South Africa among the foreign-language stragglers

Posted by · 8:24 am · October 12th, 2008

Despite the deadline for submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race ostensibly being October 1st, a further four dawdling countries have been added to the list of contenders that I discussed recently. They are Thailand, Lithuania, Uruguay and my home country, South Africa. I’m guessing none of them will really trouble the race, but as we know, this category moves in mysterious ways.

Great South African films are few and far between — and none of them have yet come within touching distance of an Oscar. No “Tsotsi” fan am I. But in picking Ralph Ziman’s “Jerusalema” this year, the South African selectors are clearly hoping it will strike a similar chord to Gavid Hood’s 2005 Oscar-winner — like that film, it’s another Johannesburg-set crime story, though evidently a less sentimental one.

Following its appearance at Berlin in February, Variety was moderately impressed:

A propulsive, glossy, Johannesburg-set actioner charting the rise of an ambitious ne’er-do-well a la “Scarface,” “City of God” and virtually every other rags-to-riches-to-ruins underworld epic, “Jerusalema” overcomes derivative genre cliches and daunting length to punch home its crime-doesn’t-pay message on chutzpah alone.

To offer a local perspective, our South African friend Nick Plowman has some reservations, but ultimately gives it the thumbs-up:

“Jerusalema” is a first rate thriller, bursting at the seams with energy. Its vivid ambition is unlike anything I have seen come out of South Africa in ages … It’s too long at times, it drags here and there, (but) it’s gritty, real and ambiguous.

For me, no film since 1988’s stunning “Mapantsula” has captured that fascinating story world with genuine conviction, so I’m looking forward to seeing this. I suspect, however, that with another sprawling, Biblically-titled crime saga, Italy’s masterful “Gomorrah,” in the race, “Jerusalema”‘s Oscar chances are slim to none.

Lithuania’s entry, meanwhile, is “Loss,” an intricate ensemble drama about six lives connected by a tragic accident, set in Lithuania and Ireland. Variety calls the film “challenging (and) satisfying,” praising writer-director-editor Maris Martinsons for the assurance of his narrative construction.

Rounding out the submissions are Thailand’s “Love of Siam,” a gay-themed teen romance that’s been popular with audiences and critics at home, and Uruguay’s “Kill Them All” a legal thriller that sounds rather less dynamic than its title.

Check out the full, updated list of contenders here.

→ 6 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

6 responses so far

  • 1 10-13-2008 at 7:26 am

    Hardy said...

    Whoa, Guy, I had no idea you were from South Africa.

    And Jerusalema has got my attention now.

  • 2 10-13-2008 at 10:10 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yep, born and (mostly) bred, Hardy. London has been home for a while now, so I’m not all that clued up on the SA film scene anymore, but I quite like the sound of this.

  • 3 10-13-2008 at 11:46 pm

    pieterk said...

    Hi guys

    I am a South African, but have never even heard of the movie. Unlike Tsotsi it doesn’t seem to buzz down here.

  • 4 10-14-2008 at 1:21 am

    Glenn said...

    I’m a fan of “Yesterday” and “U-Carmen”, although I haven’t actually seen “Tsotsi”.

  • 5 10-14-2008 at 9:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Thanks, Glenn. “U-Carmen eKhayelistsha” is beautiful, though sadly, few people in its home country have even seen it. I thought Leleti Khumalo was great in “Yesterday,” but I found the film itself a bit on the maudlin side.

    Try and dig up “Paljas” if you can — easily the best SA film of the last 10-odd years, for me.