Foreign Language Film Watch

For the films of 2018
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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Nov 13, 2018 2:37 pm

Precious Doll wrote:Dogman/Happy as Lazzaro - Italy

Italy would appear to have to good ones to choose from this year that are internationally know. Both happen to play at Cannes, both were well received and both one a prize each (Dogman - Actor) & Happy as Lazzaro - Screenplay). But Italy is notorious for going off and selecting some obscure film that nobody much outside of Italy has ever heard so we'll have to wait and see.

Between these two films I think Dogman is more to the Academy taste, however I think that Happy as Lazzaro is the better film and more deserving of the honour of representing Italy but it will have a harder time making the shortlist and more so the final five. It's such a delicate piece filmed at times in an almost dream world that rarely collides with the present. Just too delicate for the Academy's taste I would think, which is such a shame as it is a highly original and rewarding experience.


It's true that Italy has a tradition of sending to the Oscars movies that nobody out of Italy (and sometimes nobody in Italy either) had heard about. This time, though, they have followed Precious Doll's advice and picked Dogman. This is based on a famous - and at the time shocking - real story of an especially bloody Kidnapping and murder which took place in Rome's degraded outskirts. The director, one of our best, Matteo Garrone, obviously sides with the eventual killer, portrayed here as a naive, Quasimodo-like outcast. This has been done before, in the US especially, so I'm not sure that the movie - though definitely well-made - will seem very interesting there. A nomination is, I'd say, impossible.

Happy As Lazarus is admittedly less "easy", but at the same time a clearly artistic effort, and one which could have stood out in that context (and directed by a woman - Alice Rohrwacher - which these days might be a plus). Also supposedly based on a true story, it's set in a small rural community in Central Italy, completely cut off from civilization, and kept in slavery by a manipulative Countess. The first half deals mainly with the unlikely friendhip between the peasant Lazarus, simple and genuine, and the Countess0s unhappy son, and reminds one of Pasolini (minus the eroticism) and Ermanno Olmi. But the second half, with the community having to adapt to the not-less-cruel reality of a big contemporary city, is more interesting and personal - poignant and touching, with a pervasive sadness, a sense of missed opportunities and more than a bit of magical realism. It's not a perfect movie (and the ending isn't perfect), but it stays with you, and would have been a worthy candidate.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Reza » Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:22 am

The submission in the foreign film category from Pakistan:

https://www.google.com.pk/amp/s/variety ... 47609/amp/

My review:

Cake (Asim Abbasi, 2018) 7/10

Many reviewers have mentioned that this film reeks of a television film. I don't agree. This is an intimate little drama focusing on the dynamics between members of a family. Who says a subject like this is only reserved for the small screen? We, here in Pakistan, are tuned to the Bollywood style of movie making - intimate dramatic family moments enveloped within a concoction of spectacular production numbers involving a chorus of gyrating dancers, an item number or two allowing an A-list female star to show her voluptuous scantily clad figure as she dances to a hit song which becomes the film's "paisa vasool" moment along with either raucous comedy or intense dramatic scenes played to the gallery.

"Cake" (signifying the many layers in relationships) is very much a big screen film more in line with Hollywood's independent cinema - small meaningful films which show the "average joe" in society with a screenplay that covers "life" and it's issues as it exists in families by and large across the globe. The film gets full marks for coming up with something different as far as our local cinema is concerned.

The film begins and ends with an image of a cigarette butt being flushed down a toilet by the main character - at the start it defies the flush and continues to bob in the water while at the end the butt, wrapped in tissue, gets flushed out. The smoker is a woman (Aamina Sheikh) and it immediately becomes evident that she is jittery and disturbed. She is in full control of her household which consists of her ailing parents - the father (Mohammad Siraj) is a heart patient, frail but jovial and married to a viper tongued flamboyant bewigged-lady (Beo Raana Zafar) prone to loud tantrums. They have a very loving and playful marriage - you can sense the sexual undertones between this elderly couple - which the screenplay effortlessly shows through witty dialogue and delightfully knowing glances between the two. When the old man's health takes a turn for the worst the younger daughter (Sanam Saeed) visits from London. It immediately becomes apparent that there is a history of resentment between the two sisters. The elder hinting at the sacrifice she had to make for being the only sibling to stay behind for not only looking after the parents but also handling their ancestral land and property in the village. The younger sister has unresolved feelings for a former boyfriend and blames her older sibling for hiding certain facts. An elder brother and his wife appear later when their mother falls ill. Adding to the drama is the male nurse (Adnan Malik), a childhood pal of the siblings, who is "involved" with the older sister. The young man is a Christian and from a different class - the screenplay weakly hints at the issue of religion but sadly does not carry it through. The family's internal bickering comes to a head and the "elephant in the room" loudly explodes during the elderly couple's 50th wedding anniversary celebration at a gathering in the village where the "truth" is revealed.

The film's major flaw is the excessive running time of over two hours - the film drags throughout and should have been drastically edited to 90 minutes. The film has outstanding cinematography - all the scenes set in the village and the surrounding countryside have a burnished quality straight out of some renaissance painting. It was also a good idea using Sindi folk songs on the soundtrack The acting is by and large good - Aamina Shaikh carries the film with a strongly grounded performance as the "life force" of the family who has a deeply vulnerable side to her personality, Sanam Saeed is equally good as the calmer sibling whose reserve collapses during the intense scenes at the climax, Beo Raana Zafar is the comic relief and in her brief moments on screen - unfortunately the screenplay puts her into a coma - she creates a vivid impression of a witty, acerbic woman in love with her husband played superbly by Mohammad Siraj - he gets minimum dialogue but uses his facial expressions to create depth of character as a loving father and husband. Adnan Malik is saddled with a rather vacuous and lifeless character to play - the screenplay fails to provide him any depth - and he comes across like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Life is full of issues and resistance (the cigarette butt that refuses to be flushed) but with communication, understanding and gentle maneuvering most problems can be resolved (the tissue covered butt gets flushed finally).

This film is a positive effort and a good addition to the recent on-going revival of Pakistani cinema.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby anonymous1980 » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:51 pm

The Philippines is officially going with Signal Rock (I've seen it, my review is in this thread).

Personally, I would have preferred Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (had its festival premiere last year but not eligible for consideration until this year) but I can see why they didn't go with it since it's basically Come and See meets Grave of the Fireflies as directed by Jodorowsky.

Do we have a shot? Quality-wise, sure. I can see this doing well with Academy members.......if they bother to see it, that is.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:38 pm

France have announced their shortlist of 5 films with the selection to be announced on 21 September. The films are Climax (Gasper Noe), Memoir of War (Emmanuel Finkiel), Custody (Xavier Legrand), Mademoiselle de Joncquieres (Emmanuel Mouret) & The Four Sisters (Cluade Lanzmann).

I've already written on Custody and the only other films I have seen from the above is Climax. That it made the shortlist is something of a shock as I could never imagine a Gasper Noe film being a French submission. However, the film was well received at Cannes, but it won't get any traction with the Academy.

For nearly two decades now, Noe has been pushing the envelope and taking audiences into some very dark places with films like I Stand Alone, Irreversible & Enter the Void. All of which I admire. He stumbled with his 3D love story a couple of years ago that included scenes of the actors really having sex - the film was an utter bore and the only pleasure to be hard from the entire piece of a 3D cum shot into the camera by the lead actor. To appreciate just how gimmicky and entertaining that moment is, I think its best seen in a packed cinema.

Now with Climax, Noe has promised us a decent into hell itself. Well, hell is simply a bad group trip after someone spikes the fruit punch at a dance party. The film started off well enough with a 12 minutes sequence with most members of the cast each performing an electrifying dance number. From then on its a total bore and very tame for a Noe film.
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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:21 am

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral (Jerrold Tarog) *** - This is the sequel of sorts to director Jerrold Tarog's previous historical epic Heneral Luna. It continues the historical narrative and focuses this time on Gregorio del Pilar, the titular "Goyo", who was a general in the Philippine army at 23 and was leading the fight in the Philippine-American war. Again, this film is very slickly and beautifully made with some good performances. I appreciate the fact that it humanizes the people involved and refuses to deify them. The Tirad Pass sequence (if you know Philippine history growing us, you will be familiar with this) is particularly effective. It's not a game changer but it's solid.

Will it be submitted? It's a strong possibility since I heard this is the most expensive Filipino film ever made so a lot of people are banking on this. But since Heneral Luna failed to make a dent, this may give them pause.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Mon Aug 27, 2018 5:49 am

FilmFan720 wrote:Custody was not on my radar at all, but I loved Just Before Losing Everything (easily my favorite of the shorts that year). This just became high on my watchlist!


Custody is being released on Blu Ray/DVD in the US (30 Oct) & UK (3 Sep) very soon. No indication if Just Before Losing Everything is included as a special feature on either of the releases. Regardless of whether this makes the Academy's final five or not it is a film very much worth seeking out and one of the best films ever made that deals with a very ugly separation/divorcee scenario. I'd rank it up their with the little seen 1981 Roger Donaldson film Smash Palace, another film that deserves to find a much bigger audience. Both of these films show Kramer Vs. Kramer for the very vanilla film that it is, which is so say I like Kramer despite it being a rather superficial affair.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:28 am

I thought I'd finished with this thread but two more films have emerged that may be contenders:

Donbass - Ukraine

I don't think anyone on the board has ever mentioned the films of Sergey Loznitsa. They aren't exactly easy to see and none of them are easy viewing whether they be his narrative features or his documentary work. I saw this a couple of weeks ago and decided not to include it for a couple of reasons but the Ukraine has it listed on their shortlisted to here goes.

This film is basically episodes of life in Ukraine as the state of life decays. Some of the stories cross over or a referenced in others. It is probably the least accessible of Loznitsa's films but it does have a truely shocking unexpected ending. As Donbass is the only film being considered by Ukraine to be directed by a filmmaker of international standing it probably has a good chance of being their selection. That is as far as the film will go.

The Spy Goes North - South Korea

I've already written up about the film most people think South Korea will enter - Burning - which is the most critically acclaimed film so far this year. That the jury at Cannes hurt the films chances if it is selected and their are internal issue in South Korea that may work against Burnings selection. The fact to that South Korea has another suitable film isn't going to help burning. The film is The Spy Goes North, which also played at Cannes, but not in any of the competitions. From what I gather is appeared to be well received. Like Burning it's long as it clock in just shy of two and a half hours. It's very loosely based a true story that took place in the 1990's loaded with political intrigue as a spy from the South infiltrates to the very top of the North - I'm talking about Kim Jong-Il played very well by Ju-bong Gi. Whilst the film is somewhat overlong its a very timely film given events between North & South Korea in recent times. To be honest this film whilst much lesser than Burning would be far more Academy friendly and more likely to make some headway than Burning.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:25 pm

Signal Rock (Chito S. Rono) ***1/2 - In a far-flung provincial island in the Philippines where you can only get a cellphone signal in the remote rocky cliffside (the titular signal rock), one of the only ways of getting out of poverty is for young women to get with rich foreigners. A young man who uses his cellphone to communicate to an older sister who is in such a relationship but finds out something horrible and he must do something about it. One of the things that surprised me with this film is that it's actually a lot lighter and even funnier than the synopsis suggests. It skillfully blends both a feeling of the warmth of community and the hardship of such a life. Features some great performances too.

Will it get submitted? Very possible. It will be in the short list for sure. My personal preference is still Distance though.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:32 am

Girl - Belgium

This film about a trans teenage (transitioned from male to female) who aspire a career in ballet, was something of a hit at Cannes. The film is an intimate observation piece that is very engaging from beginning to end. I found myself totally immersed Lara's world and the film handles the subject matter with a great deal of sensitivity and director Lukas Dhont know how and when to hit one in the guts so to speak.

Even before seeing the film I had it pegged as Belgium's entry and seeing the film has not changed that prediction but I did happen to read an article in Variety just after seeing the film that thought the film may run into a backlash in the U.S https://variety.com/2018/film/news/girl ... 202896291/. Provided an internet Lynch mob doesn't descend against the film closer to its release it stands a good chance of making the shortlist. And just for the record Victor Polster who plays Lara is excellent and appropriately cast and besides I've always thought it was called 'acting', but I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Giant/Everybody Knows - Spain

I wasn't going to include Spain because to be honest I hadn't seen anything that I thought Spain would consider but it has just been reported that these two films along with Campeones are on the Spanish short list and the finalist will be announced on 6 September.

I really shouldn't be that shocked the Everybody Knows is being considered, despite its fairly tepid response at Cannes. After all it stars Spain's two biggest international stars and is written and directed by recent two time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi. Given the on-going antics of that fool (a way too kind word to describe Trump), the selection of this film as a nominee will only fuel negative worldwide publicity for Trump by Hollywood but given that one also wants to see the most deserving and acclaimed films hold court in this category a place for this film would be totally inappropriate.

It's a very watchable film - to a point but in the end what may be most interesting about it is what happens after the film has ended. Farhadi seems a little ill at ease out of his comfort zone with this one and the story which is a family drama centre around a kidnapping is nowhere near as gripping or as clever as it should be. Its very much a lesser work by a very capable director and at times feels like a first draft without the thought given to much of his earlier work. Much was made about the 'big revelation' in the film, which was apparently meet with much eye rolling at Cannes. It's one of those revelations that if you hadn't already guessed (like most of the audience I would imagine) you won't be the least surprised.

Anyway, if the Academy want to be political this will get in but if they won't to place excellence first it hasn't got a chance.

I found The Giant (Handia), co-directed by Aitor Arregi & Jon Garano a little disappointing. I'm a big fan of one of the directors (Jon Garano) previous films Flowers (2014) & For 80 Days (2010) which are both very small intimate films. The Giant however paints its story over a much larger canvas, is very much in the vein of an old time fairytale, and is beautifully mounted but it simply lacks that magical quality that fairytales require. I really can't see this film getting any traction from the Academy.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Sat Aug 11, 2018 11:42 am

Dogman/Happy as Lazzaro - Italy

Italy would appear to have to good ones to choose from this year that are internationally know. Both happen to play at Cannes, both were well received and both one a prize each (Dogman - Actor) & Happy as Lazzaro - Screenplay). But Italy is notorious for going off and selecting some obscure film that nobody much outside of Italy has ever heard so we'll have to wait and see.

Between these two films I think Dogman is more to the Academy taste, however I think that Happy as Lazzaro is the better film and more deserving of the honour of representing Italy but it will have a harder time making the shortlist and more so the final five. It's such a delicate piece filmed at times in an almost dream world that rarely collides with the present. Just too delicate for the Academy's taste I would think, which is such a shame as it is a highly original and rewarding experience.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:17 am

Saw a couple of films during the Filipino Cinemalaya Film Festival. Sometimes an Oscar entry premieres here.

Mamang (Denise O'Hara) *** - Set sometime in the '70s or '80s, it's about the relationship between an elderly woman whose past traumas haunt her present and her adult gay son. The lead is played by Celeste Legaspi who's a pretty famous singer-actress I remember growing up. She's making a comeback in this fantastic lead role. The director is Denise O'Hara whose sister is the late Janice O'Hara who directed Sundalong Kanin and whose uncle is the late Mario O'Hara who directed Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and it seems like those three formed a sort of unofficial trilogy with this film whose twists and turns I won't spoil here. Though it's far from perfect, it's still a touching and heartfelt and I feel like it's very personal too.

Will it get submitted? I'm not sure. It doesn't feel like it will be considered.

Distance (Percy Intalan) ***1/2 - A woman estranged from her family returns after living abroad for five years to reconnect with her children and her husband. This film absolutely blew me away. Part of that is really not knowing anything and just allowing the events to unfold which gets you to feel differently about every character. It is a bit of a spoiler to say that this is actually an LGBTQ film but it has to be mentioned that this is one of best LGBTQ films of its kind. It's a restrained, beautifully humanistic piece of cinema with stellar performances all around. Young director Percy Intalan made his best work so far with this and is my favorite Filipino film this year.

Will it get submitted? It *should* be. With the right marketing, and the right eyeballs on it, it could even be a contender.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:30 pm

Its about the possibility of being a contender not quality.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Reza » Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:18 pm

Precious Doll wrote:Sofia - Morocco

We don't get too many film from Morocco or one dealing with issues such as sex out of wedlock that produces offspring. Morocco being what it is this scenarios creates a major headache for the parents and families of both the young people involved. The film moves off into a slightly different direction once it gets going that I wouldn't like to spoil for anyone. It's another film that would certainly be in with a chance


Didn't you just give this a 5/10?

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Aug 09, 2018 9:37 am

The Guilty - Denmark

This has been slaying audiences across film festivals last year. It's a very tightly wound thriller set in a police emergency room and it's one particular disturbing from a young woman who appears to be in danger, not to mention the fates of her children, that set in motion this rather claustrophobic thriller. Due to its leave running time (85 minutes) it certainly holds audiences in its gripe. Would be surprised if Denmark passed on this one.

Sofia - Morocco

We don't get too many film from Morocco or one dealing with issues such as sex out of wedlock that produces offspring. Morocco being what it is this scenarios creates a major headache for the parents and families of both the young people involved. The film moves off into a slightly different direction once it gets going that I wouldn't like to spoil for anyone. It's another film that would certainly be in with a chance.

The Harvesters - South Africa

Gee, I went into this think it was going to deal with the plight of white African farmers currently facing - the violence some of them are encounter and the deadly outcomes that have emerged as a result. Instead I got a rather sombre family drama that never really digs very deep into the dynamics of the family unit and the new teenage boy that comes to live with them. To be honest the film is rather dull - though looks pretty. Don't see this one getting much traction.

Capharnaüm - Lebanon

A fucking mess and disaster of major proportions I cannot even begin to speculate why this film was at Cannes at all, particularly the Main Competition. Nadine Labaki has been appearing in film for sometime now and is a most engaging presence in almost everything she has appeared in. She has also directed to prior features Caramal (2007) & Where Do We Go Now? (2011). No great shakes either one of the but amamble enough viewing. Her latest is simply a mess with simplistic messages and no style or cohesive storytelling techniques to bring the many strands together. Some scenes go on aimlessly in search of director. Cannes 2018 is exactly shaping up as a vintage year but how the fuck did this win the Jury Prize. I do knot that Gary Oldman, who was on the jury, was crowing away about how much he liked the film so there is no doubt that help as festival juries operate under consultation and comprises.

It's worth noting that I saw the 131 minute cut of the film that was shown at Cannes. Sony Classics intend to reduce the films running time with some reports stating a relative minimal amount of cutting down to 120 minutes (which is listed on imdb - take that with a grain of salt).

I'd hate to see this make the cut period, given I found it inept utter rubbish. However, it should be noted that it did win a prize a Cannes and received a 7 minute standing ovation at Cannes. It was also one of the most poorly reviewing films shown at Cannes. A nominate could go anyway.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.

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Re: Foreign Language Film Watch

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:27 pm

Yomeddine - Egypt

Apparently this is the first film to ever compete in competition at Cannes (I find that hard to believe so I'll take that statement with a grain of salt). It's a road movie of sorts about the friendship between a boy and a man who has recovered from leprosy and bares the physical scars. It amiable enough but their is nothing special about it in any sense to elevate it above festival foder. Chances with the Academy - minimal.

Ash is Purest White - China

I read a couple of weeks ago that China was going to get behind Ash is Purest White. What 'get behind meant' was to allow the film to find a larger audience within China. Jia Zhangke has over the last quarter of a century developed into one of the most important figures of Chinese cinema history. He is arguably better than Western favourite Zhang Yimou and like Yimou has over the years fallen fowl with the Chinese authorities. Zhangke films have all been social realist dramas, mainly contemporary, showing China warts and all.

This film was widely praised at Cannes (along with Burning & Shoplifters) and the three films were largely seen as the best of the films at Cannes this year. Ironically two of them went home empty handed. The first 100 minutes or so of this film is utter perfection and a showcase of leading lady Zhao Tao (married to the director since 2012, she has starred in most of his films over the years), but the film goes lopsided when the leading man comes back into the picture and the tone of the film changes somewhat - change of tone has never been a strong point of Zhangke as Mountains May Depart, his film prior to this film illustrates.

I would like to think that with China prepared to get behind this films home release that that will include submitting it for Academy consideration. Lately China has been submitting homegrown box office giants that have little interest outside China. I really doubt though that this film would make the final cut with the Academy. Not winning anything at Cannes hurts it with the committee and it would be relying on knowledge of Zhangke who has not broken out in the West in the way that Yimou did.

Birds of Passage - Colombia

This films is co-directored by Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra. Guerra has already received Academy attention when his first film Embrace of the Serpent was nominated in this category a few years back. I feel this is a more accessible film with a fascinating story to tell about of Colombian tribes who were living in relative harmony whose lives were dramatically changed, and not for the best, with the rise of Colombia as a major exported of drugs. Far more enlightening and engaging than most of the films that are made now dealing with the illegal drug business Gallego & Cuerra's film is beautifully rooted in the environment and history of its people. I would think this would have a relative good shot at making the shortlist.

Diamantino - Portugal

According to imdb this film will not be released commercially in Portugal until after the qualifying period however I am including it because that could change and to be honest this would be a no-brainer as an entry for Portugal. Aside from the fact that the film is immensely entertaining and socially relevant (without giving anything away anything, even just a general idea of issues facing the EU will more than enough to make the film accessible) it also completely unclassifiable and I have never seen anything like it before. It's co-directed by Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt and at its most basic level it is about a rather simply minded world champion soccer player who comes face to face with a multitude of issues. Imagination plus is on display here and comedy in large, healthy doses too. Its impossible to predict what the Academy would think of this but its worth noting that it won best film at the International Critics Week at Cannes. Its also one of the films that will be interesting to see how time treats it because so many of the themes in the film are literally ripped from headlines of issues facing the EU presently - will it become something of a time capsule of the past or date - only time will tell. Anyway, I'd love to see this make it into the final five which would help it find the bigger audience it deserves.
"I have no interest in all of that. I find that all tabloid stupidity" Woody Allen, The Guardian, 2014, in response to his adopted daughter's allegations.


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