Foreign film watch: Finland, Serbia … and Cyndi Lauper

Posted by · 5:37 pm · September 16th, 2009

Cyndi LauperThree more to add to the growing pile of official Best Foreign Language Film submissions:

Finland (a nominee in 2002 for Aki Kaurismaki’s “The Man Without a Past”) has opted for Klaus Hero’s “Letters to Father Jacob,” a reportedly gentle drama about a paroled murderer who finds redemption working as a secretary to a blind rural priest.

Sounds Academy-friendly so far; Variety’s rave review, which lauds director and cast alike for making “something fresh and heartrending out of predictable material,” further suggests this could be one to keep an eye on.

Serbia, still seeking a first nomination in the category, has decided to appeal to American sensibilities by picking the partially New York-set “Here and There,” which follows the trials of an American saxophonist and a Serbian immigrant, each struggling to get by in the other’s country. (Is there enough non-English dialogue to qualify?)

Well-received at the Tribeca fest earlier this year — Variety makes a charitable comparison to “The Visitor” — where it won a pair of awards including Best New Filmmaker for director Darko Lungulov, it also has the unusual distinction of featuring Cyndi Lauper and her real-life husband in the cast.

Lauper wrote a theme song too, apparently. (Hey, there’s a fun addition to the Best Original Song list.) I’d say 1980s nostalgia could work in its favor, then, but the bluehair foreign committee voters might regard Lauper as a bit too current for their liking.

Finally, Venezuela has selected something rather impressively titled “Libertador Morales, El Justiciero,” about which I can literally find no details whatsoever. (UPDATE: Thanks to the film’s director, Efterpi Charalambidis, for furnishing us with some information. The film tells the story of a humble motorcycle taxi-driver with a secret: by night, he’s a crime-fighting hero of the community.)

Listed below, then, is a roundup of all the submissions we’ve noted so far. Whose chances are you liking at this point? And are we missing any? As always, do feel free to share any knowledge or perspective you have.

Armenia (“A Magician’s Autumn”)
Austria (“For a Moment, Freedom”)
Bulgaria (“The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner”)
Chile (“Dawson, Island 10”)
Finland (“Letters to Father Jacob”)
Germany (“The White Ribbon”)
Hong Kong (“Prince of Tears”)
Hungary (“Chameleon”)
Japan (“Nobody to Watch Over Me”)
Kazakhstan (“Kelin”)
Korea (“Mother”)
Lithuania (“Waterhole”)
Morocco (“Casanegra”)
Portugal (“Doomed Love”)
Romania (“Police, Adjective”)
Serbia (“Here and There”)
Slovenia (“Landscape No. 2”)
Sri Lanka (“Flowers in the Sky”)
Sweden (“Involuntary”)
Taiwan (“No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti”)
Venezuela (“Libertador Morales, El Justiciero”)

→ 14 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

14 responses so far

  • 1 9-17-2009 at 3:15 am

    Ali E. said...

    Finland and Chile’s entries look quite strong to me on paper… Germany will most probably be on the top 5… I’d like to see Romania in there too, but I doubt the film will be received well enough by the Academy even if it makes into the top 9… Let’s wait and see which films will France and Italy submit.

  • 2 9-17-2009 at 4:02 am

    Brent said...

    Guy, what is your opinion on France’s potential submission? I would have to guess Audiard’s Un Prophete, but is there any chance the new Resnais gets through?

    It’s amazing how far the Academy’s taste is from Cannes. Makes me wonder about Haneke’s chances at even a nom…

  • 3 9-17-2009 at 4:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “A Prophet” seems the likeliest contender, since they’ve gone with slightly edgy Cannes winners (“Persepolis,” “The Class”) for the last two years running. I’m not sure if it’s the most Academy-friendly choice they could make, though.

    The Resnais is certainly a possibility. “In the Beginning,” which Roger Ebert rather oddly predicted an Oscar win for back in May, is another, though I think it might not be released in time. Perhaps even “35 Rhums.”

    The pick that truly wouldn’t surprise me is “Seraphine,” which missed last year’s cut-off date by a single day and went on to sweep the Cesar awards.

    I’m not sure if the French selectors are willing to go that far back, but if they did, the Academy would eat that film up. Gentle, pretty, moving, period, older-skewing, a biopic … it’s catnip.

  • 4 9-17-2009 at 4:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m not at all convinced of Haneke’s chances, by the way. The executive committee will probably ensure that the film gets onto the 9-film shortlist, but the voters don’t tend to go in for remote, cerebral auteur work in a big way. I can imagine it being the category’s annual high-profile snub.

  • 5 9-17-2009 at 4:59 am

    Ali E. said...

    I just read that A Prophet is the official French submission…

  • 6 9-17-2009 at 5:51 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Do you have a source for that info, Ali? I believe you, but I can’t find any confirmation.

  • 7 9-17-2009 at 5:55 am

    Ali E. said...

    My only source is a message from a friend in France so far… I’ll post a link when I have one…

  • 8 9-17-2009 at 6:12 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Found confirmation, so not to worry. Thanks for the tip.

  • 9 9-17-2009 at 7:46 am

    PJ said...

    I assume Israel will submit “Lebanon”, which might have a pretty good shot at a nomination, what with its recent silverware. If it eventuates I believe it’ll be Israel’s third consecutive nod, so maybe third time lucky? The official submission list will be announced in about a month I think, which may clear things a bit; it seems right now that speculation’s limited to festival talk only.

  • 10 9-17-2009 at 7:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I agree they’ll probably submit “Lebanon,” though the film is a much harder sit than “Waltz With Bashir” or “Beaufort.” I’m not sure the Academy will take to something so claustrophobic.

  • 11 9-18-2009 at 4:04 pm

    Jeremy said...

    Is “Lorna’s Silence” from Belgium eligible for this year, or is it considered a 2008 release? I just saw it yesterday in theatres and found it highly compelling.

  • 12 9-18-2009 at 6:08 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Lorna’s Silence” was eligible last year, though the Belgians didn’t submit it — they went with “Eldorado” (a very good film, though not as well-known) instead.

  • 13 9-23-2009 at 7:59 am

    Joaquin said...

    Just in, apparently. The Philippines has chosen “Ded na Si Lolo” to represent it in the Foreign Language Film race. It was chosen by the Film Academy of the Philippines, by a six-man committee, I believe.


  • 14 9-23-2009 at 1:27 pm

    Ivan said...

    Serbia replaced its Best Foreign Language Film submission. It is no longer “Here and There” by Darko Lungulov (more than 50% of the dialog is in english). New entry is “Sveti Georgije ubiva azdahu” (“St. George Shoots the Dragon”) by Srdjan Dragojevic.