Requiem for Mrs. J
Foreign Language Oscar Submissions II
Since 1956, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited national film commissions from around the world to submit their best film for the Foreign Language Oscar. The Academy's Foreign Language Film Award Committee winnows the submissions into a January shortlist of roughly ten films; from there, just five are nominated. Of the 71 total accolades, European countries have won 41 Foreign Language Oscars; only 26 nations have ever been represented onstage.
Coinciding with the 91st Academy Awards, and as a continuation of our first Foreign Language Oscar Submissions Series, Filmatique is hosting a diverse selection of works from national cinemas the Academy has historically marginalized. Filmatique's Foreign Language Oscar Submission II Series features daring and original works from Nepal, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica and Serbia— films that embed local culture and identity in distinct visions that resonate beyond their borders. Although Nepal was nominated for the Foreign Language Oscar in 1999, for Caravan, the film had a French director. Bulgaria, New Zealand, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, and Serbia have never been nominated.
Set high in the Himalayas, Deepak Rauniyar's White Sun traces a powerful allegory of Nepal's current societal fissures in a family's dispute over funeral rites, while Ilgar Najaf's Pomegranate Orchard inscribes Chekhov's generational politics in the sumptuous landscape of pastoral Azerbaijan. Ivaylo Hristov's Losers centers around a group of disaffected teenagers coming of age in Bulgaria— a self-reflexive portrait of a EU member state that still doesn't feel like it belongs. Tusi Tamasese's One Thousand Ropes portrays a Samoan man haunted by the violence of his past when it erupts in his present, while Costa Rican filmmaker Ariel Escalante's debut The Sound of Thing excavates the vicissitudes of a young woman's grief in small, observational moments that gain accumulative power. Marbled with black humor and style to spare, Bojan Vuletic's Requiem for Mrs. J depicts the Kafkaesque conundrum of a Serbian widow who finds it impossible even to die in the ex-Yugoslavian nation.
In a year that the Academy deemed cinematography and editing awards not worthy of broadcast, Filmatique's Foreign Language Oscar Submissions II Series offers an alternative vision of world cinema— a vast and diverse panorama of emerging talents across the globe, each invested in representing the social, cultural and/or political nuances of their respective nations. This series is intended to provide visibility to countries that have been, and remain, excluded not only from the increasingly-irrelevant Academy Awards, but the hierarchies of power they perpetuate and stand for as symbol.