In the past few decades, the Oscar race for Foreign Language Film has been kinder — or maybe just fairer — to female filmmakers.
Contending for the 2015 Best Foreign Film category next year are 75 films, which will gradually be winnowed down over the next few months to a shortlist of five.
Thirteen of the 75 submitted films were directed by women, including four from Asia, three from Europe, three from Latin America, and two from the Middle East.
They include festival favorites like Ann Hui’s The Golden Era (Hong Kong), Shlomi Elkabetz and Ronit Elkabetz’s Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel), Signe Baumane’s Rocks in My Pockets (Latvia), and Afia Nathaniel’s Dukhtar (Pakistan).
Descriptions below are courtesy of press materials unless otherwise indicated.
Director: Maria Gamboa
At the impressionable age of 16, young Mateo faces a dilemma about the direction his life will take when his corrupt uncle asks him to infiltrate a local Barrancabermeja theatre group to uncover its members’ political activities.
Director: Laura Astorga
Family is no longer a safe place to grow up.
Director: Andrea Sedlackova
The 1980s in Czechoslovakia. The young talented sprinter Anna (Judit Bárdos) is selected for the national team and starts training to qualify for the Olympic Games. As a part of the preparation she is placed in a secret “medical programme” where she’s getting doped with anabolic steroids. Her performance is getting better, but after she collapses at the training, she learns the truth about the drugs. Anna decides to continue in her training without the steroids even though her mother (Anna Geislerova) is worried that she won’t be able to keep up with other athletes and might not qualify for the Olympics, which she sees as the only chance for her daughter to escape from behind the Iron Curtain. After Anna finishes the last in the indoor race, her mother informs the coach (Roman Luknar) that Anna is no longer using steroids. They decide to apply the steroids to Anna secretly, pretending it’s nothing but doses of harmless vitamins.
Trailer (no subtitles).
Director: Leticia Tonos
In a poor shantytown of Santo Domingo, Haitians and Dominicans struggle amidst a complex social and political context. Two half brothers, Janvier and Rudy, will get into a confrontation for the love of the same woman. Janvier, Haitian, is forced to join Cristo Rey’s drug gang. His job being to watch over Jocelyn, the young sister of El Baca, kingpin of the district’s gang. Rudy, Dominican, is Jocelyn’s ex boyfriend. He can’t bear to see his half brother Janvier spend time with her, he wants her back no matter what. Janvier and Jocelyn fall madly in love with each other and not having any foreseeable future in a neighborhood like Cristo Rey, they devise a plan to leave the barrio forever.
Director: Pirjo Honkasalo
A fourteen-year-old boy in a stifling Helsinki slum takes some unwise life lessons from his soon-to-be-incarcerated older brother.
“The Golden Era”
Director: Ann Hui
The Golden Era centers on the woman writer Xiao Hong, who wrote short stories, memoirs, and journalistic accounts of Japanese imperialism in China. She died in 1942 at the age of 30. (Inkoo Kang)
Director: Geetu Mohandas
The film follows Kamala, a young woman from Chitkul village and her girl child Manya, who embarks on a journey leaving their native land in search for her missing husband. Along this journey she encounters Nawazudin, a free spirited army deserter who helps them to get to their destination with his own selfish motive.
“Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem”
Directors: Shlomi Elkabetz and Ronit Elkabetz
In Israel there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce. Only rabbis can legitimate a marriage or its dissolution. But this dissolution is only possible with full consent from the husband, who in the end has more power that the judges. Viviane Amsalem has been applying for divorce for three years. But her husband Elisha will not agree. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the judges shape a procedure in which tragedy vies with absurdity, and everything is brought out for judgment, apart from the initial request. (Directors’ Fortnight)
“The Light Shines Only There”
Director: Mipo Oh
The story of an unemployed man’s romance with his friend’s sister.
Trailer (no English subtitles).
“Rocks in My Pockets”
Director: Signe Baumane
Rocks in My Pockets is Signe Baumane’s autobiographical “funny film about depression,” made with papier-mache, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation. The rich, deep, and very original film centers on five women in Baumane’s family and their struggles with depression and mental illness. (Melissa Silverstein)
Trailer with English narration.
Director: Paula van der Oest
A psychological thriller, based on one of the most controversial court cases in the Netherlands. Lucia, a nurse, is sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having killed at least seven babies and elderly people.
Trailer (no English subtitles).
Director: Afia Nathaniel
The film Dukhtar (Daughter) is a story of a mother on the run with her ten-year-old daughter to save her from a child marriage. They are hunted down by her family and the bridegroom’s henchmen. (Afia Nathaniel)
“Eyes of a Thief”
Director: Najwa Najjar
A father with a dangerous secret searching for his daughter.