Best Foreign Language Film

Yesterday Begoña and I had the opportunity to see Timbuktu, which is also a very interesting film among the nominees for Best Foreign Language in the forthcoming Academy Awards. I don’t think it will be an easy task to choose the winner. Any one of them has sufficient merits to achieve the award. My personal preferences lean heavily in favour of the films which I believe have fewer opportunities, namely Tangerines and Timbuktu. Although I believe the great favourite is Ida with Leviathan as a second best.  Click on the title, to access my film notes.

Ida (Poland) Directed by Pawel Pawlikoski

PL –DK- FR – UK / 82 minutes / color / Opus Film, Phoenix Film Investments Dir: Pawel Pawlikoski Pro: Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol, Ewa Puszczynska Scr: Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Paweł Pawlikowski Cine: Łukasz Żal, Ryszard Lenczewski Mus: Kristian Eidnes Andersen Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska (Ida Lebenstein/Anna), Agata Kulesza (Wanda Gruz), Joanna Kulig (a singer), Dawid Ogrodnik (Lis, a saxophonist), Adam Szyszkowski (Feliks Skiba), Jerzy Trela (Szymon Skiba) Release Date in Spain 28 March 2014.

Synopsis: Poland  1962. Anna is a novice, an orphan brought up by nuns in the convent. She has to see Wanda, the only living relative, before she takes her vows. Wanda tells Anna that  Anna is Jewish. Both women start a journey not only to find their family tragic story, but who they really are and where they belong. They question their religions and ideas  they believed in. Both are trying to go on living but only one of them can. (Official site)

Leviathan (Russia) Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

RU / 141 minutes / color / Non-Stop Production with the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture Cinema Fund, RuArts Foundation Dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev Pro: Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergei Melkumov Scr: Oleg Negin, Andrei Zvyagintsev Cine: Mikhail Krichman Mus: Philip Glass Cast: Aleksei Serebryakov (Kolia), Elena Lyadova (Lilya), Vladimir Vdovichenkov (Dimitri, the lawyer friend), Roman Madyanov (Vadim, the mayor), Sergey Pokhadaev (Roma) Release Date in Spain (theatres) 1 January, 2015.

Synopsis: Kolya (AlexeÏ Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (SergueÏ Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage. The town’s corrupt mayor Vadim Shelevyat (Roman Madianov) is determined to take away his business, his house, as well as his land. First the Mayor tries buying off Kolya, but Kolya unflinchingly fights as hard as he can so as not to lose everything he owns including the beauty that has surrounded him from the day he was born. Facing resistance, the mayor starts being more aggressive….. (Official site)

Tangerines (Estonia) Directed by Zaza Urushadze

EE – GE / 87 minutes / color / Allfilm, Cinema24 Dir: Zaza Urushadze Pro: Ivo Felt and Zaza Urushadze Scr: Zaza Urushadze Cine: Rein Kotov Mus: Niaz Diasamidze Cast: Lembit Ulfsak, Mikheil Meskhi, Giorgi Nakhashidze, Elmo Nuganen, Raivo Trass. This film has not been released in Spain theatres yet.

Synopsis: There have been Estonian settlements on the Caucasian Black Sea coast for over a hundred years. The 1992 outbreak of the bloody conflicts between Georgia and the Russia-supported republic of Abkhazia forced the majority of Estonians to return to the country of their forefathers. Their villages turned into ghost towns – only a few people stayed behind. Among them, aging carpenter Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and his neighbor Markus (Elmo Nuganen), who makes a living cultivating tangerines. The fruit is ripe and should be harvested soon, but the conflict gets in the way. In fact you could say it comes for a house visit… When a battle takes place right outside his door, Ivo takes in two badly wounded men: Achmed (Giorgi Nakhashidze), a Chechen, and Nika (Mikheil Meskhi), a Georgian. He soon discovers that housing deadly enemies is not easy. Yet he acts calmly and declares his home a diplomatic neutral zone. This deeply pacifist chamber drama is as tense as any thriller. (Source: Palm Spring International Film Society)

Timbuktu (Mauritania) Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

FR – MR / 97 minutes / color / Les Films du Worso Dir: Abderrahmane Sissako Pro: Sylvie Pialat Scr: Abderrahmane Sissako and Kessen Tall Cine: Sofian El Fani Mus: Amine Bouhafa Cast: Abel Jafri, Hichem Yacoubi, Toulou Kiki (of the band Kel Assouf), Pino Desperado, Kettly Noël, Fatoumata Diawara Release Date in Spain (theatres) 6 February 2015.

Synopsis: Not far from Timbuktu, now ruled by the religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people suffer, powerless, from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith. Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes when Kidane accidentally kills Amadou, the fisherman who slaughtered «GPS», his beloved cow. He now has to face the new laws of the foreign occupants. (Timbuktu Press Kit)

Wild Tales (Argentina) Directed by Damián Szifron

AR – ES / 122 minutes / color / Kramer & Sigman Films, El Deseo, Corner Producciones Dir: Damián Szifron Pro: Hugo Sigman, Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar, Matías Mosteirín, Esther García, Claudio Belocopitt, Gerardo Rozín Scr: Damián Szifrón Cine: Javier Juliá Mus: Gustavo Santaolalla Cast: Ricardo Darín, Óscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, Darío Grandinetti Release Date in Spain (theatres) 17 October 2014.

Synopsis: Inequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them, however, explode. This is a movie about those people. Vulnerable in the face of a reality that shifts and suddenly turns unpredictable, the characters of Wild Tales cross the thin line that divides civilization and barbarism. A lover’s betrayal, a return to the repressed past and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they cede to the undeniable pleasure of losing control. (Source: Relatos salvajes Press Kit)

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