Monday, November 12, 2012

Foreign Language Oscar Possibilities screened at Denver Film Festival

Four films that screened at the 35th Starz Denver Film Festival are also submissions for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. They are: Barbara from Germany, Sister from Switzerland, Headshot from Thailand and Caesar Must Die from Italy.

Sister, which was named the Kryzstof Kieslowski Best Feature Film at the Festival, has a shot at making the actual nomination list. 71 countries have submitted films to the Academy for consideration. Those films will be pared down to the final five nominations. More about Sister.

There is no guarantee that Sister, or any of these other films, might actually make the short list but it has a real chance. It is a very compelling and troubling film about a complicated relationship between a 12-year old boy and his 'sister'. It takes you places you may not want to go and with which you are not very comfortable but it does it in a way that is powerful and involving. You won't soon forget this film and the two principal characters.

Barbara is also a terrific film, though it is probably a longer shot to make the final five. It takes place in East Germany in 1980. Barbara is a woman doctor, recently released from prison, though we don't know why exactly, we are left to suspect that she may have been political prisoner – she was trying to obtain a permit to leave the country and is now under constant surveillance. She is clearly a very well trained and competent physician but ends up in the 'provinces' at a hospital where she meets another doctor who seems to be out of place in this backwater.

This is a tightly crafted drama, whose 'slice of life' almost leisurely pace belies the tension underneath. Nina Hoss, of the incredible eyes, plays Barbara. Ronald Zehrfeld, in an engaging performance plays the other doctor, Andre.

It is interesting that Sister could be considered a French film except for the fact that Academy rules stipulate that the creative talent (writer, director, producer) have to hail from the submitting nation – in that case this is Switzerland. France already has a submissions that is not only very likely to make the final five, but has a good shot at picking up the Oscar: The Intouchables.

The documentary, Caesar Must Die, is also a long shot despite being an excellent film and winning the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival. It's makers, brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani received the Maria and Tommaso Maglione Italian Filmmaker Award.

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