau, director;
Denmark, “Superclásico,” Ole Christian Madsen, director;
Germany, “Pina,” Wim Wenders, director;
Iran, “A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi, director;
Israel, “Footnote,” Joseph Cedar, director;
Morocco, “Omar Killed Me,” Roschdy Zem, director;
Poland, “In Darkness,” Agnieszka Holland, director;
Taiwan, “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale,” Wei Te-sheng, director.