Thursday, December 20, 2007

PSIFF08—Foreign Language Oscar Submissions

Variety has leaked the line-up for the 19th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. With a nod to the upcoming Oscars, PSIFF's "Awards Buzz" program will screen 55 of the 63 official submissions to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for foreign-language film. This is my main incentive for attending PSIFF and—as with last year—I welcome any feedback from Evening Class readers regarding the following selection.

In usual obsessive fashion, I've scoured the film review lists for Strictly Film School, Long Pauses, Film Journey, and Twitch and linked reviews when relevant. I've also linked all Wikipedia synopses, which usually include IMdb profiles; but, in those instances where they don't, I've linked in IMdb as well, particularly for their external reviews and user comments. In those instances where The Greencine Daily has crafted a film-specific critical overview, I have linked those in as well. When I have more time (ha!), I'll link in Greencine's more specific commentary.

* * *

XXY (Argentina/Spain/ France). Darren Hughes provides a capsule review from the Toronto International at Long Pauses. Wikipedia synopsis.

The Home Song Stories (Australia/Singapore). Wikipedia synopsis. Stefan at Twitch reviews this favorably.

The Counterfeiters (Austria/Germany). I reviewed The Counterfeiters at this year's Toronto International for The Evening Class. Wikipedia synopsis. Greencine critical overview.

Swopnodanay (On the Wings of Dreams) (Bangladesh). Variety's Jay Weissberg describes it as a "genuine charmer" and a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. IMdb profile.

Ben X (Belgium). Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile.

Tesko je biti fin (It's Hard to Be Nice) (Bosnia). Sasa Petrovic won best actor at the Sarajevo Film Festival for his performance in this film. Variety's Alissa Simon describes it as "an engaging urban fairy tale" that "comes full circle in a satisfying way." IMdb profile.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (Brazil). IMdb profile. Dave Hudson, dispatching from the Berlinale, wrote this film up for The Greencine Daily. Pedro reported to Twitch on this film from the São Paulo International Film Festival.

Warden of the Dead (Bulgaria).
IMdb profile.

Days of Darkness (Canada/France). Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile. Greencine critical overview.

Our Father (Chile).

The Knot (China).
IMdb profile.

Satanas: Profile of a Killer (Colombia/Mexico).

Armin (Croatia/ Germany/Bosnia). IMdb profile.

The Silly Age (Cuba/Spain/Venezuela). IMdb profile.

The Art of Crying (Denmark). IMdb profile. Todd at Twitch, who caught the film in Toronto, feels it's a failure and that time could be better spent elsewhere.

In the Heliopolis Flat (Egypt).
IMdb profile.

The Class (Estonia). IMdb profile.

A Man's Job (Finland). Todd at Twitch has some anticipatory remarks.

Persepolis (France). I've had morning coffee with Marjane Satrapi and interviewed her cohort Vincent Paronnaud. Doug Cummings offers insight at Film Journey, as does James McNally at Toronto Screenshots. Darren Hughes explores his favorite scene at Long Pauses. IMdb profile. Greencine critical overviews from Cannes, Toronto/NYFF, NYFF Pt. 2, and upon national distribution.

The Russian Triangle (Georgia).
IMdb profile. Roystalin at Twitch has some anticipatory remarks and offers a YouTube clip.

The Edge of Heaven (Germany/Turkey). Wikipedia synopsis. Greencine critical overview.

Eduart (Greece).
Guardian Unlimited's Ronald Bergan singles out Eduart as the shining star of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Boyd van Hoeij concurs at Variety's Jay Weissberg expresses reservations, however. IMdb profile.

Exiled (Hong Kong). James McNally caught Exiled at Toronto and offers insight at Toronto Screenshots. Peter Nellhaus caught Exiled at the Aurora (Colorado) Asian Film Festival and wrote it up for Coffee, Coffee, and More Coffee. Exiled has been a popular favorite at the Twitch site, garnering much anticipatory copy and at least four reviews from the Twitch team; three from Toronto (Todd, Opus, Mack) and a second report from Todd from the Fantasia Festival. Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile. Greencine critical overview, parts one and two.

Jar City (Iceland/Germany). James McNally caught Jar City in Toronto and wrote it up for Toronto Screenshots, including an MP3 of the Q&A with director Baltasar Kormákur. Jar City is another favorite that's been well-monitored at Twitch, culminating in Todd's Toronto review. David D'Arcy dispatches to The Greencine Daily from Karlovy Vary. As does Boyd van Hoeij for IMdb profile.

Eklavya: The Royal Guard (India). Several reviews can be culled out from the Wikipedia synopsis.

Denias, Singing on the Cloud (Indonesia). IMdb profile.

M for Mother (Iran).
IMdb profile.

Jani Gal (Iraq). IMdb profile.

Kings (Ireland/U.K.). John Maguire offers a Dublinesque perspective at his site Confessions Of A Film Critic. Wikipedia synopsis.

Beaufort (Israel). Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile. Dave Hudson dispatches to The Greencine Daily from the Berlinale, where Beaufort scored the Silver Bear for Best Director. Steve James caught it at the Edinburgh Film Festival and wrote it up for the World Socialist Web Site. Nextbook's Diana Bletter explores Ron Leshem's novel If Heaven Exists; the film's source. Isabel Kershner tackles the tension between Beaufort and The Band's Visit for The New York Times.

Soredemo boku wa yattenai (I Just Didn't Do It) (Japan). Acquarello offers insight at Strictly Film School. Quite a few more reviews at the IMdb profile.

Mongol (Kazakhstan/Germany). Here's another highly-anticipated film at Twitch that has been monitored from the get-go and which Todd reviewed at Toronto. Variety's Alissa Simon was likewise impressed with this "beautifully mounted actioner." J.D. McNamara is less enthused at Cinema Blend, claiming Mongol is "an epic without a hero, a romance without a lover, and a war without a decisive battle." IMdb profile.

Caramel (Lebanon/France). IMdb profile.

Small Secrets (Luxembourg).

Senki (Shadows) (Macedonia). Variety's Alissa Simon finds it "overlong, ponderous and occasional risible", while Nancy Keefe Rhodes at Stylus champions the film as rewarding viewing. IMdb profile.

Duska (Netherlands). Boyd van Hoeij writes that one up for
CineEuropa, as does Jay Weissberg for Variety. IMdb profile.

Gone With the Woman (Norway). Todd reviewed the film for Twitch from Toronto. Karsten Meinich has some interesting backstory at Subtitles to Cinema. More, of course, at the IMdb profile.

Crossing a Shadow (Peru). IMdb profile.

Donsol (Philippines). IMdb profile.

Belle toujours (Portugal). Acquarello offers insight at
Strictly Film School, as does Jay Kuehner at CinemaScope, Tom Hall at Back Row Manifesto, Michelle Orange and J. Hoberman for The Village Voice, Hervé Aburon at Cahiers du cinéma, Daniel Kasman at d+kaz, Ed Gonzalez at Slant, Manohla Dargis for The New York Times, Keith Ulrich for The House Next Door, and Dave Kehr at his eponymous site. Just for starters. Many more at the IMdb profile.

Maldeamores (Lovesickness) (Puerto Rico). Sandra Guzman reviews Maldeamores for the
New York Post, as does Michelle Orange for The Reeler. IMdb profile.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania). Acquarello offers insight at Strictly Film School. As does Robert Koehler at Film Journey. Wikipedia synopsis. Greencine critical overview.

12 (Russia).
Variety's Ronnie Scheib offers a glowing review. IMdb profile.

The Trap (Serbia/Germany/Hungary). David D'Arcy dispatches to The Greencine Daily from Karlovy Vary on the film's "Faustian bargain". IMdb profile.

881 (Singapore). Stefan reviewed 881 for Twitch. Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile.

Return of the Storks (Slovakia/Germany/Czech Republic).
IMdb profile.

Short Circuits (Slovenia). Variety's Alissa Simon reports on the film's "dim prospects." IMdb profile.

Secret Sunshine (South Korea). Every year at the Toronto International there's a film that I miss that everyone else seems to catch which, invariably, ends up being everybody's favorite film from the festival. Last year it was Still Life. This year, Secret Sunshine. While I'm at Palm Springs, Lee Chang-dong will actually be attending a benefit screening of Secret Sunshine for the San Francisco Film Society. I'm hoping, since he's on the West Coast, that he'll stop by Palm Springs as well. Darren Hughes is one of those lucky ones who caught Secret Sunshine in Toronto and he drafted a capsule review for Long Pauses. James McNally likewise wrote it up for Toronto Screenshots. There's been moderate interest in the film at Twitch where teammate Jon Pais has offered up a review. Wikipedia synopsis. IMdb profile. Greencine critical overviews for Cannes, Toronto, and NYFF.

The Orphanage (Spain/Mexico). I reviewed The Orphanage at the Toronto International for The Evening Class. I've also interviewed both director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio Sanchez for both Greencine and movieScope, forthcoming. There's been lots of coverage at Twitch as well, with reviews by Todd and guest author Grady Hendrix. Wikipedia synopsis. Greencine critical overviews for Cannes, Toronto, and NYFF.

You, the Living (Sweden). Wikipedia synopsis. Greencine critical overviews for Cannes and Toronto. CineEuropa offers an essay on the film, an inteview with director Roy Andersson, and an interview with producer Pernilla Sandström.

Late Bloomers (aka Little Paris) (Switzerland). Variety's Leslie Felperin briefly comments on this "cute, anodyne comedy." IMdb profile.

King of Fire (Thailand). Peter Nellhaus has reviewed King Of Fire (under it's original title King Naresuan II) at Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee. Wikipedia synopsis.

Takva—A Man's Fear of God (Turkey/Germany). Via The Greencine Daily, this film won Best Picture at the 13th Sarajevo Film Festival. indieWIRE has an interview with director Ozer Kiziltan. Ismet Redzovic reports to the World Socialist Web Site from the 54th Sydney Film Festival and Jay Weissberg reports to Variety from the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.

The Pope's Toilet (Uruguay/Brazil/France). Here's the
TIFF program capsule and J. Robert Parks' review at Framing Device. IMdb profile.

The White Silk Dress (Vietnam). Wikipedia synopsis.

Cross-published on

12/20/07 UPDATE: PSIFF allows some folks to play "catch-up", whereas others are way ahead of the pack already. Case in point,
Ken Rudolph, he's already seen 49 of the 63 Academy foreign language films!! He's worked them up into capsule reviews at his blog.


James McNally said...

Michael, thanks for your hard work! I reviewed a number of these at TIFF as well, so if you're just desperate to read more about any of them:

Jar City:

Secret Sunshine:



Michael Guillen said...

Excellent, James! You've provided official site urls for three movies I couldn't locate. I've folded your reviews into the main mix. Thanks again.

Any recommendations on films you haven't seen but wish to see?

Peter Nellhaus said...

I reviewed the Thai entry when it was released in Thailand under its original title:

and Exiled here:

Michael Guillen said...

Thanks, Peter, folded into the mix.

Anonymous said...

Hey Michael!

As has been a January tradition for the San Francisco Bay Area Folk, we'll get to catch a sampling of these at the San Rafael Theatre -

Next to the Silent Film Festival, it's my favorite Bay Area Film Event every year. I'll be renting a hybrid for at least one weekend, for sure.


Michael Guillen said...

Make it the second weekend and I'll join you and treat you to some fabulous lunch somewhere!!

Brian Darr said...

Ken Rudolph may seem like an intimidating pacecar, but remember that he is a member of the Academy's foreign-language film selection committee so of course he's seen a lot of these films!

Boyd said...


I've seen almost all European submissions on the list, and continue to add 500+ words reviews for them. The list of all the 2008 Foreign Language Oscar European submissions has links to all reviews. I'd especially recommend the films from Estonia, Hungary, Turkey, Belgium and Iceland.

And keep up the good work on your blog - I read it with pleasure!!

Michael Guillen said...

Excellent excellent EXCELLENT, Boyd!! is, likewise, one of my favorite haunts!