×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

South Africa and Canada Explore Alternative Sides of Their National ID

The United States is the only country not permitted to submit in the foreign-language film Oscar race, which is fair enough, given that this is one category expressly designed to give other filmmaking cultures a platform.

That’s not to say the English-speaking world is entirely absent from the contest, however. Nor, for that matter, is English itself: Sweden’s bilingual entry “The Square,” with an ensemble including Anglophone stars Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West, is among the favorites for a nomination. Every year, a number of predominantly English-speaking nations enter films showcasing an alternative side of their national identity: this year, six countries across four continents fall into that column.

Two of them, South Africa and Canada, are former Oscar winners. Since South Africa — a country that prides itself on its 11 official languages — took gold for Gavin Hood’s township fable “Tsotsi” at the 2005 ceremony, a shortlist spot for 2010’s “Life Above All” is the closest it has come to glory. But the Rainbow Nation has its best shot in some time with “The Wound,” a chiefly Xhosa-language film by Anglophone director John Trengove. Steeped in fascinating indigenous tradition, this culture-clash tale about two closeted black men who butt heads over a tribal male initiation ritual premiered to excellent reviews at Sundance, where Variety’s critic called it “hard-edged but beautifully wrought.”

Controversial at home (where ukwaluka, the ritual in question, is an ongoing hot-button topic), “The Wound” has also generated chatter across the festival circuit, most recently winning for debut feature at the London Film Festival. It’s also among the strongest of multiple LGBT-themed foreign-language submissions this year: its intersectional view of racial and sexual identity, combined with its masculinity-in-crisis drama, make it one to watch for a nomination.

Canada has taken perhaps a safer step with its submission, “Hochelaga, Land of Souls,” but the more traditional scope of Quebecois filmmaker Francois Girard’s lavish, centuries-spanning historical drama could put it in good stead with older-school voters. Using a present-day archaeological dig as the narrative spine for a flashback-riddled exploration of Quebec’s complex colonial past, this recent Toronto premiere — in a mixture of French, Mohawk and English — was described as a “rich cinematic banquet” by Variety’s Dennis Harvey. Canada has scored four nominations and a further three shortlist spots in the past 11 years; it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Canadians show up again. It’d be Girard’s second film to register with the Academy, though the first in this category: 1999’s “The Red Violin” won for its music score.

After a varied run of unsuccessful previous submissions that ranged from Aboriginal stories to a German WWII reflection, Australia finally landed its first nomination last year with the gorgeous, Vanuatu-set romance “Tanna.” This year, the country swings back from indigenous to European in focus with its entry. The first Australian-Italian co-production, made through a 1996 treaty between the countries, Ruth Borgobello’s “The Space Between” explores her own dual heritage through its love story between an Italian chef and an Australian designer in picturesque northern Italy.

Released domestically in July, the Australian film remains little-travelled on the festival circuit. New Zealand’s entry “One Thousand Ropes,” on the other hand, was warmly received at the Berlinale for its emotive mixture of social realist and supernatural story threads. Samoan director Tusi Tamasese’s film emphasizes his native language and culture, telling the story of a formerly abusive fighter turned male midwife reconnecting with his pregnant daughter: it is said to have moistened many an eye on its festival journey.

The United Kingdom, like Australia, has submitted a culturally diverse selection of films over the years. Welsh cinema was once its go-to option — and landed the U.K. its only two noms in this category in the 1990s — but more recent entries have veered in setting and focus from Iran to Turkey to the Philippines. This year, it’s British-Pakistani filmmaker Sarmad Masud’s Urdu-language “My Pure Land,” based on the true story of Nazo Dharejo, a mother of four in rural Pakistan who held off more than 200 mercenaries to defend her land and family. It’s rousing material, but the film came and went in Britain with little fanfare.

Instead, it’s an unconventional biopic from neighboring Ireland, which only began entering the foreign-language race a decade ago, that might be the dark horse to watch here. Beginning at South by Southwest, Pat Collins’ elegiac “Song of Granite” has drawn much acclaim at international festivals for its unconventional, poetic approach to portraying the life and troubled times of folk singer Joe Heaney, covering his formative years in Eire and his later migration to New York City.

Shot in stark, lovely black-and-white, this Gaelic/English-language entry stands out from the crowd — though to some Academy voters, it may seem one of the most comfortingly close-to-home of this year’s 92 contenders.

More Film

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT Jodie Foster will direct, co-produce and star in an English-language remake of [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. Kaufman and Herz produced the original 1984 comedy, set in the fictional town of Tromaville, N.J., and centered [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

  • Regina King Maggie Gyllenhaal

    Maggie Gyllenhaal, Regina King on Intimacy Experts: 'I Could Have Used the Help When I Was Younger'

    Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sex-trade industry series “The Deuce” features one job that’s unlike any other in television: an intimacy expert. During her Variety Actors on Actors interview with Regina King, “The Kindergarten Teacher” actress explained how the strange role is actually important in helping young actresses stand up for themselves, especially when it comes to sex scenes on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content