Friday, October 9, 2015

Here's a Look at This Year's Best Foreign Film Short List

Scene from Son of Saul
It's an exciting time of the year again. Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) released its shortlist for all 82 of this year's Best Foreign Film contenders from around the world. While I have been meaning to do more coverage of international cinema and have ignored writing up pieces about the various country's submissions, I do think that there's something exciting about seeing what films each country thinks is going to stand a chance. Even if it's likely that the average viewer hasn't heard of most of these, it paints a nice picture of what's to come. The following is a rundown of every entry as well as personal thoughts on the various titles.

The following list is organized by: Country, Film, and Director

Afghanistan - Utopia (Hassan Nazer)
Albania - Bota - (Iris Elezi, Thomas Logoreci)
Algeria - Twilight of Shadows (Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina)
Argentina -The Clan (Pablo Trapero)
Australia - Arrows of the Thunder Dragon (Greg Sneddon)
Austria - Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala)
Bangladesh - Jalal’s Story (Abu Shahed Emon)
Belgium - The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael)
Bosnia and Herzegovina - Our Everyday Story (Ines Tanovi)
Brazil - The Second Mother (Anna Muylaert)
Bulgaria - The Judgment (Stephan Komandarev)
Cambodia - The Last Reel (Sotho Kulikar)
Canada - Félix and Meira (Maxime Giroux)
Chile - The Club (Pablo Larraín)
China - Go Away Mr. Tumor (Han Yan)
Colombia - Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra)
Costa Rica - Imprisoned (Esteban Ramírez)
Croatia - The High Sun (Dalibor Matani)
Czech Republic - Home Care (Slavek Horak)
Denmark - A War (Tobias Lindholm)
Dominican Republic - Sand Dollars (Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas)
Estonia - 1944 (Elmo Nüganen)
Ethiopia - Lamb (Yared Zeleke)
Finland - The Fencer (Klaus Härö)
France - Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
Georgia - Moira (Levan Tutberidze)
Germany - Labyrinth of Lies (Giulio Ricciarelli)
Greece - Xenia (Panos H. Koutras)
Guatemala - Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante)
Hong Kong - To the Fore (Dante Lam)
Hungary - Son of Saul (László Nemes)
Iceland - Rams (Grímur Hákonarson)
India - Court (Chaitanya Tamhane)
Iran - Muhammad: The Messenger of God (Majid Majidi)
Iraq - Memories on Stone (Shawkat Amin Korki)
Ireland - Viva (Paddy Breathnach)
Israel -Baba Joon (Yuval Delshad)
Italy - Don’t Be Bad (Claudio Caligari)
Ivory Coast - Run (Philippe Lacôte)
Japan - 100 Yen Love (Masaharu Take)
Jordan - Theeb (Naji Abu Nowar)
Kazakhstan - Stranger (Yermek Tursunov)
Kosovo - Babai (Visar Morina)
Kyrgyzstan - Heavenly Nomadic (Mirlan Abdykalykov)
Latvia - Modris (Juris Kursietis)
Lebanon - Void (Naji Bechara, Jad Beyrouthy, Zeina Makki, Tarek Korkomaz, Christelle Ighniades - Maria (Abdel Karim, Salim Haber)
Lithuania - The Summer of Sangaile (Alanté Kavaïté)
Luxembourg - Baby (A)lone (Donato Rotunno)
Macedonia - Honey Night (Ivo Trajkov)
Malaysia - Men Who Save the World (Liew Seng Tat)
Mexico - 600 Miles (Gabriel Ripstein)
Montenegro - You Carry Me (Ivona Juka)
Morocco - Aida (Driss Mrini)
Nepal - Talakjung vs Tulke (Basnet Nischal)
Netherlands - The Paradise Suite (Joost van Ginkel)
Norway - The Wave (Roar Uthaug)
Pakistan - Moor (Jami)
Palestine - The Wanted 18 (Amer Shomali, Paul Cowan)
Paraguay - Cloudy Times (Arami Ullón)
Peru - NN (Héctor Gálvez)
Philippines - Heneral Luna (Jerrold Tarog)
Poland - 11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)
Portugal - Arabian Nights – Volume 2, The Desolate One (Miguel Gomes)
Romania - Aferim! (Radu Jude)
Russia - Sunstroke (Nikita Mikhalkov)
Serbia - Enclave (Goran Radovanovi?)
Singapore - 7 Letters (Royston Tan, Kelvin Tong, Eric Khoo, Jack Neo, Tan Pin Pin, Boo Junfeng, K. Rajagopal)
Slovakia - Goat (Ivan Ostrochovský)
Slovenia - The Tree (Sonja Prosenc)
South Africa - The Two of Us (Ernest Nkosi)
South Korea - The Throne (Lee Joon-ik)
Spain - Flowers (Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga)
Sweden - A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)
Switzerland - Iraqi Odyssey (Samir)
Taiwan - The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Thailand - How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (Josh Kim)
Turkey - Sivas (Kaan Müjdeci)
United Kingdom - Under Milk Wood (Kevin Allen)
Uruguay - A Moonless Night (Germán Tejeira)
Venezuela - Gone with the River (Mario Crespo)
Vietnam - Jackpot (Dustin Nguyen) 

Unfortunately, as per usual, I have not seen any of these. However, there are a few that I have heard really good things about. Among them is The Assassin, which has been chalking up great reviews since its premiere at Cannes Film Festival. I don't know a lot about it, but the general acclaim at least gives me hope that it's going to be a strong contender. If nothing else, I already predict it will be showing up on a lot of "Best of 2015" lists.

Another major one to look out for is Son of Saul, which is a Holocaust drama that has gotten rave reviews as well. In the cast of Letterboxd user metalmeatwad, it's a movie that makes Schindler's List look like It's a Wonderful Life. It's a powerful drama that he also considers to be one of the greatest debuts in film history. Much like the other films on this list, I am unsure if the dark and bleak subject matter will play against it landing a nomination. However, its powerful take on an important historical subject is rather promising and is one to keep an eye out for. 

The third one that I have heard of is also the one I am most excited about. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is a film from Sweden that's supposedly a very strong dark comedy. Among the countries on an annual basis, I think that Sweden is among the more compelling countries. They also had a big success last year with the shortlist selection Force Majeure, which turned a ski resort avalanche story into a metaphor about marriage and masculinity. It's also just a really good film and another example of how Sweden masters dark comedy. While this is directed by someone different, I do think it's pretty promising to see a country deliver not just good world cinema, but great movies period. I will hopefully have a review for this film available when I see it.

So, what movie on this list catches your eye? Which ones do you think will make the final list? 

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