The Santa Barbara International Film Festival this morning announced its full lineup of movies including 16 world premieres and 37 U.S. debuts for the 27th annual event. The fest runs January 26 through February 5. The centerpiece gala movie will be the U.S. premiere of the documentary Samsara directed by Ron Fricke (Baraka, Chronos). Closing night feature is director Nadine Labaki’s comedy Where Do We Go Now? about a group of Lebanese women who go to extraordinary lengths to keep peace between Christians and Muslims in their village. The previously announced opening-night feature is Lawrence Kasdan’s Darling Companion. Virtuosos Awards will be presented to Demián Bichir (A Better Life), Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Andy Serkis (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants). In addition, the festival will pay special tribute to Viola Davis along with previously announced honorees Christopher Plummer and Martin Scorsese.
This season, 63 countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards. The 2011 submissions are vying to be among the 9 long-listed by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences before the 5 finalists are announced with Oscar nominations on January 24. Here are the films that AwardsLine London Contributor Tim Adler believes will make the semifinal round:
Declaration Of War (France)
Sundance Selects, U.S. release date: January 27
Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration Of War has been a huge hit with critics and the public alike. The movie, which opened Cannes Critics’ Week this year, has sold to more than 30 territories and has already generated over 810,000 admissions in France for distributor-sales agent Wild Bunch. Declaration Of War is based on Donzelli’s own life story. She and her former partner Jérémie Elkaïm play themselves in the film, which charts their fight to save the baby they had together after he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The film’s success with audiences is largely attributed to its happy ending: the baby survives. Donzelli tells me, “The audience is confronted with the worst thing you can imagine, and yet they see people overcoming the situation. It’s not about the anguish of death but passion for life.”
The Flowers Of War (China)
Wrekin Hill, U.S. Release: 2012
Flowers marks a return to high drama for China’s favorite director Zhang Yimou and represents his fourth attempt at an Academy Award,
following defeats for Hero (2003), Raise the Red Lantern (1992) and Ju Dou (1991). With a budget of nearly $100 million, The Flowers of War – starring Christian Bale – is Zhang’s most expensive film ever. Zhang’s problem: Judges of the Best Foreign-Language Film category don’t really go for blockbusters. The film is based on events in the former Chinese capital of Nanjing when the Japanese occupied it during the Second World War. Bale plays a mortician who goes to collect the body of an American priest from Nanjing Cathedral, where he discovers local schoolgirls hiding from the carnage outside. Pledging to protect them, he dresses up as a priest and also shelters a group of prostitutes who have arrived at the cathedral. The Flowers of War ran for seven days in a 22-seat Beijing cinema to meet entry standards for the Oscars, which requires films to be shown in domestic theatres for at least a week. (It’s reportedly 40% English-language and 60% Mandarin, which lets it squeak by one of the Academy’s rules.) Despite little promotion and tickets costing 200 yuan ($30), double the normal price, Zhang’s latest sold out within 40 minutes of its box office opening. Chinese producer New Pictures Films handled U.S. rights with exec producers Chaoying Deng and David Linde and Stephen Saltzman of Loeb & Loeb. Wrekin Hill has acquired for U.S. distribution and releases on December 23.
NEW YORK (September 28, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all US rights to Nadine Labaki’s WHERE DO WE GO NOW? from Pathé International. Produced by Anne-Dominque Toussaint of Les Films des Tournelles, WHERE DO WE GO NOW? won the Cadillac People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, Best European Film at the 2011 San Sebastian Film Festival, and is Lebanon’s entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Category for the 2012 Academy Awards.