As most fans of the Oscars would know, movies to watch out for nowadays are not only the mainstream ones, but also those that have been nominated for the best foreign language film category. This year’s roster of foreign language films does not disappoint as some of the films on this list have garnered high praises and controversies left and right.
Although a lot of critics would say that those films submitted in the best foreign language film category are used solely as a publicity stunt to promote the films of their country, this year’s list seemed to prove otherwise. With the two top contenders stirring up a lot of controversy and bringing about many debates on the home front, this year’s contenders indeed gave the panel of judges a difficult time.
Leviathan (a Russian film)
One of the top contenders for this category, Leviathan, deals with controversies surrounding the present day rulings of the Russian government. Directed by Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan has won best screenplay in Cannes last May 2014. It has also been named the best foreign language film at the Golden Globe Awards and even by the London Critics’ Circle. The film is set at the Baltic Coast and shows the dealings of a crooked mayor in Russia. The film shows nuances of the problems during the Putin regime, which led to a huge controversy on the Russian director’s home front.
Groups from the religious sectors have called on the film’s take on an Orthodox priest and his corrupt ways. Moreover the Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky, stated that films that show hopelessness and despair should not be given any funding, especially using the money of the taxpayers. Lastly the film showed an unclean Russia, which was complained about by the head of the town where the film making was done. With all the negative criticisms surrounding the film, different media groups have asked for Zvyagintsev’s comment on this and all he had to say was that he did not wish to confront anyone. But he wanted to create a work of art which would provide light and hope.
Ida (a Polish film)
On a similar note, another top contender, Ida, has also garnered its fair share of controversies. Set in Poland in the 1960s, the film by Pawel Pawlikowski features a nun who has just discovered her Jewish roots. With her newfound identity, she enters the secular world, thus uncovering some truths about happenings that involved Poland during the Second World War and even during the 1950s. Ida won the best foreign language film in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and top prizes in many film festivals.
Although Ida and Leviathan were top contenders, another film that definitely gave the top two a run for their money was Timbuktu, a French-Mauritanian film. Directed by Mauritanian Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu raked in a myriad of awards at a recent French festival. Dealing with jihadism in Mali, Timbuktu was quite a heavy film to contend with.
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