Oscars 2011 Update: Best Foreign Language Film Shortlist

The Academy announced today that nine films were shortlisted for Best Foreign Language film.

Keep in mind that this is a category, much like Best Documentary, that’s so fucked up with their restrictions and voting process. Less so than Best Documentary, but close. Both involve subcommittees voting down for all the films. I’m pretty sure, in both cases, voters are not required to even see all the films, which is how in some cases, films routinely don’t even get shortlisted (I’m pretty sure half the great documentaries of the year people talked about weren’t even on the Documentary longlist). So after all the rules restrictions, theres a set of committees for this category that go out and do a secret ballot and then create the shortlist. Then, a committee of like 35 people gets together and creates the nominees. Then there’s that thing where, in order to vote on the category, you need to see all five of the nominees.

Anyway, all of that aside, here are the nine films shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film this year:

  • Bullhead, Belgium
  • Footnote, Israel
  • In Darkness, Poland
  • Monsieur Lazhar, Canada
  • Omar Killed Me, Morocco
  • Pina, Germany
  • A Separation, Iran
  • Superclásico, Denmark
  • Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, Taiwan

I know you’re all terribly excited about this category.

I’ll tell you flat out from the start — I’ve seen A Separation. It’s incredible. That’s my vote. I know I should technically see all the nominated films, but think of it this way — I saw one, in a category where I usually see zero.

Just to give  quick synopsis, since that’s what I’m doing for all of these, just to get an idea which ones I’m gonna vote for come nominations day: it’s about an Iranian couple who separate and get divorced. Which — if you know Iran — not the easiest thing to do. It’s basically Iran’s Blue Valentine. It’s a harsh look at a relationship, and it’s so realistic. You don’t even need subtitles. That’s how universal the story is. Also it’s Ebert’s #1 movie of the year, so that says something. It’s really great. I hope it wins.

As for the rest of them:

Bullhead — “The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky’s past, set in motion a chain of events with farreaching consequences. BULLHEAD is an exciting tragedy about fate, lost innocence and friendship, about crime and punishment, but also about conflicting desires and the irreversibility of a man’s destiny.”

These are all straight from IMDB synopses. This doesn’t seem like a film that’ll be nominated, but who knows with the Academy?

Footnote — “Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak”

Oh, this totally sounds like it’s gonna get on.

In Darkness — “A dramatization of one man’s rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov.”

Well clearly this’ll get on. They love their Holocaust shit. And it’s Poland? I’m penciling this shit on right now.

Monsieur Lazhar — “An Algerian immigrant is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically.”

Oooh…interesting. This sounds like it could get on, too.

Omar Killed Me — There is no IMDB synopsis for this, so I’m using the Hollywood Reporter review for it.

Apparently it’s about “the highly publicized 1990s affair, which saw a man who many believed to be innocent suffer under a Gallic penal system unwilling to look beyond circumstantial evidence and racial prejudices.”

At first glance, I’d say this probably wouldn’t get on, but again, who knows with the Academy? No one really knows what they’re gonna do.

Pina — “A tribute to choreographer Pina Bausch.”

It’s also a Wim Wenders film. That makes it dangerous. But it also feels like a trap film. The one everyone’ll go, “Oh, man, Wim Wenders, he’s definitely gonna get on!”, and then he doesn’t. It’s a documentary. I’m curious to see if they vote on a documentary just because it’s Wim Wenders.

Superclásico — Again, no IMDB synopsis, so I’m using Variety’s review this time:

“An unsuccessful Danish businessman pursues his estranged wife to Argentina in “Superclasico,” a willfully hackneyed Danish laffer from helmer Ole Christian Madsen (“Flame and Citron”). Part silly romantic comedy, part love letter to Buenos Aires, the pic amuses on a meta-level by celebrating and satirizing its own sense of cliche.”

Apparently it’s pretty meta. The story is deliberately cliched and there’s a narrator who mocks the characters and the audience. That sounds pretty awesome. Let’s vote for this. Let’s hope this gets on. I’m going by nothing but a synopsis, so this sounds more interesting than some of these other ones.

Warriors of the Raindow: Seediq Bale — Holy shit, look at this IMDB synopsis:

“During the Japanese rule of Taiwan, the Seediq were forced to lose their own culture and give up their faith. Men were subject to harsh labor and kept from traditional hunting; whereas women had to serve the Japanese policemen and their families by doing the household work and giving up their traditional weaving work. Above all, they were forbidden to tattoo their faces. And these tattoos were seen as the Seediq’s traditional belief to transform themselves into Seediq Bale (“true humans”). Mona Rudao, the protagonist, witnessed the repression by the Japanese over a period of 30 years. Sometime between autumn and winter 1930, when the slave labor is at its harshest, a young Seediq couple are married and a joyful party is thrown. At the same time, a newly appointed Japanese policeman goes on his inspection tour to this tribe. Mona Rudao’s first son, Tado Mona, offers wine to the policeman with gusto, but is in return beaten up because his hands were considered not clean enough. With anger, Tado Mona and his brother Baso Mona attack the policeman. And from that day onward, their tribe is living in the shadow of being the object of revenge by the Japanese. In a few days, a group of youth surround Mona Rudao. They strongly request him to lead the retaliation against the Japanese. Mona Rudao struggles for a long time between extending his fellow’s lives and fighting back for dignity, until he sees these youngster’s faces – clear without Seediq’s tattoos – that he made up his mind. He tells the youngsters, “Japanese troops out-number the stones in Dakusui River, more intensive than the leaves in the forest, but my determination fighting them is ever stronger than Mt. Kire.” “Children! On the tip of the Rainbow Bridge led to home of our ancestor’s spirits, there is another beautiful hunting range. Our ancestors are all there! Remember, only brave spirits can enter this place, and we can never lose it. My fellows, let us hunt the heads of our enemies, and we wash our spirits with blood so that we walk the Rainbow Bridge to be always with our ancestors.” The film Seediq Bale depicts the Wushe Incident, which occurred in central Taiwan during the Japanese rule. When the Seediq Bale, believing in the Rainbow, and the Japanese, believing in the Sun, met one another, they fought. The leader of Seediq Bale, Mona Rudao, led 300 warriors fighting against 3000 Japanese troopers. The only thing they forgot was whether it was the Rainbow or the Sun they believed in; they actually believed in the same sky.”

I don’t think this gets on. It seems too easy. Plus the title is long — I say no. I’m just assuming the people voting are just as randomly as discriminatory as I am. So no.

If I had to pick my five nominees from this list, based solely on having seen one and reading 8 other synopses, I’d vote for:

  • Footnote
  • In Darkness
  • Monsieur Lazhar
  • A Separation
  • Superclásico

So my category would be: Israel, Poland, Canada, Iran and Denmark. That’s cool.

I’d say the first four seem like the best shots to get on. Superclásico might not be an easy sell to them (unless they have to see it and are delighted by it. But even then, it’s not guaranteed), so that only leaves Bullhead, Omar Killed Me, Pina and Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale as the other ones. Bullhead sounds like a film that would get on, based on title alone. Honestly, since I don’t know anything about this category, I’m just gonna use the five I picked as the ones I vote for.

But, there they are — your nine shortlisted films.

One response

  1. silent mama

    BULLHEAD leaves an audience speechless!!! How much suffering a man can carry on, cope with, while innocent to the painful facts of the destiny imposed to him? This is a story with universal dimensions, worthed an ancient greek tragedy, where everyone can recognize himself/herself. The sobriety of how this drama is told is stunning, breathteaking and the non-judgemental position of the story-teller is even more breathteaking, courageous and disturbing! After watching thisd movie, one can never look at his fellow-citizen- who might have a weird attitude- with the same look. The movie appeals profound empathy and compassion in the most direct way as possible. The camerawork is also splendid and remembers us of the great flemish and dutch painters. Bravo Belgium! I wish them not only a nomination…I wish also the lead actor, with his uncommon talent and dedication, a great future

    January 23, 2012 at 3:48 am

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