Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Foreign Film Nominees
Land of Mine (Denmark) - Martin Zandvliet
Land of Mine recounts the powerful true story of young German boys at the close of World War 2 who were trained to remove the land mines all over Denmark that had been planted by their fellow German soldiers. The dilemma as a movie watcher is clear - all of the young people who were being put to work were clearly part of the German war machine so to root for them is to root for people who were part of the 3rd Reich. Who knows what kind of atrocities they committed? At the same time, many of these kids (probably age 14 - 17) died doing this dangerous work. We see an evolution in the Dane officer who supervises them, who sees the difference between right and wrong in his own military world. It's an excellent film.
A Man Called Ove (Sweden) - Hannes Holm
Makeup and Hairstyling - Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Every year, I find a film that I refer to as the year's hidden gem. I define the hidden gem by this criterion - a film that I hadn't heard of prior to the Oscar nominations which turns out to be among my favorites of the year. This year, I have two hidden gems, and A Man Called Ove is one of them. Ove is a curmudgeonly old man who is the self appointed neighborhood policeman. He is the guy who leaves notes for people about which community rule they have violated, goes on rounds around the community every morning to check that everything is in place and as it should be, and yells at cars who drive on their roads, which they have deemed illegal. One day, a family with two young daughters move in next door, and of course the entire family captures his heart, led by a pregnant and very tough mom who requires that Ove become more human. At the same time, we follow Ove's young life with its share of tragedy. This story is beyond touching and very much worth seeing. It will fill your heart with joy.
The Salesman (Iran) - Asghar Farhadi
The Salesman captures the story of two married actors in Iran who are performing Death of a Salesman in Farsi. One night, the wife goes home early and is brutally raped and attacked in her home. The husband, Emad, sets off on a quest to find his wife's attacker, even if he is not clear on what he will do once he finds the man. Meanwhile, his wife is suffering and he doesn't know what to do to support her - on or off stage. It's a wrenching portrayal of a man who wants justice and a wife who wants peace.
Tanna (Australia) - Bentley Dean and Martin Butler
The story of two warring tribes who seek to find peace through the marriage of their children, but the son of one of the tribes and the young woman who is promised to the other chief's son have fallen for each other. It's almost a reverse Romeo and Juliet. The two young people run away to live on their own, but they discover that their choices are limited and their hope for the future is dwindling. In addition, they realize that the consequences to their decision may have disastrous implications for their entire tribe. The incredible part of this film is that the legend is being acted by real tribespeople in Australia, not professional actors. It is a real accomplishment.
Toni Erdmann (Germany) - Maren Ade
I'm not even sure how to describe Toni Erdmann, except to say that if it were up to me, this film would be replaced by the excellent film, Elle, which didn't make the foreign film short list. It's a tough one to describe - the main character is an older man who loves to pop in fake teeth and don wigs and act out absurd pranks in real life. His daughter, a repressed business woman, is working to impress her company and a huge client, and is visited by her father who, when acting out these absurdist fantasies, calls himself Toni Erdmann. She has the prankster inside of her, but it's buried deep deep under her perfect hair and perfect clothes. While annoyed by her father, she also seems to love his antics because she keeps bringing him with her to extremely important events in her life. Their relationship arc is punctuated by a very surprising birthday party in which the daughter embraces Erdmann's crazy antics. I didn't love this film, but in the right mood, it's like a traffic accident from which you can't look away.