ROME — Turkey has picked young director Mustafa Kara’s prize-winning drama “Cold of Kalandar,” about an impoverished family struggling to make a living in the mountains of northern Turkey, as its candidate for the foreign-language Oscar.
The selection was made by a committee within Turkey’s culture ministry, which is significant because “Cold” is considered by some to express hard-hitting social criticism and Turkey is currently undergoing a conservative crackdown. This slow-burner, in which an indebted man refuses to sell his prize bull and instead prospects vainly for valuable metals in craggy rocks, contrasts with the image touted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his country as an economic powerhouse.
“Cold” won the best director and best film honors at the Tokyo Film Festival, where it world premiered. The film went on to score a slew of other prizes at several events in Europe and at the Antalya and Istanbul fests in Turkey.
Also on Wednesday, South Africa announced that redemption drama “Noem My Skollie: Call Me Thief,” by first-time director Daryne Joshua, will be its foreign-language Oscar contender. Based on the true life story of scriptwriter John W. Fredericks, the movie centers on four teenagers growing up in the impoverished gang-lands of Cape Flats in the 1960s, one of whom becomes a storyteller when he is incarcerated. “Noem” has been playing well at the South African box office, where it has tallied more than 32,000 admissions to date.
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This week also saw Jordan select its foreign-language Oscar submission, Mai Masri’s “3000 Nights.” Written and directed by Masri, the film turns on a young Palestinian schoolteacher who gives birth in an Israeli prison and must fight to protect her newborn son, survive and maintain hope. The film saw its world premiere at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival in 2015.
It is only the third time Jordan has entered the race for foreign-language Oscar. Its 2015 entry, “Theeb,” received a nomination, but ultimately lost out to Hungary’s “Son Of Saul.
Iran recently selected Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman,” as its foreign-language Oscar contender. “Salesman,” which is centered on a couple whose relationship starts to turn sour during their performance of Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman,” took best screenplay donors in Cannes. Farhadi’s “A Separation” won the foreign-language Oscar in 2012, becoming the first Iranian movie to win that honor.
Other recent foreign-language Oscar contenders announced from the Middle East and North Africa:
— Tunisia has submitted Leyla Bouzid’s standout debut “As I Open my Eyes,” about an independently-minded young woman struggling against her family and society to become a singer in the final days of Tunisia’s recent Ben Ali dictatorship. Kino Lorber has North American rights.
— Algeria has submitted Lotfi Bouchouchi’s “The Well,” a drama set during the Algerian War of Independence. In the film, the French army surrounds a southern Algerian village where they believe an enemy is being hidden and force the inhabitants to either confront the issue or die of thirst.
— Morocco has submitted Said Khallaf’s social drama “A Mile in My Shoes,” about the tribulations of a street kid who grows up homeless in a tough urban environment and “decides to exact revenge on society that marginalized him,” according to he film’s press notes.
Nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24.