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Iran, Israel Among Contenders for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

By Alan Silverman, VOA, Hollywood

Films from five nations are competing for the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year.

Best foreign language film of the year,
Best foreign language film of the year nominee, “A Separation” (Sony Pictures Classics) A Dreamlab Films Production - Iran (Photo: Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

"Will you come?" asks the wife. "No, I won't" he responds. She wants to leave Iran; he wants to stay. Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi has been collecting numerous awards for his film, A Separation, including the Golden Globe, which he accepted with a reference to international tensions.

"What should I say here? Should I say here?" Farhadi asked during his acceptance speech. "Should I say something about my mother? My father? My kind wife? My daughters? My dear friends? I just prefer to say something about my people. I think they are a truly peace-loving people."

Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year,
Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year, “In Darkness” A Studio Filmowe Zebra Production - Poland (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

From Poland, the film In Darkness recounts a true story of survival in the Nazi occupied city of Lvov during World War II. A sanitation worker there named Socha helped a group of Jews hide in the sewers.

"Tell me if you find any Jews," warns the officer. "It is our duty." "Absolutely," replies Socha, even though he risks his life to bring food to the fugitives.

In an interview at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., director Agnieszka Holland said Socha's story is still relevant today.

"It had this universal dimension. It didn't only speak about that time and those people, but in some way it spoke about human nature," Holland says.

Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year,
Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year, “Monsieur Lazhar” A micro_scope Production - Canada (Photo courtesy Music Box Films)

"Bachir means bearer of good news" explains "Monsieur Lazhar," the title character in a French-language film from Canada that tells the story of an Algerian immigrant teacher and his students.

"It is also about the dignity of immigrants," explains writer-director Philippe Falardeau speaking about the movie at the Sundance Film Festival. "We don't know what they've been through, how difficult it is for them to adapt and how difficult is for them to be 'the other.'"

Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year,
Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year, “Bullhead”
A Savage Film Production - Belgium (Photo courtesy of Savage Films)

Bullhead, from Belgium, is a dark tale of brutality and vengeance in the illegal underworld known as the "hormone mafia." Writer-director Michael Roskam says that real criminal enterprise is just the backdrop for his story.

"I wanted to tell the story of a tragedy of my main character, who is a beef trader, who is involved in the illegal growth hormone business," explains Roskam. " But I just wanted to have the whole reality as a background."

Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year,
Nominee for Best foreign language film of the year, “Footnote” A Footnote Limited Partnership Production - Israel (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)

Footnote is the tenth Israeli film to be nominated for an Oscar. But none has won.

Written and directed by Joseph Cedar, it's the story of a father and son. Both are scholars of the Talmud, ancient discussions by rabbis pertaining to Jewish law and philosophy. When the father is named the winner of the prestigious Israel Prize, their relationship and core beliefs are tested. Cedar considers the Academy Award nomination high praise.

"The Oscars actually have content, and there is substance to a lot of the discussion. So it's really a worthy event and more than just the glamor ...I think," Cedar says.

This year films submitted from 63 countries were narrowed down to the five nominees by a diverse committee of the Motion Picture Academy. The winner, chosen by the entire Academy membership, will be revealed along with the other Oscars in the global telecast on February 26.


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