The films from Argentina and France are definite contenders to be nominated at the Oscars and thus they're the two films that have the most buzz. The film from Mexico also has an extremely high profile because it's directed by Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. But the films from Albania and Finland are the ones we liked the most. So here's our latest breakdown on these last set of films.
(Argentina - Argentina, 1985)
Argentina, 1985 is the latest International Feature submission for Argentina. Based on real events, the film follows the events surrounding the trials that occurred in 1984-1985 against the civil-military dictators. Those individuals were responsible for the most bloody dictatorship in the history of the country. The film follows a group of lawyers led by prosecutors Julio Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo. As the trial is scheduled to happen in five months, the film showcases and follows the events from September 1984 to the beginning of the trial in February 1985 to the end of the proceedings in September 1985. Director Santiago Mitre does an excellent reenactment of what it took to bring Videla and other leaders of Argentina's military to justice after committing various atrocities against regular people. It’s an extraordinary film showing the difference that a small group of brave individuals can do for one’s country. In the end, we still all can have hope that things will get better, that fighting for justice is worth it in order to make a better world for us and for future generations.
France has selected Saint Omer as their pick for this year. The incredible director Alice Diop has created one of the most thought-provoking films about motherhood and the universal feeling women share about it. The film begins with Rama, a teacher and a writer. Her latest novel has been received extremely well and she’s now in the process of beginning her next book. She decides to head to Saint Omer to attend the trial of Laurence Coly. Laurence is accused of killing her 15 month daughter, Elise, by abandoning her in a beach in Berck-Sur-Mer. Anchored by a terrific and understated performance by Guslagie Malanda, Saint Omer is a slow, detailed, intriguing film where you’re not sure where the film is headed but when you do, you begin to appreciate its full brilliance. It’s a staggering slow-build meditation on motherhood, and the fears associated with it. It’s about the instant bond that’s created between mothers and children and how they’re intertwined with one another in an inextricable manner. It’s a film dedicated to mothers.
(Chile - Blanquita)
These next two films are about injustices that are happening today towards individuals who are vulnerable or minorities.
Blanquita is the latest International Feature submission from Chile. With his latest film, director Fernando Guzzoni has created a disturbing and unique spin on a difficult subject matter where a young girl accuses a senator of rape. The film takes place in a shelter where young boys and young girls who’ve survived various kinds of abuse and violence live under the careful attention of a priest named Manuel. Blanca, who goes by Blanquita, and Carlos are two children who are a part of this community. The entire film is shot under greyness and darkness creating the perfect atmosphere for this dark topic. With any child who has suffered the most unimaginable trauma it’s not always fully clear when Blanquita is telling us the truth or is imagining what could’ve happened. This creates the perfect eerie, complex film about rape survivors, the guilty, and the society that we have created protecting those who have power. Regardless of the outcome, Blanquita is brave, strong and broken all at once.
New Zealand's Muru is a tense, 90 minute film, inspired by true events that happened to the Tuhoe people in the small community of Ruatoki. In 2007, the New Zealand government raided this village to arrest activist Tame and other members of the community. Directed by Tearepa Kahi, the film gives a historical perspective on how the people of Tuhoe have been treated by the police for decades. Led by the brilliant Cliff Curtis, the cast are all incredible in their roles. And it is important to note that Tame plays himself in the film too. The film is powerful, devastating, intense, vital work. It’s real and emotional. The fact that this film is made by the people who experienced this injustice makes it that much more special. Muru is filmmaking at its best. It’s vital to recognize that the injustice against the Maori people are still happening today, and it’s still happening to Indigenous people all around the world. This film is a reminder, and a plea, for it all to end.
(Albania - A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On)
A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On is the latest International Feature submission for Albania. This incredible, subtle, quiet film is about two inseparable deaf-mute identical twin brothers who begin to experience signs of blindness. Set in Tirana, Agim and Gezim live together in an apartment. As they’re both deaf-mute they rely on each other for everything, but they also count on Gezim’s girlfriend Ana for help when communicating with others. Agim however, begins to notice signs that there’s something wrong with his eyesight. After a series of examinations, the doctor discloses that his eyes are irreparably damaged and that gradually he will go blind. And since they’re monozygotic twins, Gezim will also suffer the same fate. Director Gentian Koci has created one of the most touching, heartbreaking, unique films of the year. Filmed with no music, no sound, and with no special effects, Gentian has allowed this story, which is inspired by true events, to take over with such raw and pure emotions. This film hit us really hard. It made us really think that life, and all the beauty surrounding us, needs to be appreciated daily. It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, like a cheery smile, a kind gesture or for the brothers, a little human touch. And likewise, even in the most unexpected places or in the worst-case scenarios there can still be moments of pure joy and happiness.
(Kazakhstan - Life)
The films submitted by Mexico and Kazakhstan are reflective films on life, and the journey through all the ups and downs associated with it.
Bardo is the latest International Feature submission for Mexico. Best known for Babel, The Revenant and Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest film is a dazzling, spectacularly beautiful looking film that’s deeply personal to him. The film begins with Silverio, a journalist and now documentary filmmaker. He’s been living in Los Angeles for the past 20 years with his wife Lucia, and their children Lorenzo and Camila. He’s about to become the first Latin American to receive a prestigious American award for his outstanding work in journalism. Bardo is a feast to watch. Every scene is gorgeously shot. Inarritu shoots virtually the entire film in extreme wide angle, allowing every little detail to be shown in every one of his fantastic locations. Inarritu, like most immigrants, is torn between the guilt of leaving ones birthplace and the need to be accepted in ones new country. It’s a state of never really feeling like you belong somewhere. It’s like being stuck in purgatory. The film itself is a blend of dreams and memories, acknowledging that it’s difficult to separate the two, especially as one gets older. Life is the latest International Feature submission for Kazakhstan. It’s the latest feature film for director Emir Baigazin. It follows a young man, named Arman and his journey in life, through all its ups and downs. The films begins with Arman finding a new job in a company who specializes in creating audio and visual productions. With his wife pregnant with their first child, and in serious debt, finding this new position is exactly what they need right now. Unfortunately, some days later, he causes the accidental deletion of all the videos from every single client in the company causing a mass disruption. As a result, Arman is then tortured and brutally beaten by one of the clients who lost the last bit of imagery that he had of his late father. Director Emir Baigazin’s film starts out as a fantastic drama about the hardships many of us face on a day to day basis. But the film soon abandons all of that and becomes a series of different experiences, adventures and episodes as he journeys through life.
(Slovenia - Orchestra)
Slovenia has selected Orchestra as their choice for this year. The film focuses on a large group of band members who head on a road trip from their small town in Slovenia to Austria as their tour begins. The film focuses on one night in their lives and the film is separated in four different stories. Director Matevz Luzar’s latest project is an excellent ensemble film, almost bordering a tragicomedy, as the movie slowly begins to reveal their lives, fears, burdens outside of their time as orchestra members. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, being shot in black and white. As are the performances and music. Orchestra is a film portraying drinking as a way of escapism. Back home, a lot of these members face a tough life having kids to feed, families to support, in a village where opportunities aren’t always so great. Being able to perform together as a band, as an orchestra, is the highlight in their lives and it was beautiful to see them do what they do best.
Girl Picture is the latest International Feature submission for Finland. Set in Helsinki, this incredible film follows three young girls: Mimmi, Ronkko and Emma. What makes Girl Picture incredible is that it manages to capture the personalities, perspectives and motivations of these three women perfectly. Their stories are all incredibly different and each character is so well done that you’re instantly drawn into them and you want to get to know them better. Their decisions, emotions and the aftermath are all extremely relatable. We just want them to succeed and to be happy. While this film is definitely a coming of age story about three women, it’s overall strength is the fact that it’s a real story about learning to be at peace with oneself and trying to become a better version of oneself too. We all make mistakes, we all learn from our mistakes, and we all need to grow from our mistakes. And this film is a reminder that life is complicated, life isn’t always straight forward, but life can also be a beautiful thing. It’s a joy to experience and witness sexuality, queerness and female friendship free of judgement and restraint.
Now, the toughest part of this entire season is picking the list of films we think will get shortlisted. We are not fans of predictions. We just hope that The Academy members took the time to watch ALL the films and not just the ones with some buzz and exposure. There are some incredible films that should be shortlisted but due to lack of awareness they probably won't - and it's the hardest part of this journey every year.
With that said, here are the 15 films we think will get shortlisted on Wednesday: