As I already mentioned in a previous article, I was a little bit disappointed by the lack of diversity when it came to the 2021 Oscars Best Picture nominees. We have the same US/UK mix, and nothing much besides it, which sadly confirms my assumptions that Parasite was an exception rather than a sign of things to come. And some of this year’s Best Picture nominees are so disappointing – I wouldn’t even count them good films, much less the best ones – that it makes me question the integrity of the competition. Sure, 2020 was not a great year for film, and many big projects got postponed for later dates, but such a poor selection still remains unjustified.
Fortunately, the quality is significantly better when it comes to the Best International Feature Films nominated. There’s 5 of them, and I will take them one by one, in order of their current odds for winning the award.
This film is the current clear favourite, and the fact that it holds another nomination in an important category (Best Director) will most likely give it the upper hand. It would be great to see Thomas Vinterberg duly rewarded, after his exceptional film The Hunt back in 2012. It’s a very original story, which centres around four high school teachers who test a theory which posits that maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their system would improve their lives.
This film explores the Yugoslavian War of the mid-1990s, which is a topic that has not seen a lot of mainstream attention in cinema. Set in a Bosnian town in 1995, the film follows Aida, a UN translator stationed there, who has her life thrown upside down as the Serbian army occupies the town. Directed by Jasmila Zbanic, it provides a historical snapshot into the event that shaped the lives of many Europeans post Cold War.
A fire at a Bucharest nightclub during a metal gig, back in 2015, results in many dead and injured. The incident happens within the backdrop of widespread corruption in the Romanian political system, and the government is forced to resign days later after massive protests. This documentary follows the attempts of the technocratic government to deal with the situation, address deep-laying corruption issues, and looks at all these topics from the lens of investigative journalism.
The two-day national college entrance examination is a make-or-break affair for more than 10 million Chinese youths, whose academic and professional future rests on these results. The film follows Nian, a bullied girl whose misfortunates hinder her preparations for the all-important exam. She however forms an unlikely bond with a young man, who strives to protect her from her assailants.
This Tunisian entry explores the precarious situation of a young Syrian refugee who flees from the war into Lebanon. It is there that he meets a famous tattoo artist, and agrees to be the subject in an elaborate work of art. Consequently, he literally becomes a living work of art, and with an artwork worth millions tattooed on his back, his life takes another dramatic turn.