Belgium

Foreign Objects - Large

Cyril is looking for his dad. The boy was dropped off at a state-run foster home by his father and told it was just a temporary thing while the man got his act together financially. But the days became weeks, and now when Cyril tries calling he gets a recording that the line has been disconnected. He runs away from the home eventually making his way back to where he used to live. But his father is long gone. The Kid With a Bike offers up a sad story, but it avoids melodrama through honest writing, beautiful acting and Cyril’s sheer force of will. The boy refuses to accept his abandonment at face value and pursues the truth regardless of the walls erected in his way. It’s alternately heartbreaking and hopeful, and it’s never less than engaging. Most surprising for a simple drama, the movie is easily one of the year’s most suspenseful as Cyril’s fate and future hang precariously in the balance.

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A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium. But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum. The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

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When Luke Mullen said that Bullhead was “damn near a masterpiece,” he wasn’t exaggerating. It’s a stirring, heart-vicing film that explores the rotten depths of manhood in the no-frills world of the Belgium mafia that controls illegal bovine growth hormones. His full review is absolutely worth the read, but the short of it is that the movie is pure, grisly and fantastic. In fact, it’s already been chosen as Belgium’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, which is even more stunning because it’s the first film from Michael Roskam, and the country’s favorite go-to Awards contenders (the Dardenne Brothers) have a new film out this year (that won’t be going to the big dance). A newcomer has overthrown titans, and according to Badass Digest, Drafthouse Films has picked up the film for distribution. On top of that, they picked up fellow Fantastic Fest film Clown – the sex comedy from Denmark that sees men taking a young child on their “Tour de Pussy.” Adam Charles said that it displayed the awfulness of (some) male specimens with “one of the most pointed, extreme, and filthy senses of humor imaginable.” From Oscar nominees to raunchy foreign sex comedies, Drafthouse has picked up some great movies here, and hopefully they’ll be in theaters near you fairly soon. And no one will be texting or talking when you go.

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By all accounts, a movie dealing with assisted suicide has no business being as funny as Kill Me Please. Somehow, director Olias Barco has crafted a side-splitting exploration of people wanting to end their own life. Black and white, Belgian, and yet it defies all expectations to be instantly accessible and shockingly hilarious. At a large facility in the forest, Doctor Krueger (Aurélien Recoing) helps people at the end of their rope. His main goal is to stop them from drinking the poison he applies with dignity, but he isn’t always successful. As a new group of paying customers moves into the building, and the nearby townsfolk plan to carry torches against the place, the good doctor struggles to keep the people who want to die from being killed.

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Remember the MPAA’s much ballyhooed new rating for adult themed/non-porn films back in 1990? NC-17 stood for ‘No children under 17″ and was meant for films too aggressively naughty or thematically mature for kids and teens to even glimpse. One of the earliest films to receive the rating was Belgium’s caustic and satiric faux-documentary, Man Bites Dog (1992). It features a camera crew following a serial killer day to day as he does what he does best… kill, rape, and disembowel innocent people. It’s a brilliant film that manages to subvert both documentaries and serial killer films in one bloody swathe. Vampires is not rated NC-17, but then again pretty much nothing is these days. (A Serbian Film most likely won’t play in a theater with that rating, and Blue Valentine successfully appealed down to an R.) But it bears a few other similarities with with the film starting with its country of origin, Belgium. It’s also done in the style of a documentary, but the serial killer is traded in for a family of vampires who introduce the filmmakers to their modern-day bloodsucking ways. It doesn’t have the same bite as that earlier film, but it’s violent, darkly comic, and damn good.

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ff-dirtymind

The lowest on the totem pole, Diego, is laughed at on the job working with his confident, stunt man older brother Cisse. He’s shy, struggles with a need for love he can’t fulfill, and is generally walked upon by everyone until an accident sees him waking up in the hospital as Tony T – a brand new personality that comes complete with cockiness and catch-phrases.

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