Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s “El ciudadano ilustre” (The Distinguished Citizen), a Venice Festival best actor winner, will represent Argentina as its foreign-language Academy Award entry.
A dramedy which builds into a finally swinging put-down of small-town provincialism, “The Distinguished Citizen” has several things going for it: It won Oscar Martinez a Volpi Cup best actor award at the Venice Film Festival. Drawing a long applause at its audience screening in Venice, it garnered generally positive reviews at the Italian festival as an arthouse crowdpleaser. Distributed by Disney in Argentina, “The Distinguished Citizen” earned €1.25 million ($1.4 million) in box office after two weekends at the Argentine box office.
“The Distinguished Citizen” was chosen by Argentina’s Academy, whose president, Juan Jose Campanella, was Argentina’s last foreign-language Academy Award winner, for “The Secret in Their Eyes,” which won in 2009.
In the film, Martinez plays an Argentine Nobel Prize winning writer who returns to his home-town for the first time in 40 years. The citizen’s pride at his fame turns to hostility as they realise that he has built his reputation on a social critique of their small-town small-mindedness.
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Disney has distribution rights to Argentina and the rest of Latin America. A Contracorriente Films, one of the film’s producers, will distribute in Spain. Latido began to roll out sales on the dramedy as a healthy fast pace from its first Lido screening, closing Italy (Movies Inspired) at Venice and France (Memento) in Toronto, of major territories.
Though “The Distinguished Citizen” was most probably the frontrunner among pundits, Argentine Academy members faced the most-open field in three years, after Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales” was selected as its candidate in 2014, and went on to score a nomination, and Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” represented Argentina in 2015.
Duprat and Cohn’s film will also represent Argentina at the 2017 Spanish Academy Goyas.
Argentina is the only country in Latin America to have won a foreign language Oscar, which it has achieved twice, the first time with Luis Puenzo and “An Official Story” in 1985. “The Distinguished Citizen” looks like one of the last of Latin American foreign-language entries to be announced. This year’s submissions raise the intriguing possibility of a Latin American filmmaker being nominated for two films: Pablo Larrain’s “Neruda” has scored Chile’s candidacy for best foreign-language film while his “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman, which world premiered at Venice to rave reviews, is being talked up as an Oscar contender in multiple categories.