Israel, Bosnia among latest foreign Oscar submissions

Posted by · 10:29 am · September 22nd, 2010

I know a couple of you have been curious about what Israel submits as its Best Foreign Language Film contender, given that the country been on something of an Oscar hot streak of late — securing nominations in each of the last three races, though the country remains the most-nominated in the category’s history never to have taken the gold. (Zero from nine, for those keeping score.)

As usual, the country has automatically entered the top winner at its national film awards ceremony, the Ophirs, which took place last night. Most pundits saw this as a slam-dunk for “Intimate Grammar,” a high-prestige literary adaptation that led the race with 12 nods.

However, in a sizable upset, it was bested by Eran Riklis’s “The Human Resources Manager,” a gentle, character-centered dramedy about a bakery personnel officer tasked with shipping the body of a foreign employee back to her native Romania. (Thanks to reader Cameron McAllister for the tip.)

The awkwardly titled film received mixed reviews upon its premiere at last month’s Locarno Film Festival, with some critics declaring it a step down from Riklis’s excellent previous feature, “Lemon Tree.” It should be noted that, while “The Human Resources Manager” reportedly touches on suicide bombing and cultural discord, Israel’s recent trio of Oscar nominees — “Beaufort,” “Waltz With Bashir” and “Ajami” — were more assertively political works, which might have factored into their success with the Academy.

Moving on, the foreign-language race has now welcomed its first former champ: Danis Tanovic, whose “No Man’s Land” memorably upset “Amélie” in 2001, has once more been tapped as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entrant. His latest, “Cirkus Columbia,” recently bowed at Venice and went on to play Toronto; set in pre-war rural Bosnia, it charts the misfortunes of a broken family as a foreshadowing of the hardships to come.

I regret to say I missed it on the Lido, but critical consensus appears to be that it’s a successful, if unremarkable, return to the milieu of Tanovic’s Oscar-winning debut, following a pair of less well-received international ventures. Perhaps Academy voters will be similarly welcoming; Tanovic has supplied the country with its only nomination in nine attempts.

Other films to have entered the race since my last update include Bulgaria (“Eastern Plays”), Egypt (“Messages From the Sea”), Iran (“Farewell Baghdad”), Macedonia (“Mothers” — from director Milcho Manchevski, whose debut “Before the Rain” garnered the country its sole nomination to date in 1994) and Norway (“Angel”). That brings the tally to 34; check out our updated list of submissions here.

Incidentally, I’ve been informed that we may hear news of Mexico’s submission later today — of interest principally to see if they submit Alejandro González Iñárritu’s divisive “Biutiful.” (Why do I have a weird hunch they won’t?)

[Photo: TIFFr.com]




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14 responses so far

  • 1 9-22-2010 at 12:48 pm

    han said...

    Canada picks Incendies!

  • 2 9-22-2010 at 2:04 pm

    McAllister said...

    Sweet name-drop. Thanks, Guy.

  • 3 9-22-2010 at 2:25 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Han: Thanks. Was almost a foregone conclusion, wasn’t it? Will mention it in the next update.

    McAllister: You’re welcome.

    Bangladesh has also entered. The submissions page has been updated.

  • 4 9-22-2010 at 3:05 pm

    Lance said...

    Thanks for the updates – whether you agree or disagree with the films submitted and nominated, this category always gives everyone a good list of movies to watch. So far, I haven’t seen anything great – “Celda 211” and “I’ll Whistle..” were just okay.

  • 5 9-22-2010 at 3:12 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Nice to hear some of you folks are seeking these out. See if you can track down “Dogtooth” — that should break your not-great run.

  • 6 9-22-2010 at 3:44 pm

    BulgingThrobbingShroom said...

    I don’t find anything remotely akward about the title “The Human Resources Manager”. On the contrary it’s striking and confident sounding.

    (And yes, this is coming from a guy with that name.)

    Speaking of Israel though, had there been any news on “The Futurological Congress” announced a couple of years back? Now, that’s an interesting sounding project.

    Would love to see some production stills or at least a confirmation that it’s still in development.

    Also, any idea how “Biutiful” was received in Mexico?

  • 7 9-22-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Lance said...

    Thanks Guy – I’ll look out for it

  • 8 9-22-2010 at 9:01 pm

    Princess of Peace said...

    According to someone on Awards Daily Mexico will not announce until Monday because they have so many submissions.

    Why shouldn’t they pick Biutiful? Divisive or not it has an Oscar nominated director and an Oscar winning actor. It is their best shot for a nomination. But it is a co-production with Spain so I wonder if it is really eligible.

  • 9 9-23-2010 at 1:57 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Princess: It is eligible — remember that “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a Spanish co-production too. But I wonder whether, given the choices on offer, they might want to pick something closer to home.

    Also, call me crazy, but I don’t see that Academy branch really going nuts for it.

  • 10 9-23-2010 at 4:04 am

    Manuel L. said...

    Is it me or does this year have fewer “high profile” submissions? Last year “A Prophet” and “The White Ribbon” were killing it with critics and festivals. And in 2008 we had “Waltz with Bashir”, “The Class” and, well, “Gomorrah”. I guess France’s submission has the higher profile for now, and it’s nomination is pretty much guaranteed, I don’t think the executive committee is going to leave it out if it’s not in the first shortlist.

  • 11 9-23-2010 at 4:18 am

    Manuel L. said...

    Ooops sorry, the highest profile submission is actually Thailand’s Palme d’Or winner. At first I thought “There’s no way this is getting a nomination”, but maybe the executive committee would want to keep the prestige in the category by including a Cannes favorite.

  • 12 9-23-2010 at 7:25 am

    Princess of Peace said...

    I think that France’s submission will be nominated. I do not think that Uncle Boonmee will be nominated. It sounds too way out for them. I think that the Academy will actually go for Biutiful, especially because of Bardem’s performance. He has already won an Oscar and he is in every scene of the film (from what I’ve heard).

  • 13 9-23-2010 at 1:11 pm

    Michael W. said...

    It’s now official that Denmark has submitted Susanne Bier’s “In a Better World”. Her film “After the Wedding” was nominated a couple of years ago.

    In a Better World received some fine reviews here in Denmark and was recently screened at Toronto were it also got a nice reception. It hasn’t exactly set the world on fire but the word on it has generally speaking been good. I think it’s the right choice, but have a hard time seeing it being nominated (but I also said that After the Wedding didn’t stood a chance in hell… So what do I know! :D ).

  • 14 9-23-2010 at 1:15 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Thanks for the update, Michael. I expected that would be the one they’d pick. (Indeed, I actually have it predicted as a nominee.)