Oscars Race: Portugal Chooses Catarina Vasconcelos’ debut feature ‘The Metamorphosis of Birds’
Art and Experience:
Portugal has chosen Catarina Vasconcelos’ debut feature “The Metamorphosis of Birds” as its submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.
The decision was taken by the Academia Portuguesa de Cinema, which noted that the docu-fiction pic dealt with a grandparents’ love story and the death of the director’s paternal grandmother, based on family memories of childhood and youth.
The film premiered at last year’s Berlinale where it won the Fipresci Award for best film in the more experimental Encounters Section.
It went on to enjoy considerable festival success, winning best film awards at Pesaro, New Horizons, Vilnius, Taipei and Dukufest and has been sold to major territories including the U.S., the U.K., China, Italy and Spain.
“The Metamorphosis of Birds” was produced by Joana Gusmão and Pedro Fernandes Duarte with financial support from Portugal’s Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual, Portuguese public broadcaster RTP and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
The film revolves around family loss, as Vasconcelos explains: “My father lost his mother early and I lost mine when I was 17. In a way we were both semi-orphaned.”
Variety describes the film as a “bewitching doc-memoir hybrid of metaphors, memories and magical realism” emphasizing the helmer’s poignant exploration of delicate details: “A breathtaking arrival for Vasconcelos, ‘The Metamorphosis of Birds’ makes such abstractions seem simple declarations, like in the half-remembered, half-imagined landscapes of generational grief, it is obvious that mothers are trees, fathers are seas and children flit between them like things with feathers.”
Bolivia is sending Kiro Russo’s “The Great Movement,” which had its world premiere at the 78th Venice Int’l Film Fest in September. Shot entirely on 16mm film in La Paz, Bolivia, it tracks Elder, who has walked for a week to the capital along with his fellow miners, to demand their jobs back. He falls ill and as his condition worsens, he is sent to a witch doctor, who may just have the ability to restore his health.
Russo’s 2016 feature debut “Dark Skull,” which won at Locarno and played at San Sebastian, was the Bolivian entry to the 90th Academy Awards.
Best Friend Forever (BFF) is handling international sales for the film which BFF co-founders Martin Gondre and Charles Bin describe as “a gripping immersion into La Paz and the life of its invisibles, into a world that we never see.”
Scheduled to be theatrically released in Bolivia next year, the drama is produced by Russo and Pablo Paniagua at Socavón and Alexa Rivero at Altamar Films (“The Unknown Saint”), in association with Dan Wechsler at Bord Cadre films (“Petrov’s Flu,” “Memoria”), Andreas Roald at Sovereign Films (“Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn”), Jamal Zeinal-Zade (“Annette”) and Miguel Angel Peñaloza. — Anna Marie de la Fuente
Singapore has selected Chinese-language thriller “Precious is the Night” as its contender in the best international feature film category at the Academy Awards.
The movie was directed by Taiwan-born Wayne Peng, one of the world’s leading commercials directors, as his first full length feature.
Told from the perspective of a novelist who stumbles across the fragment of a story, the 1960s-styled set-up involves a handsome doctor who is having an affair with the starlet that he attends to. Both end up dead, and perhaps only the writer can supply the identity of the murderer.
The cast is headed by Chuando Tan who plays two roles, Nanyeli, Chen Yixin, Chang Tsu-Lei, Xiang Yun and Tay Ping Hui. Production was by mm2 Entertainment.
The film had its premiere in Taipei at the Golden Horse Film Festival in November 2020, where it was nominated for two awards. It enjoyed its commercial release in Singapore in April this year.
“The 1960s Singapore settings brings forth a sense of nostalgia and cultural richness that complements the plot beautifully,” said Joachim Ng, director of the Singapore Film Commission, who announced the selection.
Peng, who was also screenwriter and cinematographer, called his movie: “A story about beautiful people with ugly hearts and intentions.”
“Plaza Catedral,” the second fiction feature film by Panama’s best-known international helmer, Abner Benaim (“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”), has been selected as Panama’s submission for the Academy Award for best international feature film.
It’s the third time that Benaim is representing Panama in the Academy Awards, but the first time for a fiction film. Starring Mexico’s Ilse Salas (“The Good Girls”) and Manolo Cardona (“Narcos”), the film turns on Alicia (played by Ilse Salas) who while mourning the loss of her 13-year-old son in an accident, has her life turned upside down when teenager Chief asks her help after being shot in street conflict.
“Chief,” is played by the late first time actor, Fernando Xavier de Casta, who was tragically killed in Panama earlier this year, in an act of gang violence.
“Plaza Catedral” had its world premiere in Guadalajara in October, where it had a strong audience response. Salas and Xavier de Casta also took best actress and best actor awards.
“Because Fernando, our 15-year-old actor was killed before the premiere of the film, we are dedicating the film to his memory and his broken dreams,” says Benaim. “We aim to use the Oscars campaign to create awareness about juvenile violence and send out a loud and clear message that we are all responsible for what happens in our society and cannot leave behind the children from neighborhoods with socio-economic hardships.”
The film is a produced by Benaim’s Apertura Films, Mexico’s Barracuda Films, headed by industry vet Matthias Ehrenberg, and Colombia’s Blond Indian, run by Carlos García and Maria Alejandra Mosquera. Exec producer is Ruben Sierra Salles. Worldwide rights are being handled by Daniel Diamond at Luminosity and Mike Karz at Gulfstream.
“Plaza Catedral” will have its Panamanian premiere as the opening film at this year’s Panama Intl. Film Festival, which runs Dec. 3-5. — Martin Dale
Paolo Sorrentino’s autobiographical drama “The Hand of God” has been selected by Italy as its contender for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Sorrentino’s story of a goofy kid named Fabietto who starts harboring a passion for filmmaking in the tumultuous Naples of the late 1980s, launched from the Venice Film Festival where it was a two-time winner, taking the runner-up grand jury prize as well as the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor for 21-year-old lead Filippo Scotti, who plays Fabietto.
Pic is produced by Fremantle’s Italian outfit The Apartment for Netflix, which will release the film theatrically in Italy on Nov. 24, followed by limited releases in theaters globally on December 3 and a launch on the platform on Dec. 15.
The story is a deeply personal one to Sorrentino, who won an Oscar for “The Great Beauty” in 2014.
Speaking with Variety in 2015, he revealed, “Aside from all the things I’ve said before about Maradona, he involuntarily saved my life. I lost my parents when I was 16 in an accident with the heating system in a house in the mountains where I always used to go to with them. That weekend, I didn’t go because I wanted to go watch Maradona and S.S.C Napoli play a match in Empoli, and that saved me.”
Norway has selected offbeat romantic comedy “The Worst Person in the World” as its contender for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Directed by Joachim Trier, the film premiered in competition at Cannes and was one of the most talked about titles at the festival. Lead actor Renate Reinsve was a popular winner of the festival’s best actress award.
“The journey the film has made from the main competition in Cannes, with the actress award, festival participation and sales all over the world meaning that this year we believe the committee has a unique opportunity to reach all the way to an Oscar for best international film,” said Kjersti Mo, who headed the selection committee at the Norwegian Film Institute.
Its commercial theatrical career kicked off in France in mid-October and was followed a couple of days later by its debut in Norway. International sales are handled by France’s MK2 Films.
“Unclenching the Fists,” which premiered at Cannes and won the Grand Prix in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, has been selected by Russia as its contender for the best international feature award at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Directed by Kira Kovlaneko, the film went on to enjoy early fall festival appearances in Telluride, Toronto and New York. Streaming service Mubi has rights in multiple territories.
Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov (“Leviathan,” “Beanpole”), “Unclenching the Fists” is a drama about a woman who sees a way to break free of humdrum, paternalistic life in North Ossetia after her father falls ill and her brother returns home.
Denmark has chosen Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary “Flee” as its submission to the 2022 international feature film Oscars race.
It was selected from a shortlist of three titles by the Danish Oscar committee, which is composed of representatives from the Danish Film Institute and other industry associations and guilds. The other two films in contention were “Margrete: Queen of the North” by Charlotte Sieling and “The Shadow in My Eye” by Ole Bornedal.
The intimate “Flee” intertwines animation and real-life footage to tell the story of the director’s close friend Amin, who came to Denmark 25 years ago as a young refugee from Afghanistan.
Committee chair and Danish Film institute Claus Ladegaard called the story “haunting and inventive” in a statement, praising Rasmussen’s “tremendous empathy.”
“The film’s finely balanced use of animation, music and live action gives us a real sense of the horror and cynicism of Amin’s journey to Europe – while not ignoring the beauty, humour and hope of his story. This makes ‘Flee’ an unusually nuanced film with social and existential depth,” he said.
“Flee” was chosen to participate in the digital edition of Cannes in 2020 as an official selection but world premiered instead at Sundance in January, where it won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize. It has also notched a win for best Nordic documentary at Goteborg and three prizes at Annecy, including the Cristal for best feature. It is currently a nominee for the Nordic Council Film Prize, announced on Nov. 2.
Natalia Meta’s thriller “The Intruder” (“El Profugo”) – guest starring Pedro Almodovar muse Cecilia Roth and with Argentina’s Erica Rivas (“Wild Tales”) and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (“BPM”) as well as Uruguay’s Daniel Hendler (“Lost Embrace”) – leading the cast, was released locally on Sept. 30 and is available on HBO Max in the U.S. It world premiered at the 2020 Berlinale before going through the festival circuit.
“The Intruder,” is described as a film that “combines thriller elements with some rom-com elements to create a unique take on the notions of sexuality.” Inspired by C.E. Feiling’s cult novel “El Mal Menor,” the thriller follows Inés (Rivas), a chorus singer who dubs movies, who while vacationing with her boyfriend, has a traumatic experience that alters her perception of reality.
The movie was produced by Benjamín Domenech, Santiago Gallelli and Matías Roveda from Rei Cine, in co-production with Picnic Prods. and in association with Infinity Hill, Piano, Barraca Producciones, Viacom International Studios and La Bestia Equilátera. It was distributed in Argentina by Star Distribution. Film Factory handles international sales.— Anna Marie de la Fuente
Australia-Afghanistan coproduction “When Pomegranates Howl” has been selected by Australia as its national representative in the race for Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Academy Awards.
The film tells the tale of a nine-year-old boy who hustles a living on the streets of Kabul. His fortunes appear to take a tun for the bettr when he is befriended by a foreign photographer.
It was written, directed and produced by Granaz Moussavi who immigrated to Australia from Tehran with her family in the late 1990s. She subsequently attended Adelaide’s Flinders University and the Australian Film Television and Radio School before making “My Tehran for Sale.”
The new film played recently at the Melbourne and Adelaide festivals and will next be seen at the Tokyo and Sydney festivals. It is also nominated as best youth film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
Next month “Pomegranates” will be given a qualifying theatrical release in Sydney and Canberra, ahead of a wider commercial release in the first quarter of 2022 through Bonsai Films.
“Pomegranates” was produced by Parvin Productions in association with Sterga Productions, with financial assistance from the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund and the South Australian Film Corporation, as well as support from the Netherlands Embassy in Kabul. Producers are Moussavi, Baheer Wardak, Christine Williams and Marzieh Vafamehr.
Moussavi will next month take part in a Peter Greste-moderated panel discussion at APSA, about how filmmakers navigate the politics, logistics, and challenges of filming in politically unsafe environments where there are cultural restrictions, warzones, protests, or working with politically or culturally sensitive material.
The Bangladesh Oscar Committee has selected Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s acclaimed “Rehana” as the country’s entry to the 2022 Oscars’ International Feature Film category.
The film follows Rehana, an assistant professor at a medical college, who struggles to keep the harmony between work and family, as she has to play all the complex roles of a teacher, doctor, sister, daughter, and mother. One evening, she witnesses a student storming out of a professor’s office, crying. Deeply impacted by this event, Rehana’s life starts to spiral out of control. She gradually descends into obsession, seeking retribution, just as she receives a complaint from the school about her six-year-old daughter’s unusual behavior.
“Rehana” debuted at Cannes, where it was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award award and has subsequently played at the Melbourne, Busan, London and Pingyao festivals. The cast includes Azmeri Haque Badhon, Afia Jahin Jaima and Kazi Sami Hassan. Badhon has a best actress nomination at the Asia Pacific Screen awards.
The film is produced by Jeremy Chua of Singapore’s Potocol, in association with Bangladesh’s Metro Video, co-produced by Sensemakers (Bangladesh) and associate produced by Girelle Production (France). Rajib Mohajan, Saydul Khandaker Shabuj and Adnan Habib serve as co-producers, Ehsanul Haque Babu as executive producer and Johann Chapelan as associate producer.
Saad’s debut feature “Live from Dhaka” won best director and best actor at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2016, and went on to screen at other festivals including Rotterdam and Locarno.
Berlin-based sales agent Films Boutique is representing worldwide rights and Grasshoper and Gratitude have acquired U.S. rights.
The film has secured domestic distribution in Bangladesh and will release Nov. 2 in cinemas.
The Film Federation of India’s Oscar selection committee has selected debutant P.S. Vinothraj’s Tamil-language “Koozhangal” (Pebbles) as the country’s official entry in the International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Set in rural Tamil Nadu, South India, the film follows a young boy who is dragged between villages by his abusive alcoholic father to bring his mother back home.
The film’s Variety review lauds it for having “all the focus and penetration of a perfectly constructed short story” and for its “larger, unforced statement about toxic patriarchy, limited resources, and the silent, enduring place of women as enablers of life.”
The film had its world premiere at Rotterdam earlier this year, where it won the festival’s top honor, the Tiger Award. It has also won awards at Yerevan and Transilvania and is nominated at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It is produced by Rowdy Pictures, an outfit run by popular South Indian actor Nayanthara and filmmaker Vignesh Shivan.
India has been sending entries to the Oscars since 1957 and has been nominated thrice – for “Mother India” in 1958, “Salaam Bombay!” in 1989 and “Lagaan” in 2002. The country has yet to win.
“The Stranger,” a first feature by writer-director Ameer Fakher Eldin about a doctor going through an existential crisis in the occupied Golan Heights, has been selected as Palestine’s official entry in the International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Italy’s Intramovies has announced that it is taking world rights to the picture shot on location which recently launched from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Venice Days section where it won the Edipo Re Award.
“The Stranger” stars Palestine’s Ashraf Barhoum (“The Kingdom,” “Paradise Now”) playing an unlicensed doctor whose life takes an unlucky turn when he rescues a wounded man upon his return from the war in Syria.
Producers are Palestine’s Fresco Films (Tony and Jiries Copti) and Germany’s Red Balloon Film (Dorothe Beinemeier). The film is co-produced by Metafora Production (Qatar) and executive producers are Gwen G. Wynne and Carol Ann Shine.
“The Stranger” is intended to be the first instalment of a trilogy directed by Ameer Fakher Eldin. His second feature with the provisional title “Nothing of Nothing Remains” is being developed by Red Balloon. Intramovies is discussing the possibility of a continued collaboration with the director’s team.
Costa Rica has selected Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s debut feature “Clara Sola” as its contender in the Oscars’ International Feature Film category.
The film follows Clara, a withdrawn 40-year-old woman who experiences a sexual and mystical awakening as she begins a journey to free herself from the repressive religious and social conventions which have dominated her life.
The film bowed at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and has since had considerable festival play including at London and El Gouna. It won awards at the Nashville and Reykjavik fests.
“Clara Sola” is produced by Sweden’s Hobab and co-produced by Pacifica Grey (Costa Rica), Resolve Media (U.S.), Need Productions (Belgium) and Laïdak Films (France).
Luxbox is handling international sales, with Oscilloscope Laboratories acquiring North American rights.
Costa Rica has been submitting to the Oscars since 2005 and is yet to receive a nomination.
Hong Kong has selected “Zero to Hero,” a sports and family drama film as its contender in the Academy Awards’ best international feature category. The decision was announced Friday by the territory’s Motion Picture Industry Association.
Directed by Jimmy Wan Chi-man, the film is a biopic of the Paralympic athlete So Wa-wai who was born with cerebral palsy but went on to win 12 medals between 1996 and 2012, and break world records.
With production handled by One Cool Films, the film premiered at the Udine festival of Asian films and was released commercially in Hong Kong on August 12. Leading Hong Kong actor Sandra Ng, who plays the pivotal role of So’s mother, is credited as one of the film’s producers.
Still on release in the city, “Zero” is the highest-grossing local film this year with a cumulative box office to Oct. 21, 2021, of HK$27.5 million ($3.53 million).
Diego Fernandez’s “The Broken Glass Theory” (“La Teoria de los Vidrios Rotos”) is a comedy, a rare breed among the current crop of Latin American entries but not uncommon from Uruguay, which has sent a number of comedies through the years since it started submitting films to the Oscars since 1992. Uruguay has yet to make the short list with any of its entries. It even sent a horror film, “The Silent House,” in 2011 and an animated film, “Anina,” in 2013.
The comedy tracks Claudio, aged 35, who has been promoted to the position of coordinator in the car insurance agency he works for in the remote and tiny city of Santa Marta. When several cars are mysteriously torched, Claudio is forced to indemnify the owners of these cars. While trying to investigate the source of these incidents, he realizes that not everything is what it seems.
This is Fernandez’s second narrative fiction film and his first time representing his country. It has won a string of awards, including best foreign film and audience award at Brazil’s Gramado Film Festival.
“The Broken Glass Theory” is produced by Fernandez’s Parking Films along with Okna Prods.(Brazil), Tarea Fina (Argentina) and Cordon Films (Uruguay). Fernandez, Micaela Solé, Aletéia Selonk and Juan Pablo Miller serve as executive producers. — Anna Marie de la Fuente
“Nothing But the Sun” by Arami Ullon is only Paraguay’s fifth submission to the Academy Awards international feature category. Filmed in the languages of Spanish and Ayoreo, the docu marks Ullon’s second time representing her country. Her debut feature “Cloudy Times” (“El Tiempo Nublado”) was Paraguay’s first-ever submission to the Oscars in 2016. “We need continuity and we need to release more national films,” said Ullon who expressed pride at being selected by her peers.
The co-production between Paraguay and Switzerland has received eight international awards to date and has been presented in more than 20 countries. The film gives a moving account of the humanitarian crisis in the Ayorean community of the Paraguayan Chaco region. Through its protagonist, Mateo Sobode Chiqueno, the docu follows him as he crosses the Paraguayan Chaco region, recording the voices of other nomadic Ayoreo natives like him who were forced to abandon their ancestral homes in the forest. Ullon hopes that her documentary will shine a spotlight on their dilemma and by extension, of other indigenous people in the world.
It will bow theatrically from Oct. 28 in local cinemas. World sales are handled by London-based Film Republic.— Anna Marie de la Fuente
Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” has been selected by Iran to represent the country at the upcoming Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category.
The widely expected decision by the Iranian Film Board was announced on Thursday by the Farabi Cinema Foundation, which is the country’s international film body.
Farhadi has previously won two international Oscars for, respectively, “A Separation” in 2011 and “The Salesman” in 2016, the former of which was also nominated for original screenplay.
“A Hero,” which launched positively in July from the Cannes Film Festival where it tied for the Grand Prix, the fest’s runner-up prize, is the story of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), who is in prison for a debt that he was unable to pay. During a two-day leave, an act of kindness provides him with an opportunity to convince his creditor to withdraw the complaint so he can go free, but not everything goes as planned.
It will be released by Amazon in the U.S.
Tatiana Huezo’s “Prayers for the Stolen” (“Noche de Fuego”) has been selected by Mexico’s Oscar committee to represent the country in the international feature film race.
The drama, which follows three girls as they come of age in a village rampant with human trafficking and the drug trade, competed in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section and was awarded a special mention. “Prayers for the Stolen” also took home the best Latin American film award at San Sebastian. The film stars Mayra Batalla, Norma Pablo and Olivia Lagunas and was produced by Nicolás Célis and Jim Stark. “Prayers for the Stolen” has been acquired by Netflix.
Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or Winning “Titane” has been selected by France’s Oscar committee to represent the country in the international feature film race.
“Titane” recently won the people’s choice award at Toronto, where is played in the Midnight Madness section.
This year’s French Oscar committee includes Julie Delpy; Zeller; producers Iris Knobloch and Alain Goldman, whose credits include the Oscar-winning film “La Vie En Rose”; Emilie Georges, the Oscar-winning producer of “Call Me by Your Name” and founder of Memento International; and Grégory Chambet, co-founder of the sales company WTFilms. The committee also has three permanent members: Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux; UniFrance president Serge Toubiana; and Elisabeth Tanner, talent agent and representative of the Cesar Academy.
Valdimar Johannsson’s “Lamb” has been selected by Iceland’s Oscar committee to represent the country in the international feature film race.
The body horror film, was chosen over Audrey Diwan’s “Happening,” winner of Venice’s Golden Lion, and Cedric Jimenez’s “The Stronghold.” “Lamb” is Jóhannsson’s debut feature film, and he co-wrote the screenplay with Icelandic poet Sjón. The film follows a childless couple in rural Iceland who make an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn.
Brazil’s Academy of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts selected Aly Muritiba’s “Private Desert” (“Deserto Particular”) over Alexandre Moratto’s “7 Prisoners” as its submission for the 2022 Academy Awards, surprising some observers given the latter’s critical acclaim in Venice.
Produced by Grafo Audiovisual and Fado Filmes, “Private Desert” also had its world premiere at Venice’s Giornate Degli Autori sidebar where it won the BNL People’s Choice Award. It stars Antonio Saboia who plays a police officer who is booted from the force for his violent tendencies. At a loose end, he sets off in search of a woman he met online.
Brazil has been submitting its films every year since 1960, and has garnered five nominations but no wins. The last pic to be nominated was Cao Hamburger’s “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation” in 2008. The other four films that made the cut were Walter Salles’ “Central Station” in 1999, Bruno Barreto’s “Four Days In September” in 1998, Fabio Barreto’s “O Quatrilho” in 1996 and Anselmo Duarte’s “Keeper Of Promises” in 1963. Italy’s Intramovies handles sales. — Anna Marie de la Fuente
Austria has picked director Sebastian Meise’s drama “Great Freedom” as its official submission for Best International Feature Film Oscars race.
The decision was announced by Austrian Films and the Film and Music Austria industry association of the Austrian Economic Chambers, and confirmed by the film’s distributor MUBI.
The somber drama world premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, where it won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, before going on to win the award for best feature at the Sarajevo Film Festival.
Set in Germany after World War II, it tells the story of Hans, a man repeatedly sent to prison over multiple decades for his homosexuality. With each return, he grows ever-closer with his cellmate Viktor, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, and what begins as revulsion blossoms over time to something far more tender.
The film stars Franz Rogowski (“Victoria,” “Undine,” “Transit,” “A Hidden Life”) and Silver Bear winner Georg Friedrich (“Helle Nächte,” “The Piano Teacher”) and was produced by Sabine Moser, Oliver Neumann, and Benny Drechsel. Meise co-wrote the screenplay with Thomas Reider.
“Great Freedoms” also opened Filmfest Hamburg in late September and had its U.K. premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in early October. It film will continue to screen at festivals globally this fall and winter, including Chicago International Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival, Denver Film Festival, and others, before releasing theatrically in the U.S. and U.K. on March 4, 2022.
Japan has selected Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s “Drive My Car” as its contender for the Academy Awards’ best international film category.
The selection was made by the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (Eiren). The news was first reported by Japan’s Sankei News organization and confirmed by the film’s local distributor Bitters End.
The three-hour film debuted in competition at the Cannes film festival in July, where it won a handful of prizes including the best screenplay award for Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe’s adaptation of Murakami Haruki short story. It tells the tale of a widower director and his stoical female chauffeur as they drive to Hiroshima.
It is now a star attraction on the fall festival circuit, with appearances at Toronto, San Sebastian, New York, Busan, London, Sydney and the New Zealand festivals. International sales are handled by Germany’s The Match Factory. Japanese theatrical distribution began in August.
For nearly two decades, a group of slightly more established Japanese directors– Kore-eda Hirokazu, Kawase Naomi, Kurosawa Kiyoshi and Kitano Takeshi – collectively referred to as the “4K” directors have garnered the lion’s share of major festival invitations and prizes, leaving a younger generation of Japanese filmmakers in relative obscurity internationally. With his two films this year “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” debuted in Berlin) and huge international acclaim for “Drive My Car” Hamaguchi has decisively broken through the “4K” barrier.
Japan has been submitting Oscar contenders since the beginning of the foreign-language category. A dozen Japanese films have gone on to earn nominations, and one, “Departures” won the Oscar in 2008.
Sports biopic “Zatopek” has been selected to represent the Czech Republic. The film is directed by David Ondricek and had its world premiere at this year’s 55th Karlovy Vary International Festival. The selection was announced by the Czech Film and Television Academy, which said that it had weighed up 13 eligible fiction, documentary, and animated films. Nicknamed the Czech Locomotive, the real life Emil Zatopek was one of the most famous long distance runners of all time. He won the 5,000 metre, 10,000 metre races and the marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. The achievement has never been repeated.
Taiwan has selected Chung Mong-hong’s pandemic-set drama “The Falls” as its contender in the international feature film race at the 94th Academy Awards. It is the third time that a film by Chung has represented Taiwan and the second time in succession.
In the 2019—20 race Taiwan selected Chung’s family drama “A Sun,” which was retained on the Oscars shortlist, but ultimately did not receive a nomination.
“The Falls” premiered in the Horizons section at last month’s Venice Film Festival followed by an appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival. In recent days, it received 11 nominations at the 58th Golden Horse Awards, including best feature film and two best actress nominations for its female leads.
Set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, “The Falls,” starring Gingle Wang (“Detention”) and Alyssa Chia (“The World Between Us”), depicts how an unexpected home quarantine can take a strained relationship between a mother and a daughter on a different direction.
The Oscar shortlist will be announced on Dec. 21.
Péter Bergendy’s period horror film “Post Mortem” has been selected to represent Hungary in the international feature film race of the 94th Academy Awards. The film tells the supernatural story of a post-mortem photographer and a young girl confronting ghosts in a haunted village after World War I.
The decision to select the film was made by the Hungarian Oscar Committee, whose members included Csaba Káel, the government commissioner for the development of the Hungarian motion picture industry, and chairman of the National Film Institute, director Csaba Bereczki, director Kristóf Deák, screenwriter Tibor Fonyódi, film distribution expert András Kálmán, producer Ákos Pesti and Emil Novák, a cinematographer.
“Post Mortem” premiered at the Warsaw and Sitges film festivals last year, and went on to screen at more than 20 genre festivals. The film picked up prizes at the Trieste, Fantasporto, Sombra and Parma genre festivals, and was the winner of this year’s Hungarian Motion Picture Awards for cinematography, editing, production design and make-up.
The film’s producers are Tamás Lajos and Ábel Köves of Szupermodern Stúdió. The story was by Bergendy and Gábor Hellebrandt, and the screenplay was written by Piros Zánkay.
International sales are handled by NFI World Sales, which has scored deals for major territories in Europe, including France, Italy, Germany and Poland, South Korea, Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Indonesia and Hong Kong, for India and Latin America. In North America, Black Mandala acquired distribution rights. — Leo Barraclough.
On Tuesday, “The Gravedigger’s Wife,” Khadar Ahmed’s drama which opened at Cannes’ Critics Week, was chosen as the first official submission from Somalia at the Oscars.
The critically acclaimed movie was unanimously selected by Somalia’s first Oscar selection committee, which was created this year with six artists working in different entertainment fields.
The film, directed by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, was inspired by a personal tragedy that happened in the filmmaker’s family 10 years ago in Helsinki, and follows a gravedigger (Omar Abdi) and family man living in the outskirts of Djibouti city who sets off to save his wife who needs expensive surgery. It was produced by Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff and Risto Nikkilä at Helsinki-based Bufo.
“The Gravedigger’s Wife” will screen at the BFI London Film Festival in October ahead of its U.S. premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival. The film will then have its African premiere at the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.
The film will be released in Finland and Norway on Nov. 12, and in France in 2022 with Urban Distribution handling. Orange Studio is handling international sales on “The Gravedigger’s Wife,” which played at Toronto following Cannes and won the Amplify Voices Award. — Patrick Frater
On Tuesday, South Korea selected action drama “Escape From Mogadishu” as its contender.
Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, “Escape From Mogadishu” is based on real events in the 1990s when normally antagonistic diplomats from North and South Korea joined forces to escape civil war in Somalia.
The film has been one of the few bright spots for local movies this year at a depressed and battered Korean box office. It is the year’s highest-grossing film, local or international, with a gross of $28.9 million.
The Korean Film Council, which announced the selection, said that it had picked “Mogadishu” from a shortlist of six. Last year Korean film “Parasite” won the international feature category and a total haul of four Oscars, including best picture. — Patrick Frater
Also on Tuesday, Spain picked Javier Bardem-starring “The Good Boss” as its hopeful in the Oscars category.
Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, “The Good Boss” (aka “El Buen Patron”) is the story of an industrial scales manufacturer who races to try to resolve his workers’ problems ahead of a factory visit by an awards committee.
It recently enjoyed its world premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival and followed that with an appearance at the Zurich festival last week. It will enjoy its commercial debut later this month in Spain (Oct. 15). Its selection was a major surprise in some quarters, as Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers” which debuted last month as the opening title of the Venice Film Festival, had been the overwhelming favorite. — John Hopewell
On Monday, Canada announced that “Drunken Birds” [a.k.a. “Les Oiseaux Ivres], by director and co-writer Ivan Grbovic and co-writer Sara Mishara, will be its flagbearer.
The film premiered last month in the Platform section of the Toronto Film Festival. Telefilm Canada, which announced the selection, said that “Birds” was the Canadian film “with the best chance of being nominated for this prestigious award.”
“It is a film with which we wanted to celebrate the power of film, while taking the audience on a journey through the beauty, absurdity and injustice of our lives today. We would like to share this honor with the rest of the film team, but also with the seasonal workers who leave their families every year to better their lives,” said Grbovic on behalf of himself and Mishara. — Patrick Frater
Critically acclaimed “Powerful Chief” (“Manco Capac”) by Henry Vallejo centers on Elisban who arrives in the city of Puno too late to meet up with his friend, with whom he was supposed to find work. Homeless and penniless, he moves from one low-paying job to another as the city and some rather unfriendly inhabitants only deepen his loneliness.
Filmed in Spanish and Quechua, we see Elisban, played by Jesus Luque, as he encounters a variety of people, from a cook who feeds him out of the kindness of her heart, to a drunk and the wife of an old classmate among many others along the way.
Peru has been submitting its films to the Academy Awards international feature category since 1967 but it has only received one nomination, with Berlinale Golden Bear winner “The Milk of Sorrow” by Claudia Llosa in 2009. Among the many submissions, six were helmed by Francisco J. Lombardi, renowned for his hit dramedy “Captain Pantoja and the Special Services.” — Anna Marie de la Fuente
“Shambala,” written and directed by Artykpai Suyundukov, was recently selected as Kyrgyzstan’s entry. The film is a portrait of a boy living with his family in a protected mountain forest, whose childhood world of myths and legends begins to clash with the harsh realities of the adult world.
The film is based on Chingiz Aitmatov’s novella “The White Ship,” and was developed by Suyundukov over the course of 40 years. It was produced by National Film Studio Kyrgyzfilm in collaboration with Aitysh Film.
It had its premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival. It won the best director award at the Kolkata Film Festival and best film of the CIS and Baltics prize at the Nika Awards in Russia. — Leo Barraclough.
“Memoria” by Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul was filmed entirely in Colombia with lead Tilda Swinton speaking mostly in Spanish. Swinton plays Jessica, an expat Englishwoman who lives in Medellin selling flowers. While visiting her sister who is in a Bogota hospital, Jessica starts hearing strange sounds, sometimes akin to a sonic boom.
With “Memoria,” Weerasethakul returned to compete in Cannes for the first time since “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” which won the Palme d’Or in 2010.
The film is produced by Colombia’s Diana Bustamante of Burning Blue along with Weerasethakul’s Kick the Machine, Mexico’s Piano, the U.K.’s Illuminations Films and 185 Films from France.
Since 1980, when Colombia began participating in the Oscars, it has clinched one nomination, in 2016 with Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent.” “Birds of Passage,” which Guerra directed with Cristina Gallego, made the shortlist, but not the final cut, in 2019. — Anna Marie de la Fuente
As previously reported, Seán Breathnach’s “Shelter” was chosen by the Irish Film and Television Academy as Ireland’s competitor in the race for the Oscar for International Feature Film.
“Shelter,” titled “Foscadh” in Irish, follows the story of John Cunliffe, an overprotected recluse who must learn to navigate the world at the age of 28 after his parents die. Friendless and naive, Cunliffe, played by Dónall Ó Héalai (“Arracht”), must also learn to deal with trust and vengeance as he finds his mountain land inheritance is impeding a profitable wind-farm development.
Breathnach wrote and directed the feature, which is based on Donal Ryan’s novel “The Thing About December.” Fionnuala Flaherty (“An Klondike”) and Cillian O’Gairbhí (“Blood”) also star.
“Shelter” was produced by Paddy Hayes (“Cumar: A Galway Rhapsody”) via his company Magamedia. The Yellow Affair is handling international sales.
The film won the Best First Film award at the Galway Film Fleadh. — K.J. Yossman
Maria Schrader’s screwball romantic comedy “I’m Your Man” (“Ich Bin Dein Mensch”) was selected as Germany’s Oscar contender.
The film’s premise is that of a scientist who, in order to obtain research funds, agrees to live for three weeks with a humanoid robot specifically engineered for her happiness.
The film had its world premiere earlier this year at the Berlinale, where star Maren Eggert won the Silver Bear for her performance.
Its German theatrical release in July, handled by Majestic Filmverleih, saw it achieve more than 100,000 ticket sales. The film had its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. It has been licensed to more than 60 countries. Its U.S. release through Bleecker Street kicks off on Friday.
At the German Film Prizes, “I’m Your Man” was nominated in five categories: film, directing, screenplay (Schrader and Jan Schomburg), actress (Eggert) and actor (Dan Stevens). — Patrick Frater
“Submersible,” Alfredo Leon Leon’s second feature after his 2013 POW drama “Open Wound” (“Mono con Gallinas”), was selected by Ecuador’s fledgling Academy of Audiovisual and Cinematographic Arts, which was formed in 2018.
Produced by Sebastian Cordero and Arturo Yepez, the drama centers on the crew of a sinking narco submersible who need to take desperate measures in order to save their valuable cargo. Filmed entirely in Ecuador where a life-size submersible was built on set. Underwater shots were filmed in an Olympic-sized diving pool.
Reflecting the country’s young film industry, Ecuador has only been submitting international feature entries on a sporadic basis since 2000, making “Submersible” its tenth entry. The previous nine titles did not make the long list. — Anna Marie de la Fuente
Submissions for the 2021-22 Oscars
Argentina: “The Intruder” dir. Natalia Meta
Australia: “When Pomegranates Howl” dir. Granaz Moussavi
Austria: “Great Freedoms” dir. Sebastian Meise
Bangladesh: “Rehana” dir. Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Bolivia: ‘The Great Movement’ dir. Kiro Russo
Brazil: “Private Desert” dir. Aly Muritiba
Cambodia: “White Building” dir. Kavich Neang.
Canada: “Drunken Birds” dir. Ivan Grbovic
Colombia: “Memoria” dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Costa Rica: “Clara Sola” dir. Nathalie Álvarez Mesén
Czech Republic: “Zatopek” dir. David Ondricek
Denmark: “Flee” dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Ecuador: “Submersible” dir. Alfredo Leon Leon
Georgia: “Brighton 4th” dir. Levan Koguashvili
Germany: “I’m Your Man” dir. Maria Schrader
Hong Kong: “Zero to Hero” dir. Wan Chi-man
Hungary: “Post Mortem” dir. Péter Bergendy
Iceland: “Lamb” dir. Valdimar Jóhannsson
India: “Pebbles” dir. P.S. Vinothraj
Indonesia: “Yuni” dir. Kamila Andini
Iran: “A Hero” dir. Asghar Farhadi
Ireland: “Shelter” dir. Seán Breathnach
Italy: “The Hand of God” dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Japan: “Drive My Car” dir. Hamguchi Ryusuke
Kosovo: “Hive” dir. Blerta Basholli
Kyrgyzstan: “Shambala,” dir. Artykpai Suyundukov
Morocco: “Casablanca Beats” dir. Nabil Ayouch
Mexico: “Prayers for the Stolen” dir. Tatiana Huezo
Norway: “The Worst Person in the World” dir. Joachim Trier
Palestine: “The Stranger” dir. Ameer Fakher Eldin
Panama: “Plaza Catedral” dir. Abner Benaim
Paraguay: “Nothing But the Sun” dir. Arami Ullon
Peru: “Powerful Chief” dir. Henry Vallejo
Poland: “Leave No Traces” dir. Jan P. Matuszynski
Portugal: “The Metamorphosis of Birds” dir. Catarina Vasconcelos
Russia: “Unclenching the Fists” dir. Kira Kovlaneko
Serbia: “Oasis” dir. Ivan Ikic
Singapore: “Precious is the Night” dir. Wayne Peng
South Korea: “Escape From Mogadishu” dir. Ryoo Seung-wan.
Spain: “The Good Boss” dir. Fernando de Leon Aranoa.
Sweden: “Tigers” dir. Ronnie Sandahl
Switzerland: “Olga” dir. Elie Grappe
Taiwan: “The Falls” dir. Chung Mong-hong
Uruguay: “The Broken Glass Theory” dir. Diego Fernandez