Saturday, October 31, 2015

15 Latino Submissions for the Academy Awards® 2016

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo,

Fifteen Latino pictures were submitted this year to the Academy® Awards to contend in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Spain, Brazil, Ireland, and Guatemala are among the Latino favorites. 

Last year, two Latino submissions made it into the top nine. Argentina got and Oscar® nomination for “Wild Tales/Relatos Salvajes” and Venezuela's “The Libertator” made it into the shortlist. 

The Foreign Language category is highly spirited, having 81 nations competing with each other. 

The European films have more prestige, press coverage, tradition, and are the favorites to grab a nomination and even to win. A clear example, last year's winner “Ida” from Poland.

The films from Europe that are making big waves are: Hungary’s “Son of Saul,”

Denmark’s “A War,” “Iceland’s “Rams,” “Enclave” from Serbia, “Paradise Suite” from the Netherlands.

"Mustang" from France, a family drama shot in Turkey, is also expected to be in the short list.

The languages Latino movies speak this year are: Portuguese, Basque, Mayan-Kaqchiel, Warao, Spanish, and the Colombian representation is spoken in nine different languages, including German, English, Spanish and six other dialects.

This year Guatemala's submission is a well accomplished ethnic drama winner of the Silver Bear in Berlin, Ixcanul/Volcano is the Latino film generating a big buzz.

Brazil’s submission “The Second Mother” is getting great reviews and it is the only Latino submission shown already in U.S. theaters.

Ireland has a gay-Latino film in Spanish shot in Cuba named “Viva” with Jorge Perugorria (“Strawberry and Chocolate/Fresa y Chocolate”) Oscar® nominee in 1993.

Mexico has submitted 40 films and is the Latin-American country with more Oscar® nominations, eight in total, but never won. On the contrary Argentina had seven nominations and won twice. Spain has been nominated nineteen times and won four times. 

Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua did not submit this year, but they have sent films previously. Even Nicaragua, Cuba, and Puerto Rico have been nominated before. 

Panama's interaction with the Academy® started last year. The Canal Country is submitting a documentary for the second time - their stories deal with their conflicting relationship with the U.S.: “Invasion” and “Box 25” this particular film didn’t make it to the Academy’s final list. We don’t know why. Probably because the Panamanian submission has too much English to be considerated as a"foreign."

Paraguay made history for been the only one country submitting a film for the first time this year. 

El Salvador, Honduras, and Belize never submitted a film, EVER.
And the Latino Submissions are:

The Clan/El Clan
Pablo Trapero

“The Clan” Written and directed by Pablo Trapero (“El Bonarense,” “Leonera/Lion’s Den,” “Carancho”) is a crime film winner of the Silver Lion in Venice.  “El Clan” is a story based on real life events of the criminal activities of the Puccio’s family who kidnapped four people in Buenos Aires, and killed three of them, it was a period of transition in the Argentina's history, from the military dictatorship to a new democracy. 
The atmosphere of the 80’s is remarkable, and the music by Sebastian Escofet gives the perfect ambiance. Actor Gullermo Francella is terrific. 

Argentina may have its second consecutive Oscar® nomination and it may win, even with the grimy violence that could be a turn off for the voters, but as a reminder, the 2005 winner “Tsotsi” from South Africa was pretty violent too.

Second Mother/
Que horas ela Volta?
Anna Muylaert

“The Second Mother” is a very sweet story of a live-in maid with a wealthy family, in San Paolo, Brazil. Val takes care of everyone, especially the son, a very dependent teenager neglected by his pretentious mother. The situation in the house gets complicated when Val’s daughter, Jessica, moves-in, to make the admission exam at the local university.  
Even though, this is a story we have seen before many times, the humanistic approach by the director Anna Maylaer (“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation”) clearly shows the class differences in Brazil’s society. Jealousy, betrayal, and guilt are the key elements of this universal theme that have critics raving. Something remarkable about the film is the sacrifices that a poor mother is going through to take care of her child. This is well enough to well-keep the audience emotionally involved for more than two hours.

The Club/El Club
Pablo Larraín

“The Club” is an exposé of the scandal and corruption of the Catholic Church during the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. Oscar® nominee director Pablo Larrain (“No”) in his film talks about the crimes and child abuse committed by eight Priests confined to a rural retirement home in La Boca Navidad, near Viña del Mar and the Nun who takes care of them.

When a new member arrives, also a former abused altar boy, looking for revenge, shows up in the front of the house and starts creating the chaos.

The director, masterful, and without being condescending, makes the film deals straight forward with the true nature of the claims and the church's cover-up.

El abrazo de la serpiete
Ciro Guerra

Colombia’s film was made in nine different languages and follows two interconnected stories about the travels of two explorers; a German and an American into the Amazonian region. They are looking for the Yakruna, a plant that cures everything. The great Shaman Karamakate accompanies them in their journeys, both stories are taking place thirty years apart. 

The stunning black and white film was shot inside of the Amazons and gives to the jungle’s natural light an amazing surreal looks, making the drama reaching its climax when the Shaman and the community members start asking for respect. Director Ciro Guerra (“The Wind Journeys/Los viajes del viento”) delivers again, a powerful piece of filmmaking, showing Colonialism, invasion, and modern slavery in an unfair trade with the natives of the Continent.

Esteban Ramirez

Costa Rica’s story is about a friendship of a young girl with a prison inmate - A secret, soon to be revealed to her family. The consequences of this unusual relationship raises everyone’s tension, inside the jail and out, because some will view the relationship as natural as it can be and others will fight against such dull love. The odd couple will do what it takes to have their love prevail. An original story that could be compare with a novel from the Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Dólares de Arena/Sand Dollars
Laura Amelia Guzman,
Israel Cardenas

In the Dominican Republic there is a little paradise named Samaná, its resorts and beaches are an attraction to rich people. Outside the paradise, locals live in total poverty and they will do whatever it takes to survive. 

The youngsters are selling their bodies to the wealthy foreigners that pay for the orgies, tobacco, rum, and sex. 

The explosive soundtrack, of this Dominican/Mexican co-production is well accompanied by amazing ‘bachatas,’ telling the characters' stories and emotions through music. 

Geraldine Chaplin delivers one of her best performances of her career. Newcomers Yanet Mojica and Ricardo Ariel Toribio are fresh and natural. 

“Dólares de arena” is the best Dominican movie in recent years.

Jairo Bustamante

Ixcanul/Volcano” is a daring coming of age story of a young teenager living in an isolated Mayan community who starts discovering her sexuality, emotions, and her personal conflict with her challenging reality. (FULL REVIEW).

In recent years, the Academy®, looking for diversity, is making sure Ethnic Cinema is represented at the Awards, “The Milk of Sorrow/La teta asustada” from Peru, “Witch Craft”from Canada, “The Missing Picture” from Cambodia, and last year’s nominee “Timbuktu” from Mauritania, make us think that the representative of Guatemala will be a secure contender.

Paddy Breathnach

Jesus is young Drag Queen in La Havana with big dreams of getting the chance of her life, to perform on stage. Her father, a former boxer is there to punch those dreams out of her head. They haven’t seen each other for fifteen years and now life has put them back together. The political situation in Cuba towards gays is plagued with homophobia, stereotypes, and misunderstandings. 

In "Viva" father and son must cope together, understand each other for surviving, love, and comprehension. After all, they have the same blood. “Viva” is a very strong candidate to be nominated. 

600 Millas / 600 Miles
Gabriel Ripstein

The Mexican road movie will take us to a remarkable journey of 600 miles long, right from the border with the U.S.A. all the way into the heart of the Mexico, where an unusual friendship is born. Arnulfo, a Mexican weapon/drug dealer, Kristyan Ferrer (“Buen Día, Ramón,” “Days of Grace,” “The Empty Hours/Las horas muertas”) and Harris, an ATF Agent played by: Tim Roth (“Pulp Fiction,” “Selma,” “Chronic”). Harris wants to catch Arnulfo in his illicit business, the Mexican guy kidnaps him with the intention to take him to his bosses. The War on Drugs is a tough topic, where in the U.S., selling weapons and buying drugs contrast with the poverty, production, distribution, kidnappings, and violence on the Mexican side. 

“600 Miles” won the Silver Bear for best first feature at the Berlin International Film Festival. Other recent films submitted by Mexico on the “Narco” issue are: “Helí,” “Miss Bala,” and “Backyard, El Transpatio.” None of them had any luck.

El tiempo nublado/
Cloudy Times
Arami Ullon

Paraguay first time ever submitting a film to the Academy has made history with a marvelous documentary of an intimate and very personal story of filmmaker Arami Ullon who lives in a Basel and his aging mother who has epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. They cannot afford a professional caretaker. Her friend Julia is helping the mother, as the mother’s condition deteriorated, because of what is going on, the daughter has to return and take care of her. 

This enduring documentary is co-produced by Paraguay and Switzerland. The title of the film makes perfect sense because what’s going on in the mother’s head.

Hérctor Galvéz

Peru’s submission “NN” stands for “No Name/No Nombre.” It follows a forensic team in charge of identifying bodies in mass graves. A male body has a woman’s picture inside his clothes. Fidel, one of the forensic Doctors, goes out looking for her. He finds the widow and cares for her. The situation turns unbearable with the enormous bureaucracy of the forensic department - those bodies are just numbers. Fidel has a more humanistic approach, it is why he is trying his best to connect the dots to heal the souls.

Peru had another two good high-quality options: an intricate drama “The Banishing Elephant/El elefante desaparecido” and the popular “Magallanes.” We hope “NN” can reach a nomination as “The Milk of Sorrow/La teta asustada” did it in 2009.

Arabian Nights Volume 2 The Desolate One
Miguel Gomes

Portugal’s submission is the part two of a six hour trilogy based on the book “One Thousand and One Nights/As Mil e uma Noites.” A highly complex film of vignettes put together in a modern Portuguese society. 

The vast variety of tales that go from a drone following a very old running inmate in the fields, to a cute little dog and his ghost in the city, a rapper who is recording in a closet (literally) or naked Brazilian ladies sunbathing on a rooftop. “Arabian Nights” director is one of the greatest Portuguese filmmakers, Miguel Gomez (“Tabu” and “Our Beloved Month of August”) who makes this piece an epic cinematic experience. 

John Garaño
Jose Mari Goenaga

Flowers is the Spanish submission - is a very naturalistic story about grief that follows three women mourning from the same man, a wife, a mother, and a coworker. All of them connected with the gifts of flowers who became also a character in the movie. The exquisite symbolism and the slow pace makes  "Flowers" quiet delectable and a strong candidate to be in the short list. 
Una noche sin luna/A Moonless Night
Germán Tejeira

Three characters: Cesar the divorced man, Antonio the magician, and Laura a cashier at local highway’s toll station getting lost during a New Year’s celebration in the Uruguay’s countryside. They will have an opportunity to change their lives once and for all. 

This film could be considered as part magical realism, a genre that has been so popular in the Latin-American countries. The road story is similar to Alvaro Brechner’s “Bad Day to Go Fishing” who last year represented his country with “Mr. Kaplan.” 

Lo que se lleva el río/Gone With the River
Mario Crespo

“Dauna” is an ethnic story of a young woman influenced by her father to achieve the power of knowledge which had passed on to them from their ancestors from the Orinoco River.

Dauna’s husband, hoping for a traditional woman doesn’t comprehend her free spirit. There are rumors in town about her that cannot get pregnant that makes her to run away. She returns to comply with the tribe’s rules, but her spirit dares to be different. Her power influences their community to move forward. The film was written and directed by Mario Crespo. 

Last year, Venezuela’s “Liberator” made it to the Academy’s short list, this year, the South-American country aims to go farther.

Related Articles:
“Ixcanul” Pursuits Guatemala’s First Oscar® Nomination
128 Documentary Submitted for the Ocars® 2016
16 Latino Submissions for the Academy Awards® 2015
Can “The Revenant” Be a Good Oscar® Contender?

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