The Film Federation of India announced today that a 17-member jury, headed by filmmaker Amol Palekar, selected Chaitanya Tamhane award-winning drama “Court” as the country’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards. The selection came as a surprise to observers and to Tamhane himself given that the film was up against dozens of films being considered.
The favorite, at least according to the Indian press and local industry experts, was the large production “Bāhubali: The Beginning,” a lavish historical epic that was well-received at home both critically and at the box-office. However, the jury decided on the film with greater international exposure even if this is, by far, a much smaller work.
“Court” is Tamhane’s debut feature and has played extensively at important festivals around the world, including NYC’s New Directors/New Films. Here is the festival’s synopsis for the film: “Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Chaitanya Tamhane’s ‘Court’ is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. An elderly folk singer and grassroots organizer, dubbed the “people’s poet,” is arrested on a trumped-up charge of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. His trial is a ridiculous and harrowing display of institutional incompetence, with endless procedural delays, coached witnesses for the prosecution, and obsessive privileging of arcane colonial law over reason and mercy. What truly distinguishes ‘Court,’ however, is Tamhane’s brilliant ensemble cast of professional and nonprofessional actors; his affecting mixture of comedy and tragedy; and his naturalist approach to his characters and to Indian society as a whole, rich with complexity and contradiction.”
International sales are being handled by Memento Films. Zeitgeist Films has U.S. rights and released the film on July 15. Other rights licensed include Canada – Films We Like, Greece –One From The Heart, Hong Kong – Encore Inflight, Hong Kong – Edko Films Ltd, India – Long Live Cinem, Middle East – Moving Turtle, U.K.- Day For Night.