The glitz and glamor of Hollywood will gather on March 4 for the 90th Academy Awards. This year’s ceremony boasts several tight races, including for Best Foreign Language Film. Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement, which brought down several prominent Hollywood figures,will likely play a leading role in award speeches and commentary.
This year’s five nominees for Best Foreign Language film offer diversity in themes and styles. Three come from Europe, one from the Middle East and one from South America.
And the nominees are:
A Fantastic Woman - Chile
This Chilean film, directed by Sebastián Lelio, tells the story of a transgender woman named Marina who is in a relationship with Orlando, an older man. When Orlando unexpectedly dies, his family and government officials confront Marina with prejudice and hostility.
“This seems, perhaps, out of all the films, the most timely, as we think about them the #MeToo movement, as we think about the activists that are pushing for more attention to trans issues,” Rebecca Cruise said on KGOU’s World Views.
Marina is played by transgender actress Daniela Vega, in only her second role. Cruise says Vega’s take on Marina is different than the portrayal of other trans characters because she is not marginalized.
“They're either prisoners or they're on the outskirts of society,” Cruise said. “She's a waitress. She's in everyday society. She operates in those ways. She's obviously socially marginalized in other ways, but her life isn't on the periphery. It's there in the middle, and that is significant.”
This is Chile’s second Academy Award nomination.
The Insult - Lebanon
“The Insult,” directed by Ziad Doueiri, is about Palestinian refugee Yasser, who works as a construction foreman in Lebanon. While working on a building, Yasser and a Palestinian Christian named Tony begin hurling insults at each other. Their confrontation leads to violence and, eventually, a high-profile court case.
“The way in which others, and particularly judges, for example, capitalize on it and try to spin things out of control to create a much larger dispute, I think is what's really interesting about this film,” Suzette Grillot said.
Palestinian refugees have been living in Lebanon since 1948. The film shows the way media and the justice system can stoke tensions between Palestinian Muslims and Lebanese Christians.
This is Lebanon’s first nomination.
Loveless - Russia
This Russian film is about a 12-year-old boy who goes missing while his parents go through a bitter divorce. Loveless is directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose 2014 film “Leviathan” was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Zvyagintsev fell out of favor with Russian authorities for his films’ overt political messages that focus on corruption and the difficulties of living in Russia.
Suzette Grillot says the film is suspenseful and reeks of heartless human behavior.
“A couple is going through a divorce. They admit that neither one of them really want custody of their son and their son overhears this. And there’s this kind of gut-wrenching image of him hearing them say this. They don't realize he's listening,” Grillot says.
Both parents have already found new partners and are ready to move on, but must work together to help find their lost son.
“Loveless” is Russia’s seventh Academy Award nomination.
On Body and Soul - Hungary
This Hungarian film is about Maria, a quality control inspector in a slaughterhouse in Budapest, and Endre, the slaughterhouse’s financial director. They share feelings for each other, but Maria’s icy demeanor makes her difficult to approach until they realize they are sharing the same dreams.
“This is a really kind of strange romance. It's an affair that exists between two co-workers, but only when they sleep. They have an affair in their dreams,” Grillot said. “They share a common dream.”
The film, directed by Ildikó Enyedi, juxtaposes the beauty and elegance of Maria and Endre’s dream and the brutality of the slaughterhouse.
“On Body and Soul” is Hungary’s tenth Academy Award nomination.
The Square - Sweden
“The Square,” directed by Ruben Östlund, won the top prize last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film is a satirical comedy about the pretensions of contemporary art and a social commentary on ideals.
“This square, this art installation, is supposed to be about openness and safe spaces. And yet, as we see throughout the film, that there's so much that doesn't fit in with that. There are so many exceptions,” Cruise said.
The film stars some names that are familiar to American audiences, including Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West.
“The Square” is Sweden’s sixteenth Oscar nominations.
Rebecca Cruise says “A Fantastic Woman” is probably her favorite film of the five, calling it timely and the most cinematically stunning. Suzette Grillot thinks it will be a tight race between “A Fantastic Woman” and “Loveless,” and she is rooting for the Chilean film.
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