This is the category which opens the Academy’s doors to people from outside the US and UK who either produce, direct, write or act in other languages than the english one. It’s considered to honor the submitting country along with the creative ensemble as a whole. The award first appeared with its competitive form in 1956 with Italy and France dominating ever since. This year, the selection features three returning directors, Sergei Bodrov, Andrzej Wajda and Nikita Mikhalkov, who has left already with the statue once, back in 1994. The nominees, all kind of related to wars, are:

oscar-foreign1.jpgMongol (Kazakhstan)
Directed by Sergei Bodrov

Why is it nominated?

Mongol is a large co-production between Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia. Supposedly the first part of a trilogy regarding the life and times of the great mongol conqueror Jenkhis Khan, this 120′ epic, recounts his life from a ten year old boy in search of his future bride to the accepted leader of all mongol tribes. As a historical, war piece set in the exotic and wild parts of Northern Asia it has great potential regarding the global market, along with an acclaimed director and a previously awarded crew of cinematographers and editors. It’s also a good publicity chance for Kazakhstan following the last year’s “Borat effect”.

Why it might win?

Great cinematography, editing and music.

Why it might not win?

The implausible and vague storyline doesn’t match the great technical part. It’s also said to be historically inaccurate in its depiction of Jenkhis Khan’s personality and rise to fame. That’s not really a problem for a film, but its image could be hurt.

oscar-foreign2.jpgThe Counterfeiters (Austria)
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky

Why is it nominated?

It tells the real story of the biggest counterfeit operation in history, the one the nazis put on so that their enemy’s monetary system would collapse. The money making workshop was set in a concentration camp where a few talented and skilled jewish prisoners did the dirty work in exchange for better conditions. This is an interesting recount of an intriguing holocaust story, one more out of many that have been told.

Why it might win?

Although it’s based on one of the heroes’ memoirs, it avoids excesses, obvious emotional set-ups or manipulative lecturing that could make it look like political fiction. Ruzowitzki has horror film experience so he went with a suspenseful result and got some great acting from everybody to go along.

Why it might not win?

The only reason i can think of besides losing to a better movie, is the lack of a clear moral in the end, plus that blurry area it paints between pragmatism and idealism, which is, to me, what sets it apart in the first place.

oscar-foreign3.jpgBeaufort (Israel)
Directed by Joseph Cedar

Why is it nominated?

This is a recount of the last days of fort Beaufort at the Israeli-Lebanese borders after being occupated for 18 years. Army-life consists a universal code between people who have served around the world. This film is a very real depiction of that, plus it’s sensitive to the soldier as an individual.

Why it might win?

It’s very well acted, takes its time with the characters and avoids speculative politics.

Why it might not win?

It’s a bit long at two full hours since the theme, kind of a countdown to the climax of a forwarned retreat, isn’t so intriguing.

oscar-foreign4.jpg12 (Russia)
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov

Why is it nominated?

A chechen boy kills his russian stepdad who is also a military man. The 12 jurors have their minds made up, but one of them isn’t ready to vote guilty and convinces them to reconsider. This is a loose remake of Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, a 150′ minute character study of 12 people with different social backgrounds, all related to the mystery that remains, Russia. It’s the return of an awarded director after a 9 year absence.

Why it might win?

It’s said to be very well written, and directed in a manner that provokes thinking on controversial facts like the chechen warfare.

Why it might not win?

A two and a half hour remake of a jury film isn’t a very attractive prospect, and if Mikhalkov has lost control of the pace, it might cost the award.

oscar-foreign5.jpgKatyn (Poland)
Directed by Andrzej Wajda

Why is it nominated?

Another shocking tale from the 2nd World War period, Katyn deals with the infamous mass execution of over 15000 polish officers and civilians at the region by the same name. Andrzej Wajda’s father was a victim, which makes this effort an extremely interesting one. Since the theme is much controversial (a hot potato that was thrown from the soviets to the nazis and back) it certainly deserved worldwide attention.

Why it might win?

It’s been very well accepted, as one of Wajda’s best films, technically at least.

Why it might not win?

It’s been described as too “polish”, full of uninformative bits that require previous knowledge of the situation, its prelude and its aftermath.

Who will win?

The Counterfeiters

Who should win?

The Counterfeiters

Who got overlooked?

4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (Romania)
Directed by Christian Mungiu

Mongol is not a good film overall and Beaufort is a bit slow paced. If the favorites, Katyn and 12 (which I haven’t seen) have too many weak spots, then Oscar will land in Austria. The Counterfeiters is a well written, acted and directed, low prophile movie about an intriguing, and not too bleak, holocaust story. It relies on the morally diverse characters and their conflict, in an enclosed privileged environment while facing tough decisions, which works fine. The story is told without obvious political jabbering, a right balance is kept and all that, in a relatively short amount of screen time. Let’s see…


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