The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film

by Rachel · February 4, 2012 · LAMB Devours the Oscars · 9 Comments
Editor’s note: Welcome to the eleventh of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!

By Diana of Aziza’s Picks

The Foreign Film category is not a popular one – the industry and the viewers usually just want to get it over with and move on to the important ones, but what they don’t know is that, in most cases, this category hides the best, most inventive and impressive movies of the year.

Just because they are in a different language or set in a foreign country does not make them less important or beautiful. I dare you, next time you want to see a new movie, to try out a foreign one – maybe a past winner at the Oscars, maybe one of this year’s nominees. Speaking of, here they are:
1. Bullhead (aka Rundskop) – Belgium
Directed and Written By: Michael R. Roskam 
Stars: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval and Jeanne Dandoy 
Synopsis: The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky’s past, set in motion a chain of events with far reaching consequences. Bullhead is an exciting tragedy about fate, lost innocence and friendship, about crime and punishment, but also about conflicting desires and the irreversibility of a man’s destiny. [IMDb] 
Review: Read Bonjour Tristesse’s post on it – excellent website for foreign films and more, please do check it out.
Chances: Widely regarded as a great, disturbing film, with 9 nominations at the Belgian Film awards, and beating the critically acclaimed A Kid with a Bike for a spot on the Belgium shortlist for Oscar’s Foreign film nominations, Bullhead can offer one of the surprises of the night. 
Trivia: Matthias Schoenaerts had to gain 27 kilograms (60 pounds) of muscle mass for the role of Jacky Vanmarsenille.

2. Footnote (aka Hearat Shulayim) – Israel

Directed and Written By: Joseph Cedar 
Stars: Shlomo Bar-Aba, Lior Ashkenazi and Aliza Rosen 
Synopsis: Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak. [IMDb] 
Review: Sound On Sight talks about the movie.
Chances: Competing in Cannes last year, it won the award for Best Screenplay. Apart from A Separation, who is the favourite pick for this year’s Best Foreign Film, it is believed that Footnote is the only one that can provide a real surprise in this category. 
Trivia: Nominated for 9 Ophir awards, the equivalent of Oscars in Israel

3. In Darkness – Poland
Directed By: Agnieszka Holland 
Stars: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann and Agnieszka Grochowska 
Synopsis: In Darkness tells the true story of Leopold Soha who risks his own life to save a dozen people from certain death. Initially only interested in his own good, the thief and burglar hide Jewish refugees for 14 months in the sewers of the Nazi-occupied town of Lvov (former Poland). [IMDb] 
Review: Beautiful post by Wendy Weinstein in the Film Journal 
Chances: Many believe Holland was robbed the last two times he competed with his films, so maybe this is an opportunity to reward him, especially since one of the main themes (Holocaust) is a critic’s “darling.” 
Trivia: The nomination is the third for director Agnieszka Holland, who was nominated for Europa Europa and Angry Harvest, both set during the Holocaust.
4. Monsieur Lazhar – Canada
Directed and Written By: Philippe Falardeau 
Stars: Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron 
Synopsis: Bachir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically. While the class goes through a long healing process, nobody in the school is aware of Bachir’s painful former life, nor that he is at risk of being deported at any moment. Adapted from Evelyne de la Cheneliere’s play, Bachir Lazhar depicts the encounter between two distant worlds and the power of self-expression. Using great sensitivity and humor, Philippe Falardeau follows a humble man who is ready to transcend his own loss in order to accompany children beyond the silence and taboo of death. [IMDb] 
Review: Liz Braun writes about the movie on a local website
Chances: Unlikely, although it is highly regarded by most critics and viewers. 
Trivia: Nominated for 9 Genie Awards
5. A Separation aka (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin)- Iran: TOP CONTENDER

Directed and Written By: Asghar Farhadi 
Stars: Peyman Maadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat 
Synopsis: A married couple are faced with a difficult decision – to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers. [IMDb] 
Review: Andy Buckle’s great take on the movie, from June of last year, after viewing it at a festival
Chances: A Separation has already received the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film, as well as a Golden Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival, and it is on its way to winning an Oscar, too. As I said, it is considered to be a top contender for the award. 
Trivia: Also nominated in the Original Screenplay category

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9 Responses to The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Foreign Language Film

  1. Kevyn Knox says:

    I like your look at the foreign language category. It would definitely be a surprise to see anything but A Separation win.

    Not to be nitpicky (or seem like an ass), but in your section on Agnieszka Holland, you say he and him in your description. I am guessing Ms. Holland would not like this description of herself. Then again, perhaps she would. Who knows.

  2. Aziza says:

    Hey Kevyn, I’m glad you liked my take on it. You’re right about Agnieska, my mistake, I have no idea how I missed that, and it’s the second time in the last couple of days I did something that stupid-lesson learned…hopefully! Sorry for the mistake!Thanks for the comment!

  3. Ryan McNeil says:

    While I’m admittedly biased, I have to ask: Why is MONSIEUR LAZHAR’s chances only listed as “slim”?

    Voters are required to see all five nominees before they are allowed to cast their ballot, so its chances are just as strong as any of the others: It has a 20% chance.

    Remember, this is a category where upsets happen… So A SEPARATION could miss the mark and join previous frontrunners like PAN’S LABYRINTH and THE WHITE RIBBON, and AMELIE.

  4. Great analysis here, and I love that you’ve linked to all the different Lambs who have reviewed these. This is one of the categories where it really pays to have friends from all over the world, where the films are released at different times and make their way to the various festivals. Thanks again!

  5. Kevyn Knox says:

    You are correct Ryan. This is a category rife for an upset. I giddily predicted such upsets in recent Oscar ballot days but I do not see one coming this year. Of course I will probably change my mind come my final predictions, so why am I even babbling about it.

  6. Aziza says:

    @Ryan: If you are right about the 20% chances, then everyone in any category has equal chances to win the award they are competing for- but we know that is not entirely right and some of the categories already have sure winners or at least 2 top contenders. Monsieur Lazhar had an “unlikely” mark because that’s what my research showed, but of course, I might be wrong! You’re being a little too harsh now, everyone predicts the Oscars and that’s what I am doing- I’m not saying that Separation will win 100%, it’s just a prediction!I guess we’ll see on the 26th, won’t we? 🙂
    @NeverTooEarlyMP: I’m glad you liked it, thank you for the comment!

  7. Good job Diana. This was the post I was waiting for, and you did not disappoint, and thanks for including a link to me.

    I think most of us expect A Separation to win, but like Ryan mentioned, voters must attend all 5 screenings to be able to vote on this award, so it’s never a sure bet. I for one expect them to get it wrong again.

  8. Aziza says:

    Thanks BT, I am happy that I didn’t dissapoint, I know you have been perfect for the job, so it’s reassuring to see you liked it! Well, the AMPAS don’t usually get everything right, as we all know, and this being a special category, there might be a surprise, but I doubt it, personally!We’ll see!

  9. Ryan McNeil says:

    @ Aziza… (Pardon the delay in responding) I didn’t mean to sound harsh, so apologies if I came on strong. But let me clarify – the “20% chance” I mentioned is specific to only this category.

    In order to vote for Best Foreign Film, academy members *have to* see all five nominees. No other category has this rule, so many Academy members cast their votes leaving films and performances unseen.

    So looking at a category like Best Actor, one could say Demien Bichir has 5% odds of winning since so few people will have seen his work. (I think it’s a little dumb that people could hand out these awards without giving everyone an equal shake, but that’s just me).

    So we’ll see…this might be a year where the early favorite comes away with the loot, like THE SEA INSIDE…or it might be a year where we get surprised, like THE SECRET LIVES OF OTHERS.

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