Oscars Race: New Zealand Picks ‘Muru’
New Zealand has selected “Muru,” written and directed by Tearepa Kahi, as its contender for the 2022-23 Academy Awards Best International Feature Film category.
Inspired by actual events, “Muru” is the story of a local Police Sergeant (portrayed by Cliff Curtis), who must choose between duty to his badge or his people, when the government invokes anti-terrorism powers to launch an armed raid on the remote Urewera community. The action drama is not a re-creation, but a response to the raids against Tuhoe in 2007 and 1916. ‘Muru’ is a Maori concept for ‘forgiveness.’
“Muru” was the opening film of the New Zealand International Film Festival in July and began its commercial release in the country in August, landing on top of the box office for two weeks. It had its international premiere at the recent Toronto film festival and will next play in competition at the Busan festival. A commercial release in Australia also follows in October.
Rialto Distribution releasing the film in New Zealand and Australia. Arclight Films is handling sales internationally.
Oscars Race: Iran picks Houman Seyedi’s ‘World War III’
Iran has selected anti-totalitarian political drama “World War III” by prolific young director Houman Seyedi as its candidate in the race for the international feature film Oscar.
“World War III” recently scored a double whammy at the Venice Film Festival, scooping the top prize in the Horizons sidebar and also an acting prize for leading man Mohsen Tanabandeh.
The film is a political metaphor in which a homeless day laborer on a construction site named Shakib gets hired to work as an extra on a film being shot on the site about the atrocities committed by Hitler during WWII.
Shakib then has to contend with the pic’s tyrant filmmakers and a secret lover who jeopardizes this potentially life-changing opportunity.
Seyedi in his director’s statement noted that “Societies ruled by totalitarian regimes are the most effective creators of anarchists.”
“I’ve always wondered for how much longer there can be tyranny and oppression in the world and who the people are who will be crushed by the powerful rulers of such plagued societies,” the director said.
“World War III,” which Seyedi co-wrote, directed, edited and produced with financing from an Iranian company called Namava, is the director’s sixth feature. Sales company Iranian Independents is distributing the film internationally
“World War III” was selected by an Iranian government committee to represent the country at the Oscars out of more than 50 submissions that were at first whittled down to 17 and subsequently to five final candidates.
Unsurprisingly incarcerated director Jafar Panahi’s “No Bears,” which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice, was not among the candidates. “No Bears” is the latest of several features made in secrecy by the embattled auteur who was sentenced to six years in prison by Iranian authorities in July for “propaganda against the system.”
Iran has won the international feature film Oscar twice, both times with films by Asghar Farhadi, who won for “A Separation” in 2011 and for “The Salesman” in 2016.
Israel Selects “Cinema Sabaya”
Israel has selected “Cinema Sabaya,” Orit Fouks Rotem’s feature debut, as its Oscar candidate in the international feature film race.
The film just triumphed at the Ophir Awards, Israel’s highest film honor, winning five prizes, including best film, director and supporting actress for Joanna Said during a ceremony hosted on Sept. 18. “Cinema Sabaya,” which previously won best debut at the Jerusalem Film Festival, revolves around eight women, Arab and Jewish, who come from different backgrounds and take part in a video workshop hosted by a young Tel Aviv-based filmmaker. Through the experience, the women get to know one another and see their views and beliefs shifting.
Belgium Enters Lukas Dhont’s Cannes Prizewinner ‘Close’ in Oscar race
Belgium has selected Lukas Dhont’s movie “Close” as its candidate in the race for the international feature film Oscar. The movie world premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prize (shared with Claire Denis’s film “Stars at Noon”).
“Close” follows the intense friendship between 13-year-old boys Léo and Remi, which suddenly gets disrupted. Struggling to understand what has happened, Léo approaches Sophie, Rémi’s mother. The film is billed as an exploration of friendship and responsibility. The film is headlined by newcomers Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele. Léa Drucker and Kevin Janssens, Marc Weiss, Igor Van Dessel, and Léon Bataille also star. The movie marks Dhont’s follow up to his Golden Camera winning feature debut “Girl.”
“Close” was produced by Michiel Dhont and Dirk Impens for Menuet and co-produced by Diaphana, Topkapi Films and Versus Productions. The Match Factory has so far sold to more than 100 territories worldwide. MUBI acquired the rights for UK/Ireland, Latin America, Turkey, and India, and A24 has North American rights.
“We are so thrilled that Belgium has chosen Close as its official submission to the 2023 Academy Awards,” said David Laub at A24. “We have loved this unique and moving film since the moment we saw it in Cannes, and are so proud to be behind it in the US and to be orchestrating its awards campaign,” Laub continued.
The executive said A24 strongly believes that “it will resonate with and profoundly affect its audience, and we are elated that it has taken this next step of becoming Belgium’s official submission.”
“Close” will kick off the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium on Oct. 11.
Austria Selects “Corsage” Starring Vicky Krieps
Austria has selected Marie Kreutzer’s “Corsage” as its official entry in the race for the international feature film Oscar.
The period drama stars Vicky Krieps, who won the best actress award in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes for her performance as Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
The film had its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and it will screen at the New York Film Festival too. IFC Films will release it in U.S. theaters on Dec. 23.
The film received rave reviews at Cannes, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw writing that Krieps gives “an exhilaratingly fierce, uningratiating performance,” and Jessica Kiang at Variety describing the “brilliant” film as “a witty subversion of biopic and costume-drama clichés.”
Picturehouse Entertainment will release the film in the U.K. on Dec. 30. Other distributors include Ad Vitam in France, BIM in Italy, The Searchers in Benelux, Adso Films in Spain, and M2 in Poland. MK2 Films is handling international sales.
“Corsage” chronicles a critical period in the life of Empress Elisabeth. It starts in 1877 when Elisabeth – renowned for her beauty – is celebrating her 40th birthday. We see her insisting that her corset is laced ever tighter, and restricting what she eats to make that so. It is a metaphor for how she is constrained by the expectations of society – limited to merely ceremonial duties, despite her intelligence, lust for life and rebellious spirit.
Read the Variety interview with Kreutzer and Krieps here.
Croatia Selects Juraj Lerotić’s ‘Safe Place’
Croatia has selected Juraj Lerotić’s “Safe Place” in the race for a best international feature film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards.
The director’s feature debut is the emotional story of a family reeling in the wake of a suicide attempt that centers on a man’s struggle to save his younger brother, creating a rift in the family’s everyday life.
The film won awards for best first feature film, best emerging director and best actor at the Locarno Film Festival and was named best film at Sarajevo, where Lerotić also won best actor honors. Variety’s Guy Lodge described it as a “supremely poised and moving first feature” and a “shattering” debut, “with a long trail of further festival bookings surely ahead.”
“Safe Place” is produced by Pipser and Zelena zraka, with the support of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, Eurimages, HRT, CineLink Industry Days and the Slovenian Film Center. Cercamon is handling world sales.
Playing on Lerotić’s family history, the film features the Croatian multihyphenate in the lead role. Other cast includes Snježana Sinovčić Šiškov and Goran Marković. The cinematographer is Marko Brdar and the editor is Marko Ferković.
The Netherlands Enters ‘Narcosis’ in Oscar Race
The Netherlands has selected Martijn de Jong’s feature debut “Narcosis” as the country’s entry in the contest for the best international feature category of the 95th Academy Awards.
Penned by de Jong alongside Laura van Dijk, the movie tells the story of a close-knit family which is disrupted when the father fails to resurface during a professional dive.
The movie is headlined by Thekla Reuten, who starred in Oscar-nominated Dutch feature “Twin Sisters,” and Fedja van Huêt, who was the leading actor in “Character,” winner of the best foreign language film Oscar in 1998.
“Narcosis,” produced by OAK Motion Pictures, will world premiere during the Netherlands Film Festival in September. Coccinelle Film Sales is repping international sales.
The Czech Republic Enters ‘Il Boemo’ in Oscar Race
The Czech Republic has selected period drama “Il Boemo” as its submission. The film, written and directed by Petr Václav, will celebrate its world premiere in San Sebastian Film Festival’s main competition this month.
Set in the second half of the 18th century, “Il Boemo” tells the story of Josef Mysliveček, son of a Prague miller, who leaves for Italy to fulfil his dream of establishing himself as a composer. Thanks to his talent but also his charisma and luck, in a few years he manages to break through. From an unknown musician, he becomes one of the biggest stars of the musical scene. His fame gives him access to the highest circles of society, and wins him the favour of some of the leading opera divas, but he struggles financially.
Václav made his feature debut in 1996 with his film about a Roma boy, “Marian,” which won him the Silver Leopard at Locarno. He is also known for his films “Parallel Worlds” (2001) and “The Way Out” (2014), which premiered at San Sebastian in the New Directors competition, and the ACID section at Cannes, respectively. “The Way Out,” which focused on a young Roma woman trying to escape her poor living conditions, won seven Czech Lions in 2014, including best film. This was followed by drama “We Are Never Alone” (2016, presented in Forum at the Berlinale and at Toronto), “The Jumper” (2017) and “Confession of the Vanished,” the 2015 documentary about a performance of Mysliveček’s opera “Olimpiade,” and the composer himself, which served as prep work for “Il Boemo.”
“Il Boemo” is a Czech-Italian-Slovak co-operation with Jan Macola of Mimesis Film being the lead producer. Co-producers include Italian Dugong Films (producer Marco Alessi), Slovak sentimentalfilm (Marek Urban) and Czech co-producers Czech Television, Magiclab, Libor Winkler, Daniel Bergmann and Jan Menclík.
“Il Boemo” was supported by the Czech Film Fund with Euros 948,000, and also by the Production Incentives program. The film was also backed by Creative Europe – MEDIA, Prague Film Fund, Pilsen Region, South Moravian Film Fund, Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Film Foundation, Arte, MIBAC (Ministero della cultura), Liguria Film Fund, Veneto Film Fund and Sicilia Film Fund.
Ukraine Enters Maryna Er Gorbach’s ‘Klondike’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Ukraine has entered Maryna Er Gorbach’s “Klondike” in the race for a best international feature film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film was one of two features considered by the Ukrainian Oscar Committee in the selection process, alongside “Sniper. The White Raven,” directed by Marian Bushan.
“Klondike” portrays the brutal realities of the war unfolding in Ukraine’s Donbass region through the lens of a pregnant farmstead owner whose life and home have begun to unravel.
The film, which earned Er Gorbach best director honors after its world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance, has racked up a slew of awards, including best director at Sarajevo and best international film at Chile’s 18th Santiago International Film Festival (Sanfic).
Largely told from the viewpoint of the pregnant Irka (Oxana Cherkashyna), “Klondike” begins on July 17, 2014, the day a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was shot down over Donbass, killing nearly 300 people. That tragedy, however, is set against a larger drama as the village that Irka and her husband, Tolik (Sergey Shadrin), call home is beset by armed separatist forces.
Variety’s Guy Lodge, in a rave review of Er Gorbach’s “uncompromising, formally remarkable” feature, wrote: “Personal and political turmoil face a serene camera in ‘Klondike,’ a vision of the ongoing war in Donbass war that brooks no compromise in depicting the severe impact of the conflict on the region’s civilians — in particular, the innocent women to whom the film is dedicated.”
He added: “In Er Gorbach’s potent film, shot in unbroken, unblinking takes that observe obscene violence and destruction with cold candor, Irka’s resistance to warfare is at once fierce and futile.” Writing on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lodge noted that the film has “chilling topicality in its favor, even if the tensions it shows are all too longstanding.”
“Klondike” is a Kedr Film and Protim production in co-production with Turkish broadcaster TRT. It’s produced by Er Gorbach, Sviatoslav Bulakovskyi and Mehmet Bahadir Er.
Hungary Selects ‘Blockade’ (EXCLUSIVE)
“Blockade” has been chosen as Hungary’s entry in the contest for a nomination in the Academy Awards’ best international film category, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film tells the true story of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary, József Antall, from his freedom fighter days in 1956 to the infamous 1990 taxi blockade that shook the nation.
The film is directed by Ádám Tősér, written by Norber Köbli, and produced by Tamás Lajos at Film Positive Productions. International sales are handled by NFI World Sales.
The decision was made by the Hungarian Oscar Selection Committee, which includes Csaba Káel, the government’s commissioner for the development of the Hungarian motion picture industry, and chairman of the National Film Institute; film directors Csaba Bereczki and Péter Bergendy; Tibor Fonyódi, a screenwriter; András Kálmán, a film distribution expert; Ákos Pesti, a producer; and Emil Novák, a cinematographer.
The film is set six months after Antall becomes Prime Minister of the first democratic government following the 1989 collapse of the Communist regime, and faces the most difficult test of his life.
Taxi drivers protest against the drastic rise in gas prices by the House of the National Assembly. Quickly disillusioned with democracy, they blockade Budapest, and soon after the whole country. The opposition sides with them and prompts them to start a revolution.
The reserved and thoughtful Antall goes head to head with the populist President Árpád Göncz about how they think the situation can be resolved, and their personalities and opinions collide.
The press and public opinion sympathize with the taxi drivers, and the police force abandons the government, now unpopular due to their position. Antall, a former participant in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, finds himself on the other side of the barricade.
In the midst of this crisis, he has to undergo an operation for cancer and in the hospital ward afterwards he looks back at his life as a young history teacher turned revolutionary, and how he met his wife.
Now, Antall has to make a decision about what he should do. He uses all the resources he possibly can without abandoning the democratic values that have reshaped his country, and finds a solution.
“Blockade” is not only the chronicle of the four days of the taxi blockade, it shows the battles and bargains behind the scenes, and the private life of a Prime Minister dealing with a crisis, and fighting for democracy.
“As Hungary lives through the last hours of Soviet occupation, and an unexpectedly escalated crisis situation and a human drama, the film tells the story of a society starting to learn that democracy is not only about freedom, but also about duties and taking responsibility,” Tősér said.
“’Blockade’ is the incredible true story of a nation divided and the leader who unites it – while fighting a battle against his worst enemy yet: cancer,” Köbli said.
“This film is special, most of all, because it is the first one to show the circumstances of the systemic change following the Socialist era in Hungary, and the political and private life of József Antall, Prime Minister of the first democratically elected government,” Lajos said.
The historical drama will be released in Hungary on Oct. 20.
Film Positive Productions, led by Lajos, has experience both in local and international feature films, television films, and documentaries. Along with its sister company, Szupermodern Studio, it has produced numerous critically acclaimed television films, including “Trezor,” “Eternal Winter” and “The Exam,” and its feature film sequel “The Game.”
Tősér has been working in film production for over 20 years. His latest film is “Kittenberger – The Last Hunt” (2021), which presents the adventurous life story of Africa expert Kálmán Kittenberger. In his 2020 film “Roads Fifty-Six,” through personal stories, he shows viewers the fates of 1956 refugees beyond the Iron Curtain. He produced the documentary “Strong” (2011), which follows the heroic struggle of Alpinist Zsolt Erőss, from his leg amputation to his return to the mountains.
Japan Enters Hayakawa Chie’s ‘Plan 75’
“Plan 75,” first-time director Hayakawa Chie’s drama about a government program to euthanize the elderly in a near-future Japan, has been selected as Japan’s entry for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards. The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, which oversees the selection process, made the announcement.
Based on Hayakawa’s original script, the film first took form as a segment in “Ten Years Japan,” a 2018 omnibus with Kore-eda Hirokazu serving as executive producer.
Starring Baisho Chieko, with support from Isomura Yuto, Kawai Yumi and Stefanie Arianne, the film focuses on an elderly woman (Baisho) who is enticed into the title program, which promises an easy and painless death to anyone 75 or older. The aim, never directly stated to clients by the plan’s representatives, is to decrease the population of ‘unnecessary’ seniors.
Premiering at this year’s Cannes, the film won a special mention in the Camera d’Or competition for first-time directors. Released on June 17 in Japan on more than 100 screens by Happinet-Phantom Studios, the film has become a long-running hit, striking a chord in a country with the world’s oldest population.
Represented abroad by Urban Sales, the film has been sold into more than 30 countries and territories. The film’s wide release in France is set for Sept. 7, with Eurozoom distributing. Also, it will screen at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema section.
Unusual for a Japanese film by a new director, “Plan 75” is an international co-production, with Dongyu Club, Happinet-Phantom Studios, Loaded Films, Urban Factory, and WOWOW serving as production partners.
In a statement, Hayakawa said, “I feel that the film now belongs so much more to those who have seen it that it no longer feels like a film I directed. I am honored to receive this recognition.”
Brazil Selects ‘Mars One’ (EXCLUSIVE)
Brazil will submit Gabriel Martins’ “Mars One” for consideration in the 2023 Oscars race for best international feature film, Variety has learned exclusively. Martins is the first Black director in Brazil’s history to be selected to represent the country at the Academy Awards.
Magnolia Pictures International holds worldwide distribution rights, but “Mars One” is still looking for a U.S. buyer. The film follows a Brazilian family navigating an uncertain future amid the rise of far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.
Martins said in a statement: “We are experiencing a moment of major happiness, we feel so honored, for me personally, but also for my company Filmes de Plástico, for the entire cast and crew and our partners, because we are opening doors and without a doubt leaving a stele of hope and willingness for those who are arriving now to make cinema, in a moment when they can be discredited until they can get to make a film. So, this selection is the result of the work of many people, and I believe that this is the most important feeling since ‘Mars One’ is definitely not a film that walks alone, it is the work of many people who want this film to move forward and fly high. It’s what it represents for me, what the Brazilian cinema, the black cinema can be: a beautiful and resilient collective strength that never fails to dream with a better and brighter future.”
Brazil has been nominated at the Academy Awards four times, most recently in 1998 for Walter Salles’ “Central Station.”
Algeria Selects ‘Our Brothers’
The Algerian Selection Committee has unanimously decided to enter Rachid Bouchareb’s “Our Brothers” in the Oscar race.
The selection committee, led by Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina, watched four films for the selection: Mohamed Benabdallah’s “Halim Erraad,” Mounia Meddour’s “Horia,” Damien Oounouri and Adila Bendimered’s “The Last Queen” and Bouchareb’s other film, “Nos Frangins.”
“Our Brothers” follows the true story of Malik Oussekine, a French student of Algerian descent who was chased by police and beaten to death in 1986 while he walked near student protests in Paris.
Poland Selects ‘EO’
Poland has entered Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO” in the race for a Best International Feature Film nomination at the 95th Academy Awards.
The decision, which was made by the Polish Film Institute, was formally announced today.
“EO” shares a vision of modern Europe through the prism of a gray donkey, who meets a range of people on his life’s path, experiencing joy and pain, as well as disasters and unexpected bliss — all without losing his innocence. The film shared a Jury Prize with Félix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s “The Eight Mountains” at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In his review at Cannes, where the film bowed in competition, Variety’s Peter Debruge described “EO” as “a damning polemic on our relationship to other intelligent species — as free labor, food and companions — as seen through the dewy, wide eyes of a donkey whom we come to adore.”
“EO” is presented by Skopia Film and filmmaker and HanWay Films founder Jeremy Thomas, who first collaborated with writer-director Skolimowski on the film “The Shout,” which won the Cannes Grand Prix in 1978.
It stars Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz and Isabelle Huppert. It was produced by Ewa Piaskowska and Skolimowski. Eileen Tasca is the Italian co-producer, while Thomas is the executive producer. The screenplay was written by Piaskowska and Skolimowski.
Sideshow and Janus Films, who acquired North American rights from HanWay, are planning a fall 2022 theatrical release. The distribution duo helped Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s best international feature Oscar winner “Drive My Car” to four Academy Award nominations earlier this year, including best picture, director and adapted screenplay.
Germany Selects ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’
Germany has entered Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in the race for the 95th Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category.
The decision was made by an independent jury whose members were appointed by various associations working within the German film industry. Nine films were in the shortlist.
The film tells the story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches.
It is adapted from the German anti-war novel of the same name, published in 1928, which drew on Erich Maria Remarque’s own experiences in the trenches.
The film is produced by Amusement Park Film for Netflix. It will have its world premiere in the Special Presentations section at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 12, and the European premiere will be held as a gala premiere during the Zurich Film Festival.
Netflix will partner with 24 Bilder for the film’s nationwide theatrical release in Germany on Sept. 29. It will open in U.S. cinemas in October, and can be seen on Netflix from Oct. 28.
The nine-member jury, headed by Maria Furtwängler of the German Film Academy, commented: “[The film] is unsparing in its portrayal of the machinery and dehumanization of war through the material symbolism of bullet-ridden uniforms, trenches collapsing and shattered bodies. The violence of the events translates into powerful imagery from which there is no escape.
“The Iron Generation of the 1910s presents itself as the Lost Generation whose individual destinies mercilessly perish in teeming battle scenes. Edward Berger exposes with clarity how those vainglorious decision-makers detached from the real world display an arrogant vanity in sending the young soldiers into battle and sacrificing them without any feelings of conscience. The first German film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s almost hundred-year-old novel is startlingly topical and makes a powerful statement against war.”
Canada Selects ‘Eternal Spring’
Jason Loftus’ animated, Mandarin-language documentary “Eternal Spring,” which had its world premiere in March 2022 at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, has been selected to represent Canada in the competition to nab a coveted Best International Feature Film nomination for the 2023 Academy Awards.
The decision was announced Aug. 24 by Telefilm Canada, the chair and coordinator of the 22-member pan-Canadian selection committee, which includes reps from government film agencies and national industry associations.
At a media conference in advance of the public announcement, Loftus said that a major platform sale of the film, covering most English-language markets, will be announced soon, and that the film, which has many international broadcast partners, will see a theatrical release in several markets.
“The recognition that Canada is providing is a game changer before we get into the wide release,” said Loftus, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee whose work spans docs, VR, games, and animation.
“Eternal Spring” had its North American premiere at Hot Docs in April 2022, where it won the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary and claimed the top spot in the overall audience poll of cinemagoers and online doc-watchers.
The film, which also scooped awards and noms at European festivals, mixes 3D and new live footage to trace the story of comic-book illustrator Daxiong (“Justice League,” “Star Wars”), a Falun Gong practitioner, who fled China after police began cracking down on members of the outlawed spiritual group.
At the media conference, Loftus, who was seated with his wife and filmmaking partner Masha Loftus, said they met Daxiong while making a kung fu video that featured hand-drawn artwork.
“We learned he was originally from China and was living in New York at the time,” Loftus said. “He worked with a sort of preeminent kung fu novelist in China and we just thought, this is great. He is an amazing, artistic talent and also the cultural background suited to working with us on this kung fu property.”
While working with him in Toronto on the project, the artist told them the story of why he left China. Turned out Daxiong was from the same hometown as Loftus’ wife and business partner, the daughter of a mid-level government official.
“She didn’t have connections with the Falun Gong community, so hearing what had happened in her own hometown by someone who had endured this really hit home for her. And for me.”
While the jury is still out on whether the film will experience the same Oscar nomination hat-trick as “Flee,” the success to date of “Eternal Spring” illustrates how animation in documentary storytelling is having more than a moment.
“We had this opportunity to have animation and the artistic process be part of the story,” Loftus said at the media conference. “So that’s why we have this kind of blend of live-action and animation—the art comes from an individual who has personally experienced trauma, who has left his home behind, who has this nostalgia, and who also colors his own art with the memories of torture and abuse.”
“This venture represents an exceptional opportunity for ‘Eternal Spring’ to reach new audiences and offers a golden opportunity to showcase the high quality of Canadian filmmaking,” said Christa Dickenson, Telefilm executive director and CEO. “That is why Telefilm will be supporting the film team in this prestigious competition and we wish them the best of luck.”
“Eternal Spring” was written and directed by Jason Loftus, who produced the film with Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, and Kevin Koo. The film was edited by David Schmidt and lensed by John Trans, with animation by Alex Smith and Matthew Sousa. David St-Amant served as animation director.
The film is produced by Lofty Sky Entertainment and the international sales agent is Sideways Film.
Uruguay Submits ‘The Employer and the Employee’
Uruguay has submitted social thriller “The Employer and the Employee” by Manuel Nieto Zas as its official entry to the 95th Academy Awards in 2023. Nieto Zas’ third film had its world premiere in last year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight before it went on to play in the San Sebastian Film Festival and other prominent festivals worldwide, including Guadalajara, Jerusalem, Beijing, Karlovy Vary and Mar del Plata. Madrid-based Latido Films picked up world sales rights ahead of the film’s debut in Cannes.
Featuring “Persian Lessons” and “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” star Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, “The Employer and The Employee” (“El Empleado y El Patrón”) follows the parallel lives of an employer, Rodrigo (Pérez Biscayart), and an employee, Carlos (Cristian Borges), the teenage son of a land laborer toiling on the vast estates of Rodrigo’s father. Desperate to find a qualified driver for one of his combine harvesters, Rodrigo hires Carlos despite the latter’s lack of experience or a license. This inevitably leads to an accident whose aftermath plays out through the rest of the film.
“The Employer and the Employee” won awards at Toulouse’s Latin Film Festival, Mar del Plata’s LoboLab and San Sebastián’s WIP Latam, among others.
Lead-produced by Nieto’s Roken Films in Montevideo, the film’s production partners are Pasto (“A Family Submerged”) and Murillo Cine (“The Snatch Thief”) in Argentina, France’s Paraiso Production Diffusion (“Agosto”), Brazil’s Vulcana Cinema (“Castanha,” “Rifle”) and Sancho & Punta (“Yesterday There Were Strange Things in the Sky”) and Nadador Cine (“Belmonte”), Uruguay.
Taiwan Submits ‘Goddamned Asura’
Lou Yi-An’s “Goddamned Asura” has been selected as Taiwan’s entry for best international feature film at the Academy Awards.
The decision to submit the social psychological drama into the Oscar race was announced by the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, part of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture on Monday.
The film premiered at the Golden Horse Film Festival in November 2021 and picked up multiple awards at the Taipei Film Awards in June.. It had its commercial release in Taiwan in March this year.
The third film by Lou (2013’s “White Lies, Black Lies” and “A Place of One’s Own”) presents a multi-layered narrative drama that delves into a random shooting by an ordinary teenager through six characters, a popular video game and an alternate reality.
The leading cast members are Joseph Huang, Morning Mo, Huang Peijia, Devin Pan, Wang Yu-Xuan and Lai Hao-zhe.
The film was produced by Content Digital Film and Seashore Image Productions. Hope Marketing Entertainment is handling international Sales.
Lou’s previous work was known for his dark humor and the character-driven interleaving storyline in his
films. He is deeply interested in Taiwanese local culture, racial issues and social problems caused by class differences and generation gaps. He has said that “Goddamned Asura” was inspired by real events in Taiwan.
South Korea Submits ‘Decision to Leave’
South Korea has selected Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” as its national contender in the International Feature Film section of the Academy Awards. The film had its world premiere in competition at Cannes and earned Park the festival’s best director award.
Announcement of the decision was made on Thursday evening by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).
“All the films in the running had artistic merit, but when we took into consideration the particular characteristics of the Academy Awards, the film’s pure artistry, the director’s name recognition, workmanship and directing skill, the possibility of box office success in the North American market, and the ability of overseas distributors to promote, we agreed that [“Decision to Leave”] is the most appropriate choice,” said the KOFIC committee. “We look forward to the promoting this work.”
Starring Korea’s Park Hae-il and Chinese star Tang Wei, the film tells a slow-burn tale of police detective who starts out investigating the death of a man in the mountains, but falls for the mysterious charm of his not-very-grieving widow.
The film was released in Korean theaters on June 29, 2022, and remains in the top ten chart. As of Wednesday, it had grossed $14.2 million from 1.79 million spectators.
In North America, the film is scheduled to play at the Toronto festival in September and the New York Film Festival in October, ahead of a commercial release through Mubi, penciled in for Oct. 14.
Korean films had never won in the Oscars foreign-language category until 2020 when “Parasite” claimed four Oscar wins including best film, best international feature film, achievement in directing for Bong Joon-ho and best original screenplay. Given the subsequent success of Korean-language film “Minari” and the attention drawn to Korean TV drama since the release of “Squid Game,” “Decision” stands out as an immediate front-runner.
Switzerland Submits ‘A Piece of Sky’
Switzerland has chosen Berlin competition title “A Piece of Sky” as its International Feature Film contender.
Honored with a special mention at Berlin, “A Piece of Sky” marks director Michael Koch’s follow-up to his 2016 debut “Marija,” which marked him out as a talent-to-track. Set in a remote Alpine farming community, “A Piece of Sky” follows a taciturn farmhand, Marco (Simon Wisler) and a single mother, Anna (Michèle Brand), who build a life together in the Alps. When Marco falls ill with a brain tumor everything changes, bu. Anna stands by Marco through thick and thin.
In his review, Variety’s Guy Lodge hailed “A Piece of Sky” as an impressive, austere Alpine tragedy.
“Stunning image-making fills out the stark storytelling in Swiss director Michael Koch’s potent, stoically moving second feature,” Lodge added.
“A Piece of Sky” is produced by Hugofilm. New Europe Film Sales handles world sales.
“Michael Koch’s ‘A Piece of Sky’ is marked by powerful images that are able to maintain the tension between the apparent simplicity and the great weight of the drama,” said the Swiss jury that selected the film.
“In this way, emotions develop their resonance and attain depth. Carried by strong amateur actors, the film surrenders to the rhythm of nature and regards its protagonists as part of the rugged mountain world. Their love not only stands up to the adverse circumstances, but also dares to question the inevitability of death,” added the jury, led by Swiss writer-director Stéphanie Chuat.
The 95th Oscar awards ceremony will take place on March 12, 2023.
Ireland Submits ‘The Quiet Girl’
The Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) has chosen Colm Bairéad’s Irish-Language film “The Quiet Girl” (“An Cailín Ciúin”) as Ireland’s entry for the Oscars’ best international feature film category at the 95th Academy Awards.
Set in rural Ireland in 1981, the coming-of-age film follows Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she is sent from her overcrowded, dysfunctional household to live with distant relatives for the summer. It recently became the first Irish-language film to win the Irish Academy Award for best film and received seven awards including director, actress, cinematography, editing, production design and original score.
The film was selected by IFTA’s 2023 Irish Selection Committee, which includes producer and Emmy-nominated actor Roma Downey (“Ben-Hur”), Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly (“Chicago”), producer and Paramount TV executive VP of international strategy David Flynn (“Bodkin”), Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot”), director Aisling Walsh (“Maudie”) and actor Fionnula Flanagan (“The Others”). The committee was chaired by Academy CEO, Áine Moriarty.
Moriarty said: “This is such a unique and beautiful film that captures your heart from the outset, and leaves you profoundly moved. How proud we are to submit this outstanding Irish language film into the Oscar competition, to compete with the best in the world, as we know this story will resonate with international audiences, beyond the borders of language, and no doubt with American Academy members too.”
Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi of Inscéal added: “We are honored beyond words that “An Cailín Ciúin”/”The Quiet Girl” has been selected to represent Ireland. Our heartfelt thanks to IFTA and its selection committee. We have always believed in the idea that an Irish-language film could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of world cinema and we feel so proud to be representing our country and our language in this way. It has been an extraordinary privilege adapting Claire Keegan’s ‘Foster’ to the big screen and we can’t wait to introduce our film to more and more members of the Academy as ‘The Quiet Girl’ continues its roll-out on the international stage.”
“The Quiet Girl” was produced by Ní Chrualaoí as part of the Cine4 funding scheme for Irish-language film, in partnership with Screen Ireland, TG4, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the film is also in receipt of the Irish Government’s Section 481 tax incentive.
The international film contenders will next be shortlisted to 15 finalists on Dec. 21. These will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final five Oscar nominees in the category on Jan. 24, 2023. The 95th Academy Awards ceremony is currently scheduled to take place on March 12, 2023 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
World sales for “The Quiet Girl” are being handled by Bankside Films.
Leo Barraclough, Elsa Keslassy, Mark Schilling, John Hopewell, Christopher Vourlias, Jennie Punter, Naman Ramachandran, Patrick Frater and Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this report.