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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oscarstravaganza: Best Foreign Language Film 2010

The first Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was presented in 1947 as a Special Achievement Oscar to Vittorio De Sica's Shoe Shine. For the better part of the next decade, the award was used to recognize one non-English film deemed to be of particular value during the year (with the exception of 1953 when no award was given) and then in 1956 it was finally introduced as a competitive category. Much as I like the idea of the Foreign Language Film category, I must admit that looking over the list of winners, AMPAS had a better track record when it was just picking out one film for special notice than it does when nominating five. That may, of course, be because the nominating process for this category is more or less guaranteed to lead to disappointment. Every country is open to submitting one non-English film for consideration and from those submissions, a long list of nine films is selected which is then voted down to five by a 30 member committee.

This year's nominees:

Ajami (Israel)

Written and directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Ajami is a multi-plotline film that takes place in one neighborhood and explores the tensions that exist within it. The characters are a mix of Christian and Muslim and many are played by non-actors, underscorring the documentary look and feel of the film.

The Secret In Their Eyes (Argentina)

Directed by Juan Jose Campanella and written by Campanella and Eduardo Sacheri. From what I've heard of the plot, the film is a mystery/police procedural story centering on an unsolved murder that is several decades cold. The film won 12 awards from the AMPAS Argentina and was nominated for 9 Goya Awards (Spain's Oscar equivalent).

The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

Written and directed by Claudia Llosa. The film explores the conflict between the Sendero Luminoso group and the state's military, and the military's strategy of mass rapes as a means of winning the war. The film has won several awards from festivals around the world.

A Prophet (France)

Directed by Jacques Audiard and written by Audiard along with Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri, Nicolas Paufaillit. The story centers on a young man who enters the prison system and essentially learns how to become a better and more powerful criminal. The film has received numerous awards including the BAFTA, the Grand Jury Prize from Cannes and the National Board of Review Award and was nominated for the Golden Globe.

The White Ribbon (Germany)

Written and directed by Michael Haneke, the film takes place just prior to World War I focuses on the generation that would grow up to become Nazis. The film won the Palm D'Or at Cannes as well as Best Film at the European Film Awards, the Golden Globe, and various critics awards both for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography. As far as buzz goes, it's probably second only to A Prophet and it is the only nominee to have a nomination outside of the Foreign Language Film category (for cinematography).

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