With six days to go before the Oct. 1 deadline, several more films have been officially selected for the Academy Awards foreign-language race since my last update. And then, there's the case of the non-selection.
News of Iran's so-called Oscar boycott was reported by the semiofficial ISNA news agency, which quoted the country's culture minister Muhammad Hosseini as saying the decision was due to "an intolerable insult to the Prophet of Islam" and urging other Islamic countries to follow suit.
Iran won the Oscar in the best foreign language film category last year with Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation," marking Iran's first Oscar victory.
The country's committee in charge of selecting Iran's Oscar candidate this year had already picked helmer Reza Mirkarimi's dramedy "A Cube of Sugar" (seen in the trailer above and reviewed by Ronnie Scheib for Variety) -- a film about a family wedding turning into a funeral when a senior member of the groom's family dies -- which preemed at the Montreal Film Festival last year, for Oscar consideration, but Hosseini told ISNA they will now not present an entry for next year's awards. ...
Luxembourg is also sitting out the Oscar race, though for less controversial reasons, as Ian Mundell writes for Variety:
... While the small country has produced eligible films in the past year, the national selection committee came to a majority decision than none was good enough for such a high-profile international competition.
This is the third successive year that Luxembourg has sat out. Last year there was simply no film to consider. The year before that, its two major productions were both in English and therefore ineligible. ...
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As for the films that are entering the race, I'm very pleased to see "No," one of my favorite films of the year to date, become the official selection for Chile. The Pablo Larrain film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad executive who improbably becomes a key figure in the attempt to end the Pinochet dictatorship in 1988.
In addition come these selections:
-- Albania: "Pharmakon," directed by Joni Shanaj, "about a young man who dreams of devising a drug that will cure unhappiness."
-- Colombia: "El Cartel de los sapos" (The Cartel of Snitches), Carlos Moreno's pic "based on the life story of former drug trafficker Andres Lopez."
-- Denmark: "Royal Affair," Nikolaj Arcel's historical drama set in 18th-century Denmark and centering on an affair between the queen (Alicia Vikander, "Anna Karenina") and the king's physician (Mads Mikkelsen, "Casino Royale).
-- Dominican Republic: "Jaque Mate" (Checkmate), Jose Maria Cabral's feature depicting "events that follow when a TV host receives a call from his family's kidnappers while he's on air."
-- Estonia: "Mushrooming," debut helmer Toomas Hussar's "black comedy of modern political and celebrity manners."
-- Finland: "Purge," directed by Antti Jokinen and based on an international bestselling novel by Sofi Oksanen "about two women from different eras linked by separate tales of deceit, desperation and fear."
-- Hong Kong: "Life," Johnnie To's suspense-thriller focusing "on a bank teller turned financial analyst, a petty thief trying to make it big in the futures market and a middle-class police officer suddenly in need of a cash injection, whose lives intersect when a swag bag of cash pops up."
-- India: "Barfi," a love triangle directed by Anurag Basu "between a man who cannot speak or hear, an autistic woman and a fully abled woman."
-- Kazakhstan: "Myn Bala," Akan Satayev's $10 million-budgeted "true story a group of teenage rebels who rose up against a brutal Mongol army occupying their lands in the early 18th century."
-- Russia: "White Tiger," Karen Shakhnazarov's supernatural-infused tale of "a tank officer's obsession with destroying a mysterious, but massive, German tank that leaves a trail of destruction in its wake."
-- Slovakia: "Made in Ash," the feature debut of documentary filmmaker Iveta Grofova that is "a raw look at young Roma girl Dorotka (Dorota Billa) and her rapid descent into exploitation after she goes to the Czech Republic to work in a textile factory."
-- Switzerland: "L'enfant d'en haut" (Sister)," the Ursula Meier-directed story of "a poor 12-year-old boy and his teen sister who steal from wealthy tourists at a swanky ski resort in order to survive."
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Those films join the following previously announced submissions:
-- Australia: "Lore," a World War II-survival story.
-- Azerbaijan: "Buta," "the tale of an orphan befriended by an elderly man who loved, but lost, the boy's grandmother long ago."
-- Bangladesh: "Ghetuputra Kamola," about boy actors perfecting an old performance art form.
-- Belgium: "Our Children," an unhappy and controversial family drama.
-- Bosnia: "Children of Sarajevo," about postwar life in the city.
-- Bulgaria: "Sneakers," a film "about six youngsters escaping the dreary city for a long summer break on clean, pristine beaches."
-- Cambodia: "Lost Loves," its first entry in 18 years.
-- Canada: "War Witch," revolving around child soliders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
-- Croatia: "Cannibal Vegetarian," a "disturbing story of an ambitious and amoral gynecologist."
-- Czech Republic: "In the Shadow of the Horse," a 1950s political thriller.
-- Germany: "Barbara," a story of "a doctor who finds love in a provincial hospital after being harshly reprimanded for wanting to leave the GDR."
-- Greece: "Unfair World," focused on "a disillusioned policeman who sets out to distribute justice by his own humanitarian standards."
-- Hungary: "Just the Wind," Bence Fliegauf's "disturbing story of modern day murder squads."
-- Japan: "Our Homeland," Yang Yong-hi's debut film "about a Korean man's visit to his family in Japan after a long exile in North Korea."
-- Macedonia: "The Third Half," one of a number of recent films "about soccer and ethnic and national loyalties during wartime occupation by the Germans."
-- Morocco: "Death for Sale," a neo-noir set in the country's underworld.
-- Netherlands: "Kauwboy," about a child whose relationship with an abandoned bird helps him reconnect with his father.
-- Norway: "Kon-Tiki," following "the 1947 expedition of anthropologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl."
-- Palestine: "When I Saw You," the 1967-set story "of an 11-year-old boy who runs away from a Palestinian refugee camp in his search for freedom."
-- Philippines: "Bwakaw," a story (not to be confused with "Beginners") of a gay man who comes out of the closet at the age of 70.
-- Poland: "80 Million," an adventure thriller/political morality tale.
-- Portugal: "Blood of My Blood," a "downbeat tale of adultery, incest and drugs set in a Lisbon slum."
-- Romania: Cannes screenplay winner "Beyond the Hills" from Cristian Mungiu.
-- Serbia: "When Day Breaks," about "a retired music professor who finds out the truth about his past when a wartime metal box containing a musical score is found near the site of a concentration camp."
-- Slovenia: "A Trip," from Nejc Gazvoda "about three friends on a road-trip to the beach before starting adult life."
-- Sweden: "The Hypnotist," helmed by Lasse Hallstrom.
-- Ukraine: "Firecrosser," the "true story of a Soviet wartime hero whose life is transformed when he is sent to one of Stalin's Gulags."
-- Venezuela: "Rock, Paper, Scissors," a story of "how an innocent child's game unveils a betrayal that will alter the lives of two families."