Any best picture lineup of any industry organization that does not include A24’s “Close,” Utopia’s “Holy Spider” and the doc “Sr.,” which is still seeking a distributor, shall be declared null and void…at least in my mind.
In Telluride, all three films played like gangbusters. “Holy Spider,” which premiered at Cannes and won best actress for Zar Amir Ebrahimi, is looking likely to be Denmark’s submission for international feature (although it’s in Persian, it has Danish producers). Based on the true story of Saeed Hanaei (played by Mehdi Bajestani), a serial killer who targeted sex workers and killed 16 women from 2000 to 2001 in Mashhad, Iran, the film tells a fictional account of a female journalist (Ebrahimi) who investigates the case.
The suspense thriller evokes “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) and “Dexter,” particularly the show’s sublime fourth, Trinity Killer-focused season. Both lead actors are worthy of Academy attention, and writer and director Ali Abbasi, who helmed the 2018 hit “Border,” should not be overlooked for his achievements.
However, there shouldn’t be just one best picture spot given to a non-English language feature.
Lukas Dhont writes and directs one of the most affecting coming-of-age dramas I have experienced in quite some time with “Close.” The drama focuses on Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav de Waele), two thirteen-year-old boys who spend a summer together, but whose bond is thrown into disarray when they return to school. It’s a movie that conveys those moments of feeling lost and emotionally unanchored, something that’s easy to relate to, but difficult to capture on film. “Close” resembles two former Academy favorites, “Boyhood” (2014) and “Moonlight” (2016), but it also brings to mind classics like “Stand by Me” (1986). I would love to see the film recognized across the board in the best picture, director and original screenplay categories.
Dambrine and de Waele are also superb, and a lead actor and supporting actor nod for the two would be long overdue for the representation of child actors from international films. While young stars like Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and Keisha Castle-Hughes (“Whale Rider”) have trickled into their respective lineups in past years, we’ve yet to see a child actor from a non-English language film be recognized.
While we can celebrate the inclusions of films like “Amour,” “Roma” and the only best picture winner “Parasite” in the last decade, there are a lot of great non-English language films that should have been in their company.
If there are any studios on the hunt for a documentary that is also a slam-dunk Oscar nominee (and perhaps even a winner), then feel free to open your pocketbooks and acquire the film that captures the rebel spirit of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., who died in July 2021.
Produced by his Academy Award-nominated son Robert Downey Jr., and his wife Susan Downey, “Sr.” is a beautiful portrait of life, regret and reflection.
Directed by Chris Smith, “Sr.” was the last film I watched at the Telluride. Laughs filled the room along with a lot of sniffling. My father died last December. I’m sifting through my own feelings about that as the first anniversary approaches, so “Sr.” hit me like a ton of bricks.
No documentary has ever earned a best picture nomination. Not “Hoop Dreams.” Not “Harlan County USA.” Not “The Thin Blue Line.”
It’s time to change that. It’s time we see cinema as a whole and not just a fraction of its pieces.
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