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2018 Oscars: Analyzing the chances of Foreign Language Film contenders from Brazil, United Kingdom, Iraq and Algeria

Our seventh piece on this year’s Foreign Language Oscar race turns to the Middle East, Europe and Latin America to analyze 4 new contenders. These 4 films couldn’t be more different – but they include one stealth contender that may be gunning for a surprising nomination.

Let’s take a look.

From Brazil: BINGO: THE KING OF THE MORNINGS

1) The Story: The heartbreaking true story of the man behind the mask of Bingo – Brazil’s most famous children’s show clown who had a massive following in Brazil and was beloved by adults and children alike.

(2) Quick Review: We adored this film – it’s Brazil’s Birdman. It’s beautiful, sad, emotional and hilarious. In fact, it’s the most entertaining film we’ve seen in the FLF race (THE SQUARE comes close but this one is a tighter and better edited film). Rarely can a film sweep you this way from its opening credits. With stunning cinematography and camera movement and one of the best leading male performances of the year (FLF or not), this is one of Brazil’s finest films this decade. And we believe it will play like gangbusters with AMPAS – more on that in the next point. This I a film about the dictatorship of political correctness (like THE SQUARE) but also about the price of fame. Behind the mask of the happy clown is a troubled actor who acted in softcore adult films and then turned to a bigger TV opportunity hoping for fame. But soon the clown haunts him – and he becomes imprisoned behind the makeup and smiles.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It definitely will. This is right up AMPAS’ alley – and any actor will immediately relate to this. The entire film is about the industry, struggling actors, the price of fame, how your roles as an actor my haunt you long after the lights go off and you can lift yourself up again. It’s also extremely flashy with many hilarious and emotional bravura sequences. It delivers the goods – in spades. If it misses, it will only speak to the strength of the FLF race this year.

(4) Historic precedents/stats Brazil has 4 nominations here but no wins…yet.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. Many Oscar watchers may be sleeping on this one. We will surprise them and give this a 65%, meaning this film will be on our shortlist predictions article next week. It has everything AMPAS loves: it will appeal to basic and thoughtful voters, it will appeal to actors, it will appeal to producers. It entertains, engages and appeals. A fantastic contender.

 

Stay tuned next week for our predictions for the FLF shortlist in which we’ll be filtering down all the contenders we had pegged at 65% or more in our FLF analysis series and will be arranging the likely contenders in a typical preferential Oscar prediction style.

 

From UK: MY PURE LAND

1) The Story: A group of girls stand up for their uncle and his goons who’re trying to take away their home.

(2) Quick Review: A female empowerment tale of sorts, this is a Pakistan-set tale of what it means to keep resisting and fighting for what’s yours. Although the film is flawed with some issues in the way the story is being told, and some on-the-nose dialogue that sometimes becomes a bit much, this is a film that gets you to root for its characters and feel their struggle. It’s more of an audience pleaser than an artistic achievement the industry can rally behind.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? Female-centric films don’t typically do well, but beyond that – this is a film that doesn’t strike you as a ‘must-vote-for’ film. Its themes are timely but the race includes flashier and more subtle films than this.

(4) Historic precedents/stats The UK has just 2 nominations here despite having a robust film industry. This won’t be the third.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We’ll give this film a 20% chance mainly due to its lack of novelty and elements that can make it resonate far more than just being a female empowerment film.

 

From Iraq: THE DARK WIND

1) The Story: A couple are ready to marry and preparations for their wedding are underway. But ISIS attacks the village and they become separated.

(2) Quick Review: This is a powerful and well-made film that has a stripped-from-the-headline feel to it. It’s timely and well-made but drags a bit and doesn’t keep you fully invested in what’s going on. While the ISIS part of the story is harrowing and intense, the dramatic elements – in terms of its character interactions and motivations – aren’t as successful.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? It might but we suspect voters will have issues with the film not transcending its material and becoming something more than just showcasing the horrific ISIS crimes. It gets there early on but doesn’t engage throughout.

(4) Historic precedents/stats Iraq has never been nominated.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We’ll give it a 15% chance. The ISIS theme may help it but it probably won’t strike that much of a chord with voters.

 

From Algeria: ROAD TO ISTANBUL

1) The Story: A Belgian mother suddenly discovers that her daughter has fled to Syria to join the Jihadist movement.

(2) Quick Review: The first half of this film works very well as a reflection on why and how Europeans fall victims to radicalization. The second half, the mother’s journey to Syria trying to get her daughter back, becomes formulaic, under-cooked and with an abrupt ending. Not one of Rachid Bouchareb’s best works.

(3) Will it appeal to AMPAS voters? Voters like war-themed stories and the film is timely but the second half, once the mother embarks on her journey, may likely put them off.

(4) Historic precedents/stats Of all Arab nations, Algeria is the only country to have won an Oscar in this category (with Z) and Rachid Bouchareb, the director of ROAD TO ISTANBUL, has a very impressive track record with AMPAS, having been nominated an astounding 3 times – the best for any Arab director.

(5) Overall chance for a nomination. We’ll give it a 25% chance on the strength of Bouchareb’s track record with AMPAS but also the weakness of this film compared to his previous efforts.

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