December 20, 2013
Ten LatAm films in search of one statuette
It’s that time of the year again: bidding for the Best Foreign Picture Oscar
Year in, year out, dozens of countries, each with their own sales pitch, pick their submission for Best Foreign Language Picture. Some times it’s a tight race, some other times there are big favourites, which may be due to different reasons, cinematic or not.
This year, ten Latin American countries are vying for a slot in the list of five nominees. Argentina’s Wakolda, directed by Lucía Puenzo, is preceded by critical acclaim at Cannes and San Sebastián. Add to it that the subject is rooted in recent history and human rights, ably transformed into a psychological thriller, and there you have Oscar potential.
The other Latin American countries competing for a slot in the Best Foreign Picture short list are Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Dominican Republic.
The objective, however, is not to beat out the other Latin American productions in the race. Rather, it’s a matter of getting one Latin American movie shortlisted. It was the case earlier this year, when Pablo Larraín’s No (Chile) got one out of five spots in the category. The last Latin American entry to claim the Best Foreign Language Oscar was Argentina’s El secreto de sus ojos in 2010.
“This is an extraordinary moment for Latin American cinema, with clearly distinct authors and different trends,” says Venezuela’s Mariana Rondón, director of Pelo malo, winner of the Concha de Oro at the San Sebastián Film Festival.
Chile, whose film industry is growing in quantitative and qualitative terms, has submitted Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria for Oscar consideration for Best Foreign Picture. Focusing on a 58-year-old woman struggling with the onset of old age, Gloria claimed the Berlinale’s Best Actress Award for Paulina García.
Brazil’s entry is an opera prima: Kléber Mendonça Filho’s O som ao redor (Neighbouring Sounds), an award-winning thriller about life in a middle-class neighbourhood in Recife, which takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of a private security firm. Neighbouring Sounds has already claimed top prizes at the British Film Institute Awards, Gramado, Lérida, Mar del Plata, Rotterdam, Sydney and Sao Paulo.
Peru, shortlisted in 2010 for the searing drama La teta asustada, has now submitted El limpiador, directed by 25-year-old filmmaker Adrián Saba. The film stars Víctor Prada and Adrián Du Bois. Winner of the Nuevas Voces / Nuevas Visiones category at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, El limpiador centres on a janitor who takes in an orphan child after a strange epidemic hits the Peruvian capital city of Lima.
Mexico’s entry is Cannes’ Best Director Prize winner Heli, the third feature by Spain-born filmmaker Amat Escalante. Heli is billed as a love story between a young girl and a policeman connected with drug trafficking, a situation that wreaks havoc and even causes a massacre.
Colombia’s Oscar bid is Juan Andrés Arango’s La Playa D.C. already shown at Cannes’ Un Certain Régard category. La Playa is a drama about three Afro-Colombian brothers who run away to the big city due to the economic woes plaguing their family.
Venezuela’s bid is Brecha en el silencio (Breach in the Silence), directed by documentary-makers Luis and André Rodríguez, both specializing in low-budget productions.
Brecha... is the heart-wrenching story of Ana, a deaf teen living in a poverty-stricken neighbourhood. Ana has spent years in front of a sewing machine, slaving out to support her two younger siblings and silently enduring the abuse of her stepfather and her mother’s indifference.
The Ecuadorean entry is Xavier Andrade’s Mejor no hablar de ciertas cosas, winner of the Best Picture / Best Director awards at the Lleidas Latin American Film Festival, and a Grand Prix nominee at the Miami and Warsaw festivals.
Uruguay’s bid is the children’s film Anina, an animated feature directed by Alfredo Soderguit. The film focuses on Anina Yatay Salas, a young girl traumatized by the fact that her two first names are palindromes. This, of course, is no big deal, it just triggers reflection about family bonds, education, childhood, respect for others.
The Dominican Republic’s ¿Quién manda?, directed by Ronni Castillo, is a new take on the war of the sexes and the reluctance to commit to a long-term relationship.
In the Oscars’ 84-year-long history, only six Spanish-language films won Best Foreign Picture, four from Spain (Volver a empezar, 1982; Belle époque, 1992; Todo sobre mi madre, 1999; and Mar adentro, 2004), and two from Argentina (La historia oficial, 1985; and El secreto de sus ojos, 2009).
The Oscars nominations will be announced on January 15, 2014, two months before the award-winning ceremony on March 2.
Herald with Télam