Another one bites the dust…that is…for the Oscar Foreign Language film derby. With all the countries submitting their respective entries to this category, just making it to the short list of movies that will eventually fight for the Top 5 nomination slots is already an achievement. Unfortunately, the Philippine submission – “Ded Na si Lolo” (Grandfather is Dead) – failed to slip past through the first cut and will just be happy thanking the screening committee for the opportunity. Every year, the competition has been extremely tough and going head-to-head with entries from perenially-nominated countries like Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and even China makes it even more of an uphill battle for smaller nations (like the Philippines) which hope to be the token surprise nominee.
So what gives? Methinks commercial viability, on top of strong technical and cinematic merits, is given strong consideration by the panel in-charge of selecting the 5 nominees. Not that Philippine movies are the least qualified to make it. Given the strong performance of local indie movies in foreign film festivals, there is no question at all in terms of qualifications. I believe it is important as well for a movie to have a decent chance of commercial appeal once exhibited in the multiplexes or art houses. Still, there is no 100% guarantee.
Take for example the Spanish movie “Broken Embraces” by Almodovar and starring the beautiful and talented Penelope Cruz. It already enjoyed a long-enough commercial exhibition – albeit on a limited run – in the US market. And having been recently nominated in the counterpart category in the Golden Globe Awards further boosts its chances of increasing its earnings at the box-office. For these reasons alone, it is a shoo-in for one of the 5 nominees’ slots come Oscar night. But as things actually turned out to be, it joined “Ded na si Lolo” in the losers’ bracket and only the following 9 movies are still in the running:
1. El Secreto de sus Ojos from Argentina
2. Samson and Delilah from Australia
3. The World is Big and Salvation is right around the Corner from Bulgaria
4. Un Prophete from France
5. The White Ribbon from Germany (Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film)
6. Ajami from Israel
7. Kelin from Kazakhstan
8. Winter in Wartime from the Netherlands
9. The Milk of Sorrow from Peru
The Oscar Foreign Language race proves to be a tougher nut to crack. And from the remaining contenders, I can’t even hazard a guess on which 5 will finally make it and which of the eventual 5 will win. From the looks of it, “The White Ribbon” from Germany could be on a roll. But it won’t be easy to make an absolute prediction because this category is, language-barrier notwithstanding, kind of hard to translate into an easy win.
Anyways, I still congratulate Director Soxie Topacio for making it as the Philippine entry. This is one of the few times – if not the first – that a comedy was sent to compete. Onward to 2011 then!