As the Academy Awards are approaching, Istanbul Modern Cinema offers a reminder of the candidates for “Best Foreign Language Film”.
“The Foreigners of the Oscars” presents a selection of films which were cited to compete in the Oscar race whose nominees are soon to be announced. The films in the program represent a category which brings together films from diverse cultures and languages which were big hits in world festivals and, despite being Oscar-nominated, are outside the Hollywood track. Among films featured in the program are the Georgian entry Corn Island (Simindis Kundzuli) starring Ilyas Salman; Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure from Sweden, which won the Jury Prize in the “Un Certain Regard” section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival; Leviathan which won the award for “Best Screenplay” at the Cannes Film Festival this year and whose director Andrey Zvyagintsev won the Golden Lion in 2003 with his film The Return; and Mauritania’s entry about the silent resistance, Timbuktu, the latest film by Abderrahmane Sissako, one of the most renowned filmmakers of African cinema.
Russia | DCP, Color, 141’ | Russian
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Cast: Alexey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovitchenkov
Kolya works as a mechanic in a small Russian town on the shore of the Barents Sea. One day the mayor decides to purchase Kolya’s land, house, and shop, which are all the property he owns. Not wanting to abandon his hometown and leave everything he has behind, Kolya will wage a struggle against the corrupt system. Inspired by the Book of Job, the film, which won the award for “Best Screenplay” at the Cannes Film Festival, tells a story of uprising against the authoritarian regime.
Canada | DCP, Color, 134’ | French, English
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clément
Diane is a widowed mother who has raised her son Steve, a teenager suffering from ADHD, all by herself. After they meet their neighbor Kylaa new order will enter their lives, which until then oscillated between violence and affection. Written and directed by Xavier Dolan, this modern-day melodrama won the “Jury Prize” at the Cannes Film Festival.
Mauritania | DCP, Color, 97’ | Arabic, French
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Cast: İbrahim Ahmed aka Pino, Toulou Kiki, Abel Jafri
Ruled by fundamentalists, Timbuktu is a town where oppression and restrictions prevail. Away from the chaos, Kidane enjoys a quiet life with his family. But after accidentally killing someone, their fates change and he must face the fatal laws of the fascist government.Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, a leading name in African cinema, the film exposes the silent struggle of lives that are subject to sharia law.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (DEUX JOURS, UNE NUIT), 2014
Belgium | DCP, Color, 95’ | French
Director: Jean Pierre, Luc Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne
Sandra returns to work after a leave of absence due to depression, only to find out that she risks losing her job. Her boss has proposed a bonus to the other employees in exchange for Sandra’s dismissal and the decision will be voted in two days. Sandra will try to convince everyone so she can keep her job. In their latest film, the Dardenne brothers produce a social drama about the struggle for employment and existence through ethical values.
FORCE MAJEURE (TURIST), 2014
Sweden | DCP, Color, 118’ | Swedish
Director: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju
A Swedish family’s ski holiday in France turns into a nightmare after they witness an avalanche. The children’s father Tomasruns for shelter, leaving his family but for a moment, while their mother Ebbastays to protect her children. When the danger is over and Tomasreturns their relationship will never be the same. The film humorously questions the reactions of people in unexpected circumstances and the archetypes of the modern family.
HUMAN CAPITAL (IL CAPITALE UMANO), 2013
Italian | DCP, Color, 109’ | Italian
Director: Paolo Virzi
Cast: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Matilde Gioli, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
The destinies of the Rovelli family on the brink of bankruptcy and the wealthy Bernaschi family are tied together by a road accident. The director shows the effects of this tragic accident on the families from three different points of view, addressing the issue of how, in a capitalist system, desire, greed, and social status set human values at naught. Merging class critique and murder mystery in a stylish drama, the film won awards at all the festivals it attended.
THE DARK VALLEY (DAS FINSTERE TAL), 2014
Austria | DCP, Color, 115’ | German
Director: Andreas Prochaska
Cast: Sam Riley, Tobias Moretti, Paula Beer
A horseman named Greider arrives in a mountain village where he introduces himself as an American photographer. Asking for shelter for the winter, Greider lodges with a widow called Gader and the young Luzi. But Greider is met with distrust by the villagers. When a series of murders suddenly begins, he will try to seize the opportunity by attempting to solve the mystery. Adapted from the novel by Thomas Willman, the film is a classic vengeance Western.
Poland | DCP, Black & White, 80’ | Polish, Latin
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, David Ogrodnik
Poland, 1962. Anna is an orphan preparing to become a nun. Before she takes her vows she learns that she still has a living relative whom she visits. She then learns that she is actually Jewish and that her real name is Ida. During the time they spend together, Ida will discover many other secrets about her roots and will be forced to choose between her true identity and the religion that saved her during the Nazi occupation. The biggest surprise success of 2014, Ida is a film that is sure to leave its mark on the viewer through its narrative language and the feeling it conveys.
SEDUCE ME (ZAPELJI ME), 2013
Slovenia | DCP, Color, 83’ | Slovene
Director: Marko Santic
Cast: Janko Mandic, Nina Rakovec, Natasa Barbara Gracner
Luka leaves the orphanage where he grew up after his family abandoned him. While he starts tracking down his family he falls in love with Ajda, a girl he meets at work, and wants to move in with her. But as their relationship evolves, Luka will discover secrets about both his and Ajda’s family. The film is a portrait of young orphans who search for a safe and loving home.
Ethiopia | DCP, Color, 99’ | Amharic
Director: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari
Cast: Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere, Haregewine Assefa
14-year-old Hirut is kidnapped on her way back from school near Addis Ababa. The practice of abduction into marriage is one of Ethiopia's oldest traditions. The girl escapes from the place she is held captive and shoots her would-be husband with a rifle. Meaza Ashenafi, a powerful lawyer, will do all she can to prove that the little girl acted in self-defense. Based on actual events, the film touches on the pangs a community goes through when it abandons centuries-old traditions and tries to adapt to the modern world.
CORN ISLAND, 2014
Georgia | DCP, Color, 99’ | Georgian, Abkhazian
Director: George Ovashvili
Cast: İlyas Salman, Mariam Buturishvili, Irakli Samushia
On a small island on the border between Georgia and Abkhazia, a grandfather and his young granddaughter till the soil and plant corn. One day, a wounded soldier hiding among the growing corn stalks will both change the lives of the two islanders and jeopardize the neutrality they had been preserving for years. Ilyas Salman stars in this psychological drama about the harmony between man and nature.
CONCRETE NIGHT (BETONİYÖ), 2013
Finland | DCP, Black & White, 93’ | Finnish
Director: Pirjo HonkasaloCast: Johannes Brotherus, Jari Virman, Anneli Karppinen
A fragile and vulnerable young boy, Simo has one last day he can spend with his older brother before the latter goes to prison. During this day spent together in the streets of Helsinki, Simo will witness incidents he never saw before. His perception of life will change and he will become aware of his true identity. Set in the city’s suburb, the film creates a poetic effect through its black-and-white cinematography and three-act structure.