Also nominated for Cinematography - Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Ida is a powerful story of a young woman about to take her vows as a nun with the Catholic Church when she discovers that she was the child of a Jewish family who was hidden during World War 2. Before the convent will allow her to take her vows, they insist that she spend time with her aunt and learn about her true identity, and in the process, she also learns the details of her family's fate. Issues of faith, identity, justice, and forgiveness are explored. The cinematography in this film is very well done, and this is the second year in a row that a black and white film is honored for its visual artistry.
Leviathan - Russia, Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Leviathan examines power and corruption in modern day Russia. The mayor of the city decides that he wants to appropriate the land and home of a member of his community, and the courts are indifferent to the situation. As the homeowner fights for his rights, his family is harassed and attacked. We see the utter uselessness of the justice system, and the very definition of absolute power corrupting absolutely. With such a powerful story, it would be easy to assume that the film would be outstanding, and unfortunately, it just wasn't. It was painfully slow, had some scenarios that were barely believable, and was just a frustrating film to watch.
Tangerines - Estonia, Directed by Zaza Urushadze
Tangerines takes place in the country of Georgia during the most recent war. Most of the Estonians have fled back to Estonia, but Ivo has stayed behind to harvest his crop of Tangerines with his friend and neighbor. During this period, soldiers from both sides of the conflict are wounded, and he takes each of them in successively to help nurse them back to health. The tensions of the debate play out under his roof, as they begin to see each other through unexpected lenses. Tangerines, though it may not be a new story, is an excellent film with well drawn characters and engaging dialogue. It's a film that must be seen.
Timbuktu - Mauritania, Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
Timbuktu shows the captivity under which a village lives while Jihadists take over and rule the area, imposing stricter and stricter laws and harsher and harsher punishments for the violation of those laws. Every situation has the power to escalate from minor infraction to whipping, stoning, and execution. The film shows every day people and how no one can escape from these tyrants. Again, this is a film that could have been outstanding, but really wasn't. It was also very slow and it took a long time to understand that there wasn't a plot, per se, but a set of circumstances that happened all in the same place.
Wild Tales - Directed by Damian Szifron
Wild Tales is a set of 5 short stories which start calmly and then go completely off the rails. It is dark and funny, and each story becomes so outrageous and unexpected, that you just can't look away. It was truly one of my favorite films of the year (not just in the foreign film category), and I understand why Damian Szifron is becoming one of the hottest and most sought after Directors. Here is just a taste of the stories therein: a model gets on an airplane and discovers she has more in common with the other passengers than she thought, a waitress at a restaurant serves a customer who appears to be the person who killed her parents, a driver of a fancy car attempts to pass a truck who will not let him by and the most escalated versions of road rage ensue, a man tries to fight city hall for towing his truck in a spot where there is no signage, a rich father tries to handle the consequences of his son's hit and run, and a Jewish wedding that goes so off the rails that there is no simple description of it to be had. It's an outstanding film and well worth seeing!