Five international films to watch before the Oscars

In a year of global cinematic excellence, voters should consider a premium for excellent work beyond the justifiable hype for Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” and Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory”. The year has been so strong that acclaimed films such as “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” by Céline Sciamma and “Bacurau” by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles missed their country’s international film selection. Yes, the category formerly known as Foreign Language Film has a new nickname, but this year’s record of 93 submissions once again features dramatic and diverse stories from around the world. Here are five to watch out for.

“Invisible Life” (Brazil)

Bringing Martha Batalha’s melodramatic novel to life was no easy task for director and co-writer Karim Aïnouz, but he was fortunate enough to choose Carol Duarte and Julia Stockler as the film’s lead roles. The actresses give remarkable performances as sisters Eurídice and Guida, who are separated by fate in the 1950s in Rio de Janeiro. Duarte and Stockler recount nearly 20 years in the life of the sisters, but Ainouz needed someone special to play a much older incarnation of Euridice at the end of the film. He was shocked when the country’s living legend, Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, agreed to play the role.

“I think what is really [great] about working with her, at that age and she’s played so many roles, I have a feeling those roles kind of stay with you, ”Ainouz said of the“ Central Station ”star, aged 18 and over. 90 years old. “She’s younger than you and me together, like new energy, and really, really fantastic.” And with all these things going on, in our government politically and you look at her – she is what this country is. She is a force of nature.

A scene from France’s submission to the Oscars “Les Misérables”.

(SRAB Films / Rectangle Productions / Lyly films / Festival de Cannes)

“Les Misérables” (France)

Ladj Ly’s first narrative film may have the same title as Victor Hugo’s classic novel, but it has only one true narrative connection: Montfermeil, France. The population of the Parisian suburbs changed radically from the 19th century following the arrival of North African immigrants in the 1960s. Ly was inspired by the often tense relationship with the police officers who patrol the neighborhood and its inhabitants.

“France still has a very difficult problem with immigration,” Ly says through an interpreter. “[It] has a history with its ex-colonies and Africa. It’s always complicated. It is still a subject, a bit like slavery, which has not been reconciled and digested by the main French.

“Les Misérables” won the jury prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, but Ly seems just as proud to be the first black French filmmaker selected as France’s candidacy for the International Film Oscar.

“First of all, it’s an incredible honor,” Ly says. “It’s an opening. Even if it is still a very taboo subject, we now represent France to talk about this subject. We hope this will make our cause heard and [spark] debate on the subject, we hope that it will be able to make a difference, to change.

Catrinel Marlon in a scene from

Catrinel Marlon in a scene from “The Whistlers”.

(Vlad Cioplea / mk2 Films)

“The Whistlers” (Romania)

Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu’s latest effort was inspired by a moment at the end of his famous 2009 drama “Police, Adjective”. What if your main character – in this case a policeman – was forced to learn a somewhat obscure language for nefarious purposes? What if that tongue was the only thing that could save him from a terrible fate? The result is an elegant film noir that features the unique whistling tongue born on the Spanish island of La Gomera.

Thanks to modern technologies such as cell phones and the Internet, the indigenous language is considered, for lack of a better term, endangered. Porumboiu found an instructor at the Island’s Whistling Language Department ready to teach four of the film’s actors how to speak it. The movie just wouldn’t work if the actors weren’t convincing by “hissing,” but Porumboiu insists he was always convinced that they could be successful.

“The actors, they’re much smarter than me,” Porumboiu says humbly. “Me, I tried to [learn] but I also had to do some production stuff and so I stopped it. But I will try again. But the actors, they did very well.

Elia Suleiman in a scene from

Elia Suleiman in a scene from “It Must Be Heaven”.

(Rectangle productions / Nazira films / Pallas film / Possibles Media / Zeyno film / Festival De Cannes)

“It must be paradise” (Palestine)

There are moments in Elia Suleiman’s absurd comedy where Suleiman, playing himself, sort of crosses deserted Parisian monuments like a lonely figure in the desert. Or police officers perform inspired choreography on hoverboards through deserted streets in the middle of a sunny day. A number of these scenes were not originally in the scenario of the Palestinian filmmaker, but suggested by someone, above all, in the mayor’s office.

Suleiman had been warned by a French member of his production that he would never obtain authorization to shoot in the tourist centers of the city. The town hall employee, however, had other ideas. He asked Suleiman about one scene in particular: “Do you want to film this from the [Champs-Élysées]? ”The director replied,“ Well, I don’t have a scene in the sample today. ”And he replied,“ Write one. I’ll close it for you.

The manager had basically decided that if he was going to shut down parts of Paris for the latest movie “Mission: Impossible”, he would do so for Suleiman’s independent effort as well.

“Everyone in Paris is really wondering how it went because they keep asking me, ‘How did you do that?’ And it’s all actually down to that person, and I had a really good team as well, which made it all achievable and happening. “

Pierfrancesco Favino (right) in a scene from

Pierfrancesco Favino (right) in a scene from “Le traître”.

(Cannes film festival)

“The traitor” (Italy)

Many filmmakers might be intimidated by the scale of the latter part of Italian gangster Tommaso Buscetta’s life, but Marco Bellocchio, 79, was more than up to the challenge. Beyond chronicling the last two decades of Buscetta’s years in Italy, Brazil and Miami, he had to find a way to transform many courtroom scenes featuring one of the most notorious informants. of Italy into a captivating cinema.

“I wanted, of course, to portray these courtroom scenes in an unconventional, non-stereotypical way, in my own way,” says Bellocchio. “In Palermo, on the stage of the great trial, we were very lucky to be able to shoot in the bunker of the courthouse where the maxi trial really took place. We breathed the same atmosphere, breathed the same story [where] this trial which took place 40 years ago. And this opportunity created a kind of natural inspiration, not only for me, but also for the actors. “

Bellocchio adds: “It is true that millions of films have been made about gangsters, mafia, trials and murders. I think we see proof that we have encountered that [standard] because at least in Italy the audiences were very generous to us; it was a huge success.

Darcy J. Skinner

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