Oscar 2015 Nominees – Best Foreign Films
Like every year, it was a night of some surprises and some deft blows. No two films can be compared on the same pedestal – for the process of creation varies from one piece of art to another and so does its outcome. Some may meet with popular taste while others may not have been designed to go so easy on the audience. Any which way, the Oscars are not for comparing but for felicitating and celebrating the art form called cinema. In the Best Foreign Film category, Ida might have won at the Oscars 2015, but the other nominees were less in no terms. Here is what we thought of them.
Director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Russian entry Leviathan is inspired from the real life events of June 4, 2004, when following a zoning dispute with the municipal authorities, an automobile mechanic in America, Marwin Heemeyer, took an armoured bulldozer and went on a demolishing spree destroying the Town Hall, the old mayor’s house and some other official buildings in Colorado. Adapting it to a Russian setting, Andrey Zvyagintsev tells a story about power, greed, love and tragedy set in contemporary Russia. The film was a very strong contender at the Oscars and many think it should have won. The creation didn’t go unsung – it deservedly received the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes 2014 and the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ award at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.
A film from Estonia directed by Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines tells the story of two Estonian farmers caught in the middle of a war in Abkhazia (1992-93). At the onset of the war, other farmers leave the place for their homeland while two farmers stay back to harvest the tangerine crop. One day they find two wounded soldiers from opposite sides, one an Abkhazian mercenary and the other a Georgian. With all other soldiers dead, the two farmers take in the two wounded soldiers to nurse them. The movie is a take on the inner humane spirit that can shine through even the harshest realities of wartime. Apart from its Oscar nomination, the film was also nominated at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category.
Recipient of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival’s ‘Prize of the Ecumenical Jury’ and the ‘François Chalais Prize’, Timbuktu, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako is a French-Mauritanian film telling the story of people living in a jihadist realm near Timbuktu. It’s the director’s commentary on the nature of harsh Islamic laws that are churned out at the whims of local courts every day. For instance, in the film, a woman is subjected to 40 lashes for singing and another 40 lashes for being in the same room with a man. The movie shows the interiors of Timbuktu where playing football, smoking cigarettes and listening to music are banned. Boys are shown playing imaginary football without a football. The movie comments on the hypocritical nature of jihadists when it shows one of them smoking a cigarette. Reaction shots of bystanders at outrageous public punishments make an indelible impact on the viewer. It was one of the front runnerups at the Oscars.
An ensemble cast, six short stories complete in themselves, with common themes of revenge and violence. Director Damián Szifron’s Argentinian film Wild Tales is the most watched film of 2014 in Argentina. Playing at 275 screens in Argentina, the film garnered a viewership of more than two million in its first 24 days post release. It was the biggest crowd pleaser at all the award functions it attended. At the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Wild Tales won the ‘Audience Award for Best European Film’. Getting into the story will only add spoilers to this write-up. That’s why, I won’t.
And finally the winner at the Oscars, recipient of the European Film Academy’s ‘Best Film’ and BAFTA’s ‘Best Film Not in The English Language’ awards, Ida - Poland’s entry – was always the frontrunner for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Director Paweł Pawlikowski constructs in Ida a character whose life has been deeply shaped by the war against the German invasion in the 1950s.
Unaware of her real identity, Ida sets on a journey to discover what happened to her parents and what has become of her old town. Director Paweł Pawlikowski considers Ida a personal film as through this film he tries to recapture his early memories of Poland.
Except for Tangerines and Timbuktu, all the other movies on this list are now available on Amazon and other popular VOD websites. Don’t miss them.
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