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Experts assess remake potential of foreign Oscar entries

The remake rights for foreign-language pics have always been a hot commodity — “Let Me In,” remade from Swedish hit “Let the Right One In,” is the latest high-profile example. Of the submissions for the next foreign-language Academy Award, Argentine thriller “Carancho” has been acquired for the remake treatment by Imagine Entertainment, with Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) attached to helm, and the entry from Kazakhstan, Akan Satayev’s “Strayed,” is reportedly being circled, with Paradigm selling the rights.

What about the rest of this year’s films? A panel of fest programmers and curators weighed in on the remake potential of the foreign-lingo contenders and opined on what might, could, should and shouldn’t be remade. A caveat: Pretty much all programmers are against English-language remakes, and this group is no different, but it nevertheless named films that have the potential to be successfully remade.

The panel consisted of Cameron Bailey (co-director, Toronto Intl. Film Festival), Brit Withey (artistic director, Denver Film Society), Holly Herrick (program director, Sarasota Film Festival and program director/special programs producer, Hamptons Intl. Film Festival), Laurence Kardish (senior curator, department of film and media, Museum of Modern Art) and Carl Spence (artistic director, Seattle Intl. Film Festival/lead programmer, Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival).

Most Likely to be remade

Director: Feng Xiaogang
Country: China
Comments: “The most palatable remake opportunity because of its universal themes and broad appeal.” Feng is “often called China’s Steven Spielberg, and it’s easy to imagine Spielberg pulling out all the stops in this story of an earthquake that tears a family apart before slowly drawing it back together.” “Could easily be transplanted without losing its flavor.”

Director: Pablo Trapero
Country: Argentina
Comments: Along with “Incendies,” picked as most likely by three out of five programmers, who saw what Imagine saw in the film. “Perfect cultural timing” and “a clear choice for a Stateside remake,” “an offbeat, noirish crime thriller/romance-melodrama “ that “could take place anywhere on the planet where there are automobiles and hospitals.” One respondent supposes that “Paul Thomas Anderson and Philip Seymour Hoffman come to mind, with Marisa Tomei as the nurse,” but another adds that “Trapero holds this thing in a balance that would be tough to re-create, so people should see (his version).”

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Country: Canada
Comments: “Sure to get a nomination if not the prize. I would be shocked if the rights to a U.S. remake were not already swept up” … an “obvious candidate.”

“Not Likely”
Bibliotheque Pascal
Director: Szabolcs Hajdu
Country: Hungary
Comments: “The remake could be directed by Abel Ferrara and star Asia Argento but would probably get an NC-17 rating and not be widely seen. Magical realism, literary references and sex have never set well with American audiences. Well, the first two anyway.”

“If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle”
Director: Florin Serban
Country: Romania
Comments: This 2010 Berlin Intl. Film Festival Silver Bear special jury prize winner would have a hard road as a remake, but “youth-in-prison films have been mildly successful over the decades (‘Bad Boys,’ ‘Midnight Express’).” Perhaps “Ryan Gosling or … the dark side of Shia LaBeouf?”

More from Eye on the Oscar: Foreign Language:
Winners circle back to Hollywood | Rookies of the year | Translate into English? | Taiwan’s offbeat choice for Oscar entry | Japan’s entry is an offbeat choice | Finnish ‘Life’ sets sight on Oscar | The contenders list