Thailand Has ‘One for the Road’
Thailand has selected “One for the Road” as its contender for the best international feature film section of the Academy Awards. Directed by Nattawut ‘Baz’ Poonpiriya (“Bad Genius” and Netflix’ “Thai Cave Rescue”) and produced by Wong Kar-wai, the film premiered at the Sundance festival in 2021. It had its commercial release in Thailand in February this year.
It depicts a road trip that involves the reconciliation of two old friends, one a night club figure living overseas, the other dying of cancer. The film stars Thanapob ‘Tor’ Thanapob and Natara ‘Ice’ Nopparatayapon as the male leads. Violette Wautier, Ploi Horwang, Siraphun ‘Noon’ Wattanajinda and Chutimon ‘Aokbab’ Chuengcharoensukying (“Bad Genius”) in supporting roles.
Singapore Picks ‘Ajoomma’
The Singapore Film Commission has picked feature debutant He Shuming’s “Ajoomma” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race.
A comedy drama that follows a middle-aged widow’s obsession with Korean pop culture and her journey to self-discovery, “Ajoomma” is produced by Anthony Chen, Golden Horse and Cannes award-winner for “Ilo Ilo” (Singapore’s Oscar entry in 2014). The film will have its world premiere at the upcoming Busan International Film Festival under New Currents, the main competition section of the festival.
The film has also received four nominations at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, including best new director and best original screenplay, as well as best leading actress for veteran Singaporean actress Hong Huifang, and best supporting actor for Korean actor Jung Dong-hwan.
The first-ever Singapore-South Korea co-production is supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s New Director grant.
The film will be released in Singapore on Oct. 27 through Golden Village Pictures. International sales are being handled by Rediance.
Justin Ang, assistant chief executive of media, innovation, communications and marketing, IMDA, said: “Over the years, IMDA has worked with stakeholders of the media industry to develop a support system for filmmakers and Singapore media companies to nurture a growing local pool of storytellers with the capability to produce quality international content. The selection of our first-ever Singapore-South Korea co-production, ‘Ajoomma,’ as Singapore’s entry for Oscars 2023 is testament that collectively, we have raised the bar on storytelling and production values. We are truly proud of our dedicated and passionate homegrown talent and hope to hear good news in March 2023.”
Chen added: “After ‘Ilo Ilo,’ ‘Pop Aye’ and ‘Wet Season,’ Giraffe Pictures is honoured to fly the flag again as Singapore’s Oscar contender with He Shuming’s charming debut ‘Ajoomma.’ We are just at the start of the film’s journey and look forward to bring laughs and tears to audiences far and beyond our shores. This is definitely the Singapore film of the year to watch.”
Philippines picks ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’
The Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Directors Guild of the Philippines have chosen Erik Matti’s “On the Job: The Missing 8” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year where it won best actor for John Arcilla.
The film is a follow up to Matti’s “On The Job,” which bowed at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2013. Inspired by true events, the film follows a corrupt journalist seeking justice for his colleagues, and a convict who is frequently brought out of prison to perform assassinations.
The “On the Job” franchise was also expanded as a TV series for HBO, which was recently nominated in the TV Movie/Mini-Series category at the International Emmys.
Pakistan Jumps for ‘Joyland’
Pakistan’s Oscar selection committee, headed by double Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, has chosen Saim Sadiq’s “Joyland” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The film had its world premiere at Cannes earlier this year where it won the Queer Palm and the jury prize at the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand.
The tale of sexual revolution sees a patriarchal family yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, while their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls for an ambitious transsexual starlet.
Producers are Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat (“Circus of Life”) and Lauren Mann (“The Card Counter”). It was produced through All Caps and Khoosat Films in association with Diversity Hire, One Two Twenty Entertainment, Blood Moon Creative, Film Manufacturers, Astrakan and Noruz Films, from producers Kathryn M. Moseley, Oliver Ridge, April Shih, and Katharina Otto-Bernstein.
Executive producers are Ramin Bahrani, William Olsson, Jen Goyne Blake, Tiffany Boyle, Elsa Ramo, Oleg Dubson, Kathrin Lohmann, Hari Charana Prasad, Sukanya Puvvula and Owais Ahmed.
Portugal Selects ‘Alma Viva’
Portugal has selected “Alma Viva,” the feature debut of Portuguese-French filmmaker Cristèle Alves Meira which world premiered at Critics’ Week in Cannes.
“Alma Viva” follows Salomé, a little girl who returns to her family village nestled in the Portuguese mountains for the holidays. As the holidays begin in a carefree atmosphere, her beloved grandmother suddenly dies. While the adults are tearing each other apart over the funeral, Salomé is haunted by the spirit of the one who was considered a witch.
“Alma Viva” is a personal project for Alves Meira, who was born in France to Portuguese emigrant parents and cast her own daughter is the role of Salomé.
The film was produced by Gaëlle Mareschi and Pedro Borges, and co-produced by Sébastien Delloye and Rachel Morte. Producers are Guillaume Marten, David Thion and Philippe Martin, Mathias Jenny and Thomas Berthon-Fishman.
Cristèle Alves Meira was trained as an actor and began her career as a theater director. She then directed a documentary in Cape Verde, “Som & Morabeza,” and one in Angola, “Born in Luanda.” She directed a few shorts, including “Campo de Víboras” and “Invisível Herói.”
Morocco Picks ‘The Blue Caftan’ as its Oscar Candidate
Morocco has chosen Maryam Touzani’s “The Blue Caftan” as its official entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The movie world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Fipresci prize. Films Boutique has sold the film to more than 30 territories.
Strand Releasing will distribute the film in North America. “The Blue Caftan” just had its North American premier at Toronto in the Special Screenings section.
Touzani’s follow-up to Un Certain Regard title “Adam,” “The Blue Caftan” tells the story of Halim and Mina, a married couple running a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with the commands of the demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband is moved by the presence of the young man.
Produced by Nabil Ayouch (“Casablanca Beats,” “Much Loved”), “The Blue Caftan” stars Lubna Azabal (“Incendies”) and Saleh Bakri (“Costa Brava, Lebanon”). The film is produced by Ali n’ Productions in Morocco, Les Films du Nouveau Monde in France, Velvet in Belgium and Snowglobe in Denmark.
Argentina Submits ‘Argentina 1985’ to Oscar race
Argentina has sent “Argentina 1985,” directed by Santiago Mitre, to vie for the Academy Awards’ best international film prize.
The drama based on real events won the Fipresci jury prize at the Venice Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, and snagged the coveted Audience Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival, both in September.
Starring Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in Their Eyes,” “Wild Tales”), “Argentina, 1985” is inspired by the true story of prosecutor Julio Strassera, who – together with young upstart lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo and their even younger legal team – took on Argentina’s military junta and brought several members to trial. The military dictatorship of Jorge Videla was accused of sequestering, torturing and murdering alleged members of the opposition. It ruled with brutal impunity until democracy was finally restored in 1983.
As Infinity Hill producer Axel Kuschevatzky pointed out in a previous interview with Variety: “One of the reasons why we made this film is because most of us have young children; we made this for the generations to come and most of all, to demonstrate how fragile democracy is.”
“While there will always be doubts that justice can prevail in a democracy; this trial proves it can be done. The message is universal and can be applied to the current state of the world we live in: ‘Nobody is above the law.’”
Structured like a thriller but with some touches of wry humor, “Argentina 1985” is a co-production between Amazon Studios, Mitre’s La Unión de los Ríos, Kenya Films and Infinity Hill. Prime Video will launch the film worldwide on Oct. 21.
Denmark Selects ‘Holy Spider’
Denmark has selected “Holy Spider,” Ali Abbasi’s Iran-set daring thriller, to be its official Oscar entry for the international feature film race.
The movie world premiered at Cannes in competition and won best actress for Iranian Ebrahimi. It went on to play at Toronto and earned unanimous praise.
A Danish-Iranian filmmaker, Abbasi made his feature debut with “Border” which won a prize at Un Certain Regard in Cannes. “Holy Spider,” Abbasi’s sophomore outing, was one of the three films shortlisted by Denmark’s Oscar committee, along with ‘Forever’ by Frelle Petersen and ‘As in Heaven’ by Tea Lindeburg.
Based on a true story, the film revolves around a family man, Saeed, who embarks on his own religious quest to “cleanse” the holy Iranian city of Mashhad of sex workers and turns into a serial killer. The film was produced by Sol Bondy at One Two Film, and Jacob Jarek at Profile Pictures. Wild Bunch International handles worldwide sales. Utopia acquired North American rights off the film’s acclaimed world premiere at Cannes. The Danish release is scheduled for Oct. 13.
Denmark’s Oscar committee comprises of chairman Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, Danish producer Kim Magnusson Søren Balle, screenwriter Mette Heeno, cinematographer Jan Weincke, film critic Nanna Frank Rasmussen, exhibitor Line Bjørn Daugbjerg Christensen and Marianne Moritzen, head of fiction at the Danish Film Institute.
Hong Kong Picks ‘Where the Wind Blows’ For Oscars Contention
Hong Kong has selected controversial crime thriller “Where the Wind Blows” as its contender for the Academy Awards’ best international film competition. The film is directed by Philip Yung, whose previous “Port of Call” was the territory’s Oscar contender in 2015.
The selection was made by a committee within the Hong Kong Film Producers Association. The organization said Tuesday said that “Wind” won on a majority vote, but it did not name the other titles on its shortlist.
The film, previously known as “Theory of Ambitions” was produced by Hong Kong’s Mei Ah Film Production in a co-venture with mainland Chinese firms Dadi Century and Global Group, with production taking place as far back as 2018. Its production budget has been reported as $38 million, making it one of the most expensive Hong Kong films of all time.
“Wind” stars Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Aaron Kwok, Patrick Tam and Michael Chow and Chinese actress Du Juan. The actors play four notoriously corrupt police officers who rose to power in 1960s Hong Kong, with Du one of their wives.
The film was selected as the opening title of the 2021 Hong Kong International Film Festival, but its world premiere was cancelled at short notice by the producer who cited “technical reasons.”
“Technical reasons” is widely understood in mainland China as a euphemism for censorship and was the phrase used for the abrupt cancelation of Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” at the 2019 Berlin film festival and for the last-minute halt of “The Eight Hundred” which had been set as the opening film at the Shanghai festival later the same year.
Portraying corruption on screen has previously been difficult for filmmakers on the mainland. But had been a stock in trade for Hong Kong filmmakers for decades. The film’s 2021 cancelation was seen in some quarters that the Hong Kong film industry is increasingly under the control of mainland Chinese elements. Hong Kong law has been changed to include national security considerations in the film ratings and classification process.
The film was again selected as the HKIFF’s opening film in 2022 and played in public on Aug. 15, 2022. Yung was not present in Hong Kong when it screened.
Estonia Picks Basketball Film ‘Kalev’ For Oscars Consideration
A jury convened by the Estonian Film Institute has selected Ove Musting’s basketball film “Kalev” as the country’s candidate in the contest for the Best International Feature Film Oscar at the Academy Awards.
A jury led by Edith Sepp, the head of the EFI, selected this year’s nominee from among 11 candidates. Other members of the jury included cinema journalist Tõnu Karjatse, film designer Eugen Tamberg, film booking specialist Tõnis Lõhmus, distributor Kaupo Liiv, film critic and Black Nights Film Festival director Tiina Lokk, and film critic Johannes Lõhmus.
“Kalev” is the story of the journey of the Estonian basketball team to the final championships held in the sport in the collapsing Soviet Union. With many of their fellow countrymen opposed to them taking part, and pitted against merciless opponents, the team faces turbulent times on and off the court. The film was inspired by actual events that took place in 1991, when the Estonian team won the last ever Soviet basketball trophy.
“Despite knowing how the story ends, tension is maintained to the final frame,” noted the jury in justifying their choice. “The film is marked out by first-rate direction and editing, which enhance every scene, and the narrative itself is fascinating to follow. Adding to all of this is exciting lighting and camerawork. Among the cast, Mait Malmsten in particular stands out for his performance. Basketball is used in the film to convey key moments in the modern history of the Republic of Estonia: its regaining of independence, the events leading up to it, the problems this involved and the solutions that were found to them.”
The jury felt that in revisiting the basketball team’s 1991 triumph the director was examining themes that are pertinent today: a country’s right to self-determination; national pride; opposition to an imperialistic world view; and sport as a universal concept that transcends political power struggles. Another of “Kalev’s” strengths is that it examines how a team comes together and the roles that individuals play therein, the jury said.
“Kalev” received four votes from the jury. The runner-up, which received three votes, was Jaak Kilmi’s family film “Tagurpidi Torn” (The Sleeping Beast), about which one of the jury members said: “Of the films in contention, ‘Tagurpidi Torn’ was in my view the strongest overall. A thriller about social problems, it manages to maintain its tempo while building up a sense of unease in the viewer, and doesn’t answer all of the questions it asks, but leaves a lot of them up in the air.” Another member of the jury said of the film: “It’s a kids’ film that makes perfect viewing for adults as well, leading viewers down pathways of recollection that have surreptitiously embedded themselves in our subconscious.”
“Kalev” was shot by Rein Kotov, designed by Tiiu-Ann Pello, composed by Mihkel Zilmer and produced by Pille Rünk and Maria Avdjuško. It is an Allfilm and Ugri Film co-production distributed by Hea Film.
The making of the film was supported by the EFI and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, with film producer Kristjan Rahu providing substantial private backing. Other supporters included entrepreneur Priit Koit, the companies Alexela, Postimees, Cramo, Golden Club and Sportland, and the Riga Film Fund.
Italy Picks Mario Martone’s ‘Nostalgia’
Italy has selected Mario Martone’s Naples-set drama “Nostalgia,” which competed in Cannes, as its contender in the international Oscars race.
The well-received pic, which has been praised by Variety critic Guy Lodge as the prolific Italian auteur’s “most rewarding film in years,” stars Pierfrancesco Favino as the middle-aged Felice Lasco, who returns to the bustling port city after having lived in Egypt for 40 years. Once back, he is caught up in memories of a distant life spent in his hometown, as his criminal youth slowly catches up with him.
Besides Favino, the “Nostalgia” cast also includes Francesco Di Leva, who played the lead in Martone’s “The Mayor of Rione Sanità” and in this drama plays a priest who tries to help the protagonist navigate the Naples of today.
“Nostalgia,” which is based on Neapolitan author Ermanno Rea’s novel by the same title, was penned by Martone with Ippolita Di Maio.
The film is lensed by ace Italian cinematographer Paolo Carnera (TV series “Gomorrah”) and shot in Naples’ vibrant Sanità quarter, in the heart of the city, a labyrinthine area known for poverty and crime, but also for magnificent churches and Baroque buildings. Naples is clearly a strong element of the narrative.
“Nostalgia” is an Italian-French coproduction between Italy’s Picomedia, Mad Entertainment, Medusa Film and France’s Rosebud Entertainment Pictures.
“Nostalgia,” which has performed relatively well at the sagging Italian box office, has been sold widely by Italy’s True Colours in more than twenty international territories, but still lacks U.S. distribution.
Martone’s latest feature emerged as Italy’s Oscar candidate from a group of twelve titles, beating Emanuele Crialese’s Penelope Cruz-starrer “L’Immensità” and Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s Italian-language drama “The Eight Mountains,” which were considered the other frontrunners. Luca Guadagnino’s “Bones and All” was not a candidate because it’s in English.
France Selects “Saint Omer”
France’s Oscar committee has selected Alice Diop’s “Saint-Omer” to represent the country in the international feature film race. Diop’s debut fiction feature “Saint-Omer” won the Silver Lion and the Lion of the Future at the Venice Film Festival. It will be released in the U.S. by Super, the boutique distribution label from Neon. Saint Omer” will premiere at the New York Film Festival and play the BFI London Festival.
“Saint Omer,” which Diop co-wrote with Amrita David and Marie NDiaye, stars Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanda, Valérie Dréville and Aurélia Petit. Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral of Srab Films produced alongside Arte France Cinéma and Pictanovo Hauts-de-France.
“Saint Omer” was one of five films that were pre-selected by the committee, along with Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning” starring Lea Seydoux and acquired by Sony Pictures Classics; Eric Gravel’s drama “Full Time” starring “Call My Agent!” star Laure Calamy; Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret’s “The Worst Ones;” and Alice Winocour’s “Revoir Paris” starring Virginie Efira.
This year’s committee includes international sales agents Hengameh Panahi, Grégoire Melin, producers Philippe Rousselet (“Coda”), Didar Domehri (“Girls of the Sun”), and directors Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”) and Michel Gondry (“L’ecûme des jours”), along with Gaumont executive Ariane Toscan du Plantier.
Venezuela Picks “The Box”
Venezuela has submitted Lorenzo Vigas’ “The Box” (“La Caja”) to represent the country at the Oscars. Vigas, who made film festival history by being the first Venezuelan-born filmmaker to snag the Venice Golden Lion with his 2015 feature debut “From Afar,” presented “The Box” at the Lido last year.
He describes “The Box” as the final part of a trilogy that began with his Cannes Critics’ Week short “Elephants Never Forget” and continued with “From Afar.”
“The heart of the story is really about a boy in search of his father,” said Vigas. That’s the overriding theme in all three stories: What happens to a child who grows up without a father.”
Cinepolis releases “The Box” in Mexico in November while Cines Unidos releases the drama in Venezuela in December.
Mubi, which has secured the U.S. rights, will release the drama theatrically in New York on Nov. 4 before streaming it on its platform from Nov.11. “We decided to wait for the exhibition market to normalize a bit and now that moment has arrived,” Vigas told Variety.
“The Box” stars non-pro newcomer Hatzin Navarrete who plays a teen who is obsessed about finding his father. After he picks up a box in what he’s told are the remains of his father exhumed from a mass grave, he spots Mario (played by veteran Mexican actor, Hernan Mendoza) who is a dead ringer for the supposedly deceased parent. Hatzin hounds him until Mario grudgingly accepts him into the family and his dodgy business recruiting workers for the local factories.
Said Variety reviewer Guy Lodge: “This potentially far-fetched pivot into high-stakes, blood-laced thriller territory is kept grounded and plausible by the mutually watchful, reflective connection between the two leads, as the relationship between Hatzin and Mario bristles and evolves and gradually finds common ground.”
Working with ace cinematographer Sergio Armstrong, Vigas shot “The Box” at various locations in Chihuahua and the border town of Juarez, where large multinational factories stand and where unresolved cases of vanished female workers still persist.
Based in Mexico, Vigas is a producing partner at Teorema with Michel Franco.
“The Box” is co-produced by Teorema and SK Global Entertainment in co-production with Labodigital. Cologne-based The Match Factory handles world sales.
Sweden Picks ‘Boy From Heaven’
Tarik Saleh’s film “Boy from Heaven” is Sweden’s contender for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category.
The political thriller about fisherman’s son Adam, who is thrown into a brutal power struggle between Egypt’s religious and political elite, won the best screenplay award at Cannes earlier this year, as well as the François Chalais Prize.
Saleh said: “I am honored to represent Sweden with our film. Sweden has become a great film nation and to be chosen by my fellow filmmakers makes me very proud.”
Producer Kristina Åberg said: “I would like to thank the jury and everyone who has worked with ‘Boy From Heaven.’ It’s truly amazing that our film has been chosen as Sweden’s submission to the Oscars. The film has already received great international acclaim and made headlines in international press since the success in Cannes. Now it’s sought after among distributors all over the world.”
Petter Mattsson, head of the international department at the Swedish Film Institute and chair of the Swedish Oscar Committee added: “‘Boy From Heaven’ is a film with both political and personal depth where the little guy becomes a pawn in a game with high stakes. With his masterful script, fantastic acting, magnificent settings and cinematography that leaves the viewer breathless, Tarik Saleh has created a political thriller of high international standard. I am convinced that the film has a real chance of going all the way to nomination and beyond.”
Sweden has been nominated in the category several times and has won it thrice, the last time in 1983 for Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander.”
Palestine Picks ‘Mediterranean Fever’
Maha Haj’s drama “Mediterranean fever” which tackles the dynamics of male friendship and the strain of living under Israeli occupation, has been selected as Palestine’s official entry for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category.
The film, which world premiered in Cannes Un Certain Regard earlier this year, follows a family man named Waleed whose chronic depression hinders his dreams of a writing career and leads him into the path of neighbor and petty criminal Jalal.
“Mediterranean Fever” is a co-production between Palestine, Germany, France, Cyprus and Qatar, with sales handled by Luxbox.
Haj in an interview with Variety said that the film “Is partly about the frustration that we Palestinians live with daily, whether we’re in Gaza, the West Bank, inside the state of Israel or exiled. It’s the sense of being imprisoned and not knowing when you’re going to be free, if you’re going to be free.”
The Israeli-born Palestinian director also pointed out that “I decided not to take money from the Israeli Film Fund although I have every right to,” changing her approach from her first feature, “Personal Affairs” which was funded by the organization.
“I wanted to make a film without Israeli money because I wanted to present it to the world as Palestinian,” she said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first recognized Palestine as a territory in 2003. Since then Palestine has scored two nominations for Hany Abu Assad’s “Omar” and “Paradise Now,” respectively in 2005 and 2013.
Lithuania Picks ‘Pilgrims’
Lithuania has selected “Pilgrims” (aka “Pilgrimai”) as its national contender for the Oscars’ best international feature film award. Directed by Laurynas Bareisa, the film is a troubling drama about a man and a woman who travel to a small town to investigate the gruesome death of the man they had in common. The film debuted last year at the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival where it won best picture. It had its qualifying commercial release earlier this year through distributor Kino Pavasaris. International sales are handled by the U.K.-based Reason8. The selection was announced by the Lithuanian Film Center and the Lithuanian Filmmakers Union.
India Picks ‘Last Film Show’
Pan Nalin’s Gujarati-language “Last Film Show” (“Chhello Show”) is India’s contender for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category, the Film Federation of India has revealed.
The partly autobiographical drama takes Nalin back to his roots in Saurashtra, Gujarat, western India, where “Last Film Show” was filmed. The story is set against the backdrop of Indian cinemas witnessing a massive transition from celluloid to digital where hundreds of single-screen cinemas are either in ruins or have disappeared altogether.
The film follows nine-year-old boy Samay, whose life turns upside down after watching his first movie. He passionately falls in love with films against his father’s wish. Samay strikes a deal with Fazal, the projectionist, who will let him watch movies for free in exchange for eating the contents of his lunchbox. Their food-for-films deal turns into an endearing friendship, but heartbreaking choices lie ahead.
The film, produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur, Pan Nalin, Dheer Momaya and Mark Duale, premiered at Tribeca and has won multiple awards across various international film festivals and scored distribution deals worldwide.
Nalin said: ”I could have never imagined such a day would come and bring light and celebration of light. ‘Chhello Show’ has been enjoying love from around the world but there was an ache in my heart that how do I make India discover it? Now I can breathe again and believe in cinema that entertains, inspires and enlightens.“
Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired all U.S. rights to the film, which is represented in international markets by Orange Studio.
Roy Kapur said: “We are thrilled and honored that our film, ‘Last Film Show’ has been selected to represent India at the Academy Awards. There could not be a more apt time for a film like this one, that celebrates the magic and wonder of cinema and the theatrical experience. When cinema-going around the world has been disrupted by a pandemic, it reminds audiences anew of the first time they fell in love with the experience of watching a movie in a darkened cinema hall. It is a matter of great pride for us to represent our country with this film, and with the backing of our partners Samuel Goldwyn Films and Orange Studio, we will make sure that we give it our best shot at the Academy Awards.’
Momaya added: ”We are very excited, this is just a first step. We aim to get a nomination and eventually win. Hoping we can make our country proud.”
Nepal Picks ‘Butterfly on the Window Pane’
The International Feature Film Selection Committee of Nepal has selected feature debutant Sujit Bidari’s “Ainaa Jhyal Ko Putali” (“Butterfly on the Window Pane”) as its contender for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category.
The film, which debuted at the Busan International Film Festival’s New Currents competition strand in 2020, released earlier this month in Nepal to much critical acclaim. It follows studious teenager Bidya and her young brother Basanta. When he learns that his sister is giving up on her dreams, Basanta tries to give Bidya the hope she desperately needs.
Nepal began submitting to the category in 1999 and scored a nomination with its very first submission – Eric Valli’s “Himalaya.” It has yet to win an Oscar.
New Zealand Picks ‘Muru’
New Zealand has selected “Muru,” written and directed by Tearepa Kahi, as its contender for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category.
Inspired by actual events, “Muru” is the story of a local Police Sergeant (portrayed by Cliff Curtis), who must choose between duty to his badge or his people, when the government invokes anti-terrorism powers to launch an armed raid on the remote Urewera community. The action drama is not a re-creation, but a response to the raids against Tuhoe in 2007 and 1916. ‘Muru’ is a Maori concept for ‘forgiveness.’
“Muru” was the opening film of the New Zealand International Film Festival in July and began its commercial release in the country in August, landing on top of the box office for two weeks. It had its international premiere at the recent Toronto film festival and will next play in competition at the Busan festival. A commercial release in Australia also follows in October.
Rialto Distribution releasing the film in New Zealand and Australia. Arclight Films is handling sales internationally.
Iran picks Houman Seyedi’s ‘World War III’
Iran has selected anti-totalitarian political drama “World War III” by prolific young director Houman Seyedi as its candidate in the race for the international feature film Oscar.
“World War III” recently scored a double whammy at the Venice Film Festival, scooping the top prize in the Horizons sidebar and also an acting prize for leading man Mohsen Tanabandeh.
The film is a political metaphor in which a homeless day laborer on a construction site named Shakib gets hired to work as an extra on a film being shot on the site about the atrocities committed by Hitler during WWII.
Shakib then has to contend with the pic’s tyrant filmmakers and a secret lover who jeopardizes this potentially life-changing opportunity.
Seyedi in his director’s statement noted that “Societies ruled by totalitarian regimes are the most effective creators of anarchists.”
“I’ve always wondered for how much longer there can be tyranny and oppression in the world and who the people are who will be crushed by the powerful rulers of such plagued societies,” the director said.
“World War III,” which Seyedi co-wrote, directed, edited and produced with financing from an Iranian company called Namava, is the director’s sixth feature. Sales company Iranian Independents is distributing the film internationally
“World War III” was selected by an Iranian government committee to represent the country at the Oscars out of more than 50 submissions that were at first whittled down to 17 and subsequently to five final candidates.
Unsurprisingly incarcerated director Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears,” which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice, was not among the candidates. “No Bears” is the latest of several features made in secrecy by the embattled auteur who was sentenced to six years in prison by Iranian authorities in July for “propaganda against the system.”
Iran has won the international feature film Oscar twice, both times with films by Asghar Farhadi, who won for “A Separation” in 2011 and for “The Salesman” in 2016.
Israel Selects “Cinema Sabaya”
Israel has selected “Cinema Sabaya,” Orit Fouks Rotem’s feature debut, as its Oscar candidate in the international feature film race.
The film just triumphed at the Ophir Awards, Israel’s highest film honor, winning five prizes, including best film, director and supporting actress for Joanna Said during a ceremony hosted on Sept. 18. “Cinema Sabaya,” which previously won best debut at the Jerusalem Film Festival, revolves around eight women, Arab and Jewish, who come from different backgrounds and take part in a video workshop hosted by a young Tel Aviv-based filmmaker. Through the experience, the women get to know one another and see their views and beliefs shifting.
Belgium Enters Lukas Dhont’s Cannes Prizewinner ‘Close’
Belgium has selected Lukas Dhont’s movie “Close” as its candidate in the race for the international feature film Oscar. The movie world premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prize (shared with Claire Denis’s film “Stars at Noon”).
“Close” follows the intense friendship between 13-year-old boys Léo and Remi, which suddenly gets disrupted. Struggling to understand what has happened, Léo approaches Sophie, Rémi’s mother. The film is billed as an exploration of friendship and responsibility. The film is headlined by newcomers Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele. Léa Drucker and Kevin Janssens, Marc Weiss, Igor Van Dessel, and Léon Bataille also star. The movie marks Dhont’s follow up to his Golden Camera winning feature debut “Girl.”
“Close” was produced by Michiel Dhont and Dirk Impens for Menuet and co-produced by Diaphana, Topkapi Films and Versus Productions. The Match Factory has so far sold to more than 100 territories worldwide. MUBI acquired the rights for UK/Ireland, Latin America, Turkey, and India, and A24 has North American rights.
“We are so thrilled that Belgium has chosen Close as its official submission to the 2023 Academy Awards,” said David Laub at A24. “We have loved this unique and moving film since the moment we saw it in Cannes, and are so proud to be behind it in the US and to be orchestrating its awards campaign,” Laub continued.
The executive said A24 strongly believes that “it will resonate with and profoundly affect its audience, and we are elated that it has taken this next step of becoming Belgium’s official submission.”
“Close” will kick off the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium on Oct. 11.
Austria Selects “Corsage” Starring Vicky Krieps
Austria has selected Marie Kreutzer’s “Corsage” as its official entry in the race for the international feature film Oscar.
The period drama stars Vicky Krieps, who won the best actress award in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes for her performance as Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
The film had its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and it will screen at the New York Film Festival too. IFC Films will release it in U.S. theaters on Dec. 23.
The film received rave reviews at Cannes, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw writing that Krieps gives “an exhilaratingly fierce, uningratiating performance,” and Jessica Kiang at Variety describing the “brilliant” film as “a witty subversion of biopic and costume-drama clichés.”
Picturehouse Entertainment will release the film in the U.K. on Dec. 30. Other distributors include Ad Vitam in France, BIM in Italy, The Searchers in Benelux, Adso Films in Spain, and M2 in Poland. MK2 Films is handling international sales.
“Corsage” chronicles a critical period in the life of Empress Elisabeth. It starts in 1877 when Elisabeth – renowned for her beauty – is celebrating her 40th birthday. We see her insisting that her corset is laced ever tighter, and restricting what she eats to make that so. It is a metaphor for how she is constrained by the expectations of society – limited to merely ceremonial duties, despite her intelligence, lust for life and rebellious spirit.
Read the Variety interview with Kreutzer and Krieps here.
Croatia Selects Juraj Lerotić’s ‘Safe Place’
Croatia has selected Juraj Lerotić’s “Safe Place” in the race for a best international feature film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards.
The director’s feature debut is the emotional story of a family reeling in the wake of a suicide attempt that centers on a man’s struggle to save his younger brother, creating a rift in the family’s everyday life.
The film won awards for best first feature film, best emerging director and best actor at the Locarno Film Festival and was named best film at Sarajevo, where Lerotić also won best actor honors. Variety’s Guy Lodge described it as a “supremely poised and moving first feature” and a “shattering” debut, “with a long trail of further festival bookings surely ahead.”
“Safe Place” is produced by Pipser and Zelena zraka, with the support of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, Eurimages, HRT, CineLink Industry Days and the Slovenian Film Center. Cercamon is handling world sales.
Playing on Lerotić’s family history, the film features the Croatian multihyphenate in the lead role. Other cast includes Snježana Sinovčić Šiškov and Goran Marković. The cinematographer is Marko Brdar and the editor is Marko Ferković.
The Netherlands Enters ‘Narcosis’
The Netherlands has selected Martijn de Jong’s feature debut “Narcosis” as the country’s entry in the contest for the best international feature category of the 95th Academy Awards.
Penned by de Jong alongside Laura van Dijk, the movie tells the story of a close-knit family which is disrupted when the father fails to resurface during a professional dive.
The movie is headlined by Thekla Reuten, who starred in Oscar-nominated Dutch feature “Twin Sisters,” and Fedja van Huêt, who was the leading actor in “Character,” winner of the best foreign language film Oscar in 1998.
“Narcosis,” produced by OAK Motion Pictures, will world premiere during the Netherlands Film Festival in September. Coccinelle Film Sales is repping international sales.
The Czech Republic Enters ‘Il Boemo’
The Czech Republic has selected period drama “Il Boemo” as its submission. The film, written and directed by Petr Václav, will celebrate its world premiere in San Sebastian Film Festival’s main competition this month.
Set in the second half of the 18th century, “Il Boemo” tells the story of Josef Mysliveček, son of a Prague miller, who leaves for Italy to fulfil his dream of establishing himself as a composer. Thanks to his talent but also his charisma and luck, in a few years he manages to break through. From an unknown musician, he becomes one of the biggest stars of the musical scene. His fame gives him access to the highest circles of society, and wins him the favour of some of the leading opera divas, but he struggles financially.
Václav made his feature debut in 1996 with his film about a Roma boy, “Marian,” which won him the Silver Leopard at Locarno. He is also known for his films “Parallel Worlds” (2001) and “The Way Out” (2014), which premiered at San Sebastian in the New Directors competition, and the ACID section at Cannes, respectively. “The Way Out,” which focused on a young Roma woman trying to escape her poor living conditions, won seven Czech Lions in 2014, including best film. This was followed by drama “We Are Never Alone” (2016, presented in Forum at the Berlinale and at Toronto), “The Jumper” (2017) and “Confession of the Vanished,” the 2015 documentary about a performance of Mysliveček’s opera “Olimpiade,” and the composer himself, which served as prep work for “Il Boemo.”
“Il Boemo” is a Czech-Italian-Slovak co-operation with Jan Macola of Mimesis Film being the lead producer. Co-producers include Italian Dugong Films (producer Marco Alessi), Slovak sentimentalfilm (Marek Urban) and Czech co-producers Czech Television, Magiclab, Libor Winkler, Daniel Bergmann and Jan Menclík.
“Il Boemo” was supported by the Czech Film Fund with Euros 948,000, and also by the Production Incentives program. The film was also backed by Creative Europe – MEDIA, Prague Film Fund, Pilsen Region, South Moravian Film Fund, Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Film Foundation, Arte, MIBAC (Ministero della cultura), Liguria Film Fund, Veneto Film Fund and Sicilia Film Fund.
Ukraine Enters Maryna Er Gorbach’s ‘Klondike’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Ukraine has entered Maryna Er Gorbach’s “Klondike” in the race for a best international feature film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film was one of two features considered by the Ukrainian Oscar Committee in the selection process, alongside “Sniper. The White Raven,” directed by Marian Bushan.
“Klondike” portrays the brutal realities of the war unfolding in Ukraine’s Donbass region through the lens of a pregnant farmstead owner whose life and home have begun to unravel.
The film, which earned Er Gorbach best director honors after its world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance, has racked up a slew of awards, including best director at Sarajevo and best international film at Chile’s 18th Santiago International Film Festival (Sanfic).
Largely told from the viewpoint of the pregnant Irka (Oxana Cherkashyna), “Klondike” begins on July 17, 2014, the day a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was shot down over Donbass, killing nearly 300 people. That tragedy, however, is set against a larger drama as the village that Irka and her husband, Tolik (Sergey Shadrin), call home is beset by armed separatist forces.
Variety’s Guy Lodge, in a rave review of Er Gorbach’s “uncompromising, formally remarkable” feature, wrote: “Personal and political turmoil face a serene camera in ‘Klondike,’ a vision of the ongoing war in Donbass war that brooks no compromise in depicting the severe impact of the conflict on the region’s civilians — in particular, the innocent women to whom the film is dedicated.”
He added: “In Er Gorbach’s potent film, shot in unbroken, unblinking takes that observe obscene violence and destruction with cold candor, Irka’s resistance to warfare is at once fierce and futile.” Writing on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lodge noted that the film has “chilling topicality in its favor, even if the tensions it shows are all too longstanding.”
“Klondike” is a Kedr Film and Protim production in co-production with Turkish broadcaster TRT. It’s produced by Er Gorbach, Sviatoslav Bulakovskyi and Mehmet Bahadir Er.
Hungary Selects ‘Blockade’ (EXCLUSIVE)
“Blockade” has been chosen as Hungary’s entry in the contest for a nomination in the Academy Awards’ best international film category, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film tells the true story of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary, József Antall, from his freedom fighter days in 1956 to the infamous 1990 taxi blockade that shook the nation.
The film is directed by Ádám Tősér, written by Norber Köbli, and produced by Tamás Lajos at Film Positive Productions. International sales are handled by NFI World Sales.
The decision was made by the Hungarian Oscar Selection Committee, which includes Csaba Káel, the government’s commissioner for the development of the Hungarian motion picture industry, and chairman of the National Film Institute; film directors Csaba Bereczki and Péter Bergendy; Tibor Fonyódi, a screenwriter; András Kálmán, a film distribution expert; Ákos Pesti, a producer; and Emil Novák, a cinematographer.
The film is set six months after Antall becomes Prime Minister of the first democratic government following the 1989 collapse of the Communist regime, and faces the most difficult test of his life.
Taxi drivers protest against the drastic rise in gas prices by the House of the National Assembly. Quickly disillusioned with democracy, they blockade Budapest, and soon after the whole country. The opposition sides with them and prompts them to start a revolution.
The reserved and thoughtful Antall goes head to head with the populist President Árpád Göncz about how they think the situation can be resolved, and their personalities and opinions collide.
The press and public opinion sympathize with the taxi drivers, and the police force abandons the government, now unpopular due to their position. Antall, a former participant in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, finds himself on the other side of the barricade.
In the midst of this crisis, he has to undergo an operation for cancer and in the hospital ward afterwards he looks back at his life as a young history teacher turned revolutionary, and how he met his wife.
Now, Antall has to make a decision about what he should do. He uses all the resources he possibly can without abandoning the democratic values that have reshaped his country, and finds a solution.
“Blockade” is not only the chronicle of the four days of the taxi blockade, it shows the battles and bargains behind the scenes, and the private life of a Prime Minister dealing with a crisis, and fighting for democracy.
“As Hungary lives through the last hours of Soviet occupation, and an unexpectedly escalated crisis situation and a human drama, the film tells the story of a society starting to learn that democracy is not only about freedom, but also about duties and taking responsibility,” Tősér said.
“’Blockade’ is the incredible true story of a nation divided and the leader who unites it – while fighting a battle against his worst enemy yet: cancer,” Köbli said.
“This film is special, most of all, because it is the first one to show the circumstances of the systemic change following the Socialist era in Hungary, and the political and private life of József Antall, Prime Minister of the first democratically elected government,” Lajos said.
The historical drama will be released in Hungary on Oct. 20.
Film Positive Productions, led by Lajos, has experience both in local and international feature films, television films, and documentaries. Along with its sister company, Szupermodern Studio, it has produced numerous critically acclaimed television films, including “Trezor,” “Eternal Winter” and “The Exam,” and its feature film sequel “The Game.”
Tősér has been working in film production for over 20 years. His latest film is “Kittenberger – The Last Hunt” (2021), which presents the adventurous life story of Africa expert Kálmán Kittenberger. In his 2020 film “Roads Fifty-Six,” through personal stories, he shows viewers the fates of 1956 refugees beyond the Iron Curtain. He produced the documentary “Strong” (2011), which follows the heroic struggle of Alpinist Zsolt Erőss, from his leg amputation to his return to the mountains.
Japan Enters Hayakawa Chie’s ‘Plan 75’
“Plan 75,” first-time director Hayakawa Chie’s drama about a government program to euthanize the elderly in a near-future Japan, has been selected as Japan’s entry for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards. The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, which oversees the selection process, made the announcement.
Based on Hayakawa’s original script, the film first took form as a segment in “Ten Years Japan,” a 2018 omnibus with Kore-eda Hirokazu serving as executive producer.
Starring Baisho Chieko, with support from Isomura Yuto, Kawai Yumi and Stefanie Arianne, the film focuses on an elderly woman (Baisho) who is enticed into the title program, which promises an easy and painless death to anyone 75 or older. The aim, never directly stated to clients by the plan’s representatives, is to decrease the population of ‘unnecessary’ seniors.
Premiering at this year’s Cannes, the film won a special mention in the Camera d’Or competition for first-time directors. Released on June 17 in Japan on more than 100 screens by Happinet-Phantom Studios, the film has become a long-running hit, striking a chord in a country with the world’s oldest population.
Represented abroad by Urban Sales, the film has been sold into more than 30 countries and territories. The film’s wide release in France is set for Sept. 7, with Eurozoom distributing. Also, it will screen at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema section.
Unusual for a Japanese film by a new director, “Plan 75” is an international co-production, with Dongyu Club, Happinet-Phantom Studios, Loaded Films, Urban Factory, and WOWOW serving as production partners.
In a statement, Hayakawa said, “I feel that the film now belongs so much more to those who have seen it that it no longer feels like a film I directed. I am honored to receive this recognition.”
Brazil Selects ‘Mars One’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Brazil will submit Gabriel Martins’ “Mars One” for consideration in the 2023 Oscars race for best international feature film, Variety has learned exclusively. Martins is the first Black director in Brazil’s history to be selected to represent the country at the Academy Awards.
Magnolia Pictures International holds worldwide distribution rights, but “Mars One” is still looking for a U.S. buyer. The film follows a Brazilian family navigating an uncertain future amid the rise of far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.
Martins said in a statement: “We are experiencing a moment of major happiness, we feel so honored, for me personally, but also for my company Filmes de Plástico, for the entire cast and crew and our partners, because we are opening doors and without a doubt leaving a stele of hope and willingness for those who are arriving now to make cinema, in a moment when they can be discredited until they can get to make a film. So, this selection is the result of the work of many people, and I believe that this is the most important feeling since ‘Mars One’ is definitely not a film that walks alone, it is the work of many people who want this film to move forward and fly high. It’s what it represents for me, what the Brazilian cinema, the black cinema can be: a beautiful and resilient collective strength that never fails to dream with a better and brighter future.”
Brazil has been nominated at the Academy Awards four times, most recently in 1998 for Walter Salles’ “Central Station.”
Algeria Selects ‘Our Brothers’
The Algerian Selection Committee has unanimously decided to enter Rachid Bouchareb’s “Our Brothers” in the Oscar race.
The selection committee, led by Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina, watched four films for the selection: Mohamed Benabdallah’s “Halim Erraad,” Mounia Meddour’s “Horia,” Damien Oounouri and Adila Bendimered’s “The Last Queen” and Bouchareb’s other film, “Nos Frangins.”
“Our Brothers” follows the true story of Malik Oussekine, a French student of Algerian descent who was chased by police and beaten to death in 1986 while he walked near student protests in Paris.
Poland Selects ‘EO’
Poland has entered Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO” in the race for a Best International Feature Film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards.
The decision, which was made by the Polish Film Institute, was formally announced today.
“EO” shares a vision of modern Europe through the prism of a gray donkey, who meets a range of people on his life’s path, experiencing joy and pain, as well as disasters and unexpected bliss — all without losing his innocence. The film shared a Jury Prize with Félix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s “The Eight Mountains” at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In his review at Cannes, where the film bowed in competition, Variety’s Peter Debruge described “EO” as “a damning polemic on our relationship to other intelligent species — as free labor, food and companions — as seen through the dewy, wide eyes of a donkey whom we come to adore.”
“EO” is presented by Skopia Film and filmmaker and HanWay Films founder Jeremy Thomas, who first collaborated with writer-director Skolimowski on the film “The Shout,” which won the Cannes Grand Prix in 1978.
It stars Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz and Isabelle Huppert. It was produced by Ewa Piaskowska and Skolimowski. Eileen Tasca is the Italian co-producer, while Thomas is the executive producer. The screenplay was written by Piaskowska and Skolimowski.
Sideshow and Janus Films, who acquired North American rights from HanWay, are planning a fall 2022 theatrical release. The distribution duo helped Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s best international feature Oscar winner “Drive My Car” to four Academy Award nominations earlier this year, including best picture, director and adapted screenplay.
Germany Selects ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’
Germany has entered Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in the race for the 95th Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category.
The decision was made by an independent jury whose members were appointed by various associations working within the German film industry. Nine films were in the shortlist.
The film tells the story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches.
It is adapted from the German anti-war novel of the same name, published in 1928, which drew on Erich Maria Remarque’s own experiences in the trenches.
The film is produced by Amusement Park Film for Netflix. It will have its world premiere in the Special Presentations section at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 12, and the European premiere will be held as a gala premiere during the Zurich Film Festival.
Netflix will partner with 24 Bilder for the film’s nationwide theatrical release in Germany on Sept. 29. It will open in U.S. cinemas in October, and can be seen on Netflix from Oct. 28.
The nine-member jury, headed by Maria Furtwängler of the German Film Academy, commented: “[The film] is unsparing in its portrayal of the machinery and dehumanization of war through the material symbolism of bullet-ridden uniforms, trenches collapsing and shattered bodies. The violence of the events translates into powerful imagery from which there is no escape.
“The Iron Generation of the 1910s presents itself as the Lost Generation whose individual destinies mercilessly perish in teeming battle scenes. Edward Berger exposes with clarity how those vainglorious decision-makers detached from the real world display an arrogant vanity in sending the young soldiers into battle and sacrificing them without any feelings of conscience. The first German film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s almost hundred-year-old novel is startlingly topical and makes a powerful statement against war.”
Canada Selects ‘Eternal Spring’
Jason Loftus’ animated, Mandarin-language documentary “Eternal Spring,” which had its world premiere in March 2022 at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, has been selected to represent Canada in the competition to nab a coveted Best International Feature Film nomination for the 2023 Academy Awards.
The decision was announced Aug. 24 by Telefilm Canada, the chair and coordinator of the 22-member pan-Canadian selection committee, which includes reps from government film agencies and national industry associations.
At a media conference in advance of the public announcement, Loftus said that a major platform sale of the film, covering most English-language markets, will be announced soon, and that the film, which has many international broadcast partners, will see a theatrical release in several markets.
“The recognition that Canada is providing is a game changer before we get into the wide release,” said Loftus, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee whose work spans docs, VR, games, and animation.
“Eternal Spring” had its North American premiere at Hot Docs in April 2022, where it won the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary and claimed the top spot in the overall audience poll of cinemagoers and online doc-watchers.
The film, which also scooped awards and noms at European festivals, mixes 3D and new live footage to trace the story of comic-book illustrator Daxiong (“Justice League,” “Star Wars”), a Falun Gong practitioner, who fled China after police began cracking down on members of the outlawed spiritual group.
At the media conference, Loftus, who was seated with his wife and filmmaking partner Masha Loftus, said they met Daxiong while making a kung fu video that featured hand-drawn artwork.
“We learned he was originally from China and was living in New York at the time,” Loftus said. “He worked with a sort of preeminent kung fu novelist in China and we just thought, this is great. He is an amazing, artistic talent and also the cultural background suited to working with us on this kung fu property.”
While working with him in Toronto on the project, the artist told them the story of why he left China. Turned out Daxiong was from the same hometown as Loftus’ wife and business partner, the daughter of a mid-level government official.
“She didn’t have connections with the Falun Gong community, so hearing what had happened in her own hometown by someone who had endured this really hit home for her. And for me.”
While the jury is still out on whether the film will experience the same Oscar nomination hat-trick as “Flee,” the success to date of “Eternal Spring” illustrates how animation in documentary storytelling is having more than a moment.
“We had this opportunity to have animation and the artistic process be part of the story,” Loftus said at the media conference. “So that’s why we have this kind of blend of live-action and animation—the art comes from an individual who has personally experienced trauma, who has left his home behind, who has this nostalgia, and who also colors his own art with the memories of torture and abuse.”
“This venture represents an exceptional opportunity for ‘Eternal Spring’ to reach new audiences and offers a golden opportunity to showcase the high quality of Canadian filmmaking,” said Christa Dickenson, Telefilm executive director and CEO. “That is why Telefilm will be supporting the film team in this prestigious competition and we wish them the best of luck.”
“Eternal Spring” was written and directed by Jason Loftus, who produced the film with Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, and Kevin Koo. The film was edited by David Schmidt and lensed by John Trans, with animation by Alex Smith and Matthew Sousa. David St-Amant served as animation director.
The film is produced by Lofty Sky Entertainment and the international sales agent is Sideways Film.
Uruguay Submits ‘The Employer and the Employee’
Uruguay has submitted social thriller “The Employer and the Employee” by Manuel Nieto Zas as its official entry to the 95th Academy Awards in 2023. Nieto Zas’ third film had its world premiere in last year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight before it went on to play in the San Sebastian Film Festival and other prominent festivals worldwide, including Guadalajara, Jerusalem, Beijing, Karlovy Vary and Mar del Plata. Madrid-based Latido Films picked up world sales rights ahead of the film’s debut in Cannes.
Featuring “Persian Lessons” and “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” star Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, “The Employer and The Employee” (“El Empleado y El Patrón”) follows the parallel lives of an employer, Rodrigo (Pérez Biscayart), and an employee, Carlos (Cristian Borges), the teenage son of a land laborer toiling on the vast estates of Rodrigo’s father. Desperate to find a qualified driver for one of his combine harvesters, Rodrigo hires Carlos despite the latter’s lack of experience or a license. This inevitably leads to an accident whose aftermath plays out through the rest of the film.
“The Employer and the Employee” won awards at Toulouse’s Latin Film Festival, Mar del Plata’s LoboLab and San Sebastián’s WIP Latam, among others.
Lead-produced by Nieto’s Roken Films in Montevideo, the film’s production partners are Pasto (“A Family Submerged”) and Murillo Cine (“The Snatch Thief”) in Argentina, France’s Paraiso Production Diffusion (“Agosto”), Brazil’s Vulcana Cinema (“Castanha,” “Rifle”) and Sancho & Punta (“Yesterday There Were Strange Things in the Sky”) and Nadador Cine (“Belmonte”), Uruguay.
Taiwan Submits ‘Goddamned Asura’
Lou Yi-An’s “Goddamned Asura” has been selected as Taiwan’s entry for best international feature film at the Academy Awards.
The decision to submit the social psychological drama into the Oscar race was announced by the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, part of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture on Monday.
The film premiered at the Golden Horse Film Festival in November 2021 and picked up multiple awards at the Taipei Film Awards in June.. It had its commercial release in Taiwan in March this year.
The third film by Lou (2013’s “White Lies, Black Lies” and “A Place of One’s Own”) presents a multi-layered narrative drama that delves into a random shooting by an ordinary teenager through six characters, a popular video game and an alternate reality.
The leading cast members are Joseph Huang, Morning Mo, Huang Peijia, Devin Pan, Wang Yu-Xuan and Lai Hao-zhe.
The film was produced by Content Digital Film and Seashore Image Productions. Hope Marketing Entertainment is handling international Sales.
Lou’s previous work was known for his dark humor and the character-driven interleaving storyline in his
films. He is deeply interested in Taiwanese local culture, racial issues and social problems caused by class differences and generation gaps. He has said that “Goddamned Asura” was inspired by real events in Taiwan.
South Korea Submits ‘Decision to Leave’
South Korea has selected Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” as its national contender in the International Feature Film section of the Academy Awards. The film had its world premiere in competition at Cannes and earned Park the festival’s best director award.
Announcement of the decision was made on Thursday evening by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).
“All the films in the running had artistic merit, but when we took into consideration the particular characteristics of the Academy Awards, the film’s pure artistry, the director’s name recognition, workmanship and directing skill, the possibility of box office success in the North American market, and the ability of overseas distributors to promote, we agreed that [“Decision to Leave”] is the most appropriate choice,” said the KOFIC committee. “We look forward to the promoting this work.”
Starring Korea’s Park Hae-il and Chinese star Tang Wei, the film tells a slow-burn tale of police detective who starts out investigating the death of a man in the mountains, but falls for the mysterious charm of his not-very-grieving widow.
The film was released in Korean theaters on June 29, 2022, and remains in the top ten chart. As of Wednesday, it had grossed $14.2 million from 1.79 million spectators.
In North America, the film is scheduled to play at the Toronto festival in September and the New York Film Festival in October, ahead of a commercial release through Mubi, penciled in for Oct. 14.
Korean films had never won in the Oscars foreign-language category until 2020 when “Parasite” claimed four Oscar wins including best film, best international feature film, achievement in directing for Bong Joon-ho and best original screenplay. Given the subsequent success of Korean-language film “Minari” and the attention drawn to Korean TV drama since the release of “Squid Game,” “Decision” stands out as an immediate front-runner.
Switzerland Submits ‘A Piece of Sky’
Switzerland has chosen Berlin competition title “A Piece of Sky” as its International Feature Film contender.
Honored with a special mention at Berlin, “A Piece of Sky” marks director Michael Koch’s follow-up to his 2016 debut “Marija,” which marked him out as a talent-to-track. Set in a remote Alpine farming community, “A Piece of Sky” follows a taciturn farmhand, Marco (Simon Wisler) and a single mother, Anna (Michèle Brand), who build a life together in the Alps. When Marco falls ill with a brain tumor everything changes, bu. Anna stands by Marco through thick and thin.
In his review, Variety’s Guy Lodge hailed “A Piece of Sky” as an impressive, austere Alpine tragedy.
“Stunning image-making fills out the stark storytelling in Swiss director Michael Koch’s potent, stoically moving second feature,” Lodge added.
“A Piece of Sky” is produced by Hugofilm. New Europe Film Sales handles world sales.
“Michael Koch’s ‘A Piece of Sky’ is marked by powerful images that are able to maintain the tension between the apparent simplicity and the great weight of the drama,” said the Swiss jury that selected the film.
“In this way, emotions develop their resonance and attain depth. Carried by strong amateur actors, the film surrenders to the rhythm of nature and regards its protagonists as part of the rugged mountain world. Their love not only stands up to the adverse circumstances, but also dares to question the inevitability of death,” added the jury, led by Swiss writer-director Stéphanie Chuat.
The 95th Oscar awards ceremony will take place on March 12, 2023.
Ireland Submits ‘The Quiet Girl’
The Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) has chosen Colm Bairéad’s Irish-Language film “The Quiet Girl” (“An Cailín Ciúin”) as Ireland’s entry for the Oscars’ best international feature film category at the 95th Academy Awards.
Set in rural Ireland in 1981, the coming-of-age film follows Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she is sent from her overcrowded, dysfunctional household to live with distant relatives for the summer. It recently became the first Irish-language film to win the Irish Academy Award for best film and received seven awards including director, actress, cinematography, editing, production design and original score.
The film was selected by IFTA’s 2023 Irish Selection Committee, which includes producer and Emmy-nominated actor Roma Downey (“Ben-Hur”), Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly (“Chicago”), producer and Paramount TV executive VP of international strategy David Flynn (“Bodkin”), Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot”), director Aisling Walsh (“Maudie”) and actor Fionnula Flanagan (“The Others”). The committee was chaired by Academy CEO, Áine Moriarty.
Moriarty said: “This is such a unique and beautiful film that captures your heart from the outset, and leaves you profoundly moved. How proud we are to submit this outstanding Irish language film into the Oscar competition, to compete with the best in the world, as we know this story will resonate with international audiences, beyond the borders of language, and no doubt with American Academy members too.”
Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi of Inscéal added: “We are honored beyond words that “An Cailín Ciúin”/”The Quiet Girl” has been selected to represent Ireland. Our heartfelt thanks to IFTA and its selection committee. We have always believed in the idea that an Irish-language film could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of world cinema and we feel so proud to be representing our country and our language in this way. It has been an extraordinary privilege adapting Claire Keegan’s ‘Foster’ to the big screen and we can’t wait to introduce our film to more and more members of the Academy as ‘The Quiet Girl’ continues its roll-out on the international stage.”
“The Quiet Girl” was produced by Ní Chrualaoí as part of the Cine4 funding scheme for Irish-language film, in partnership with Screen Ireland, TG4, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the film is also in receipt of the Irish Government’s Section 481 tax incentive.
The international film contenders will next be shortlisted to 15 finalists on Dec. 21. These will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final five Oscar nominees in the category on Jan. 24, 2023. The 95th Academy Awards ceremony is currently scheduled to take place on March 12, 2023 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
World sales for “The Quiet Girl” are being handled by Bankside Films.
Leo Barraclough, Elsa Keslassy, Mark Schilling, John Hopewell, Christopher Vourlias, Jennie Punter, Naman Ramachandran, Patrick Frater and Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this report.