Russia, Greece, Norway, Azerbaijan select pix
More runners have joined the race for the foreign-language film Oscar, with Russia, Greece, Norway and Azerbaijan naming their contenders.Russia’s pick is “The Edge,” Aleksei Uchitel’s story of a World War II vet sent to work deep in the Siberian wastes, where prison camp survivors eke out a living. The film, chosen by the country’s Oscars committee headed by director Vladimir Menshov, explores the impact of the war on Russia’s psychology, as told through the story of the veteran, and the two women who both love and loathe him. With some spectacular sequences involving speeding steam trains — an allegory for the deep human need for escapism — the film played to appreciative audiences recently at the Toronto Film Festival. Drug drama “Angel,” helmed by Margreth Olin, has been tapped as the Norwegian entry. Pic, which stars Maria Bonnevie, is the story of Lea, a drug addict who decides to give up her daughter for adoption to ensure that the child has a better start in life than her own. Pic was produced by Thomas Robsahm for Speranza Films. It won audience awards in Oslo and Gothenburg, as well as the People’s Amanda at this year’s local awards. “Dogtooth” is the Greek entry. The pic is a daring and controversial film about an authoritarian father, who keeps his family isolated from the world on a country estate. The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, took a prize in Un Certain Regard in Cannes last year and has become a favorite on the festival circuit. With themes of sexual power and rebellion, the film is considered a mould-breaker in Greek film; it swept the new national Hellenic Film Academy awards earlier this year and the organization has now given it the Oscar nod. The selection awaits sanction by the Greek ministry of culture, but that is expected to be a formality. Azerbaijan has chosen Ilgar Safat’s psychological drama “The Precinct.” Set in the country’s capital, Baku, it tells the story of a photographer who is forced to choose between postponing marrying his fiancé or taking a lucrative job in Africa. His decision to take the job sparks a furious row while driving with his girlfriend and the couple crash. Later they find themselves in a police precinct — where he has to come to terms with his deep seated fear of women or he will not leave alive. Produced by Nariman Mammadov as a co-production with Georgia, the film was selected by the national Oscar committee.