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When Uncle Oscar disappoints

Quite strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, given the Academy Awards penchant for political correctness, all five contenders for the Best Foreign Film are political and war themes, writes Khalid Mohamed.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2008 02:26 IST
Premiere | Khalid Mohamed
Premiere | Khalid Mohamed
Hindustan Times

The Oscars are as reliable as your family doctor to tell you what’s hot on the global scene. And that is through the Academy Awards’ five nominations for the Best Foreign Film of the year.

The 80th edition of the ceremony is just around the corner. If you wake up sixish on Monday morning, you can catch it live — but this year there’s someone who won’t. Yours sincerely, because he’s disappointed, upset, put off. Because a film that deserved, as much as all of us deserve our daily bread, didn’t figure in the top five foreign film nominations.

No, no, no, not Eklavya, the lord forbid. The absentee is a jaw-puncher titled 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days from Romania, which has never really figured on the forefront of film-making of the inventive kind.

Screened at practically every international film festival, this winner of Cannes’ Golden Palm, is a salute to friendship in the time of abject crisis. In Romania of the 1980s, a young woman must help her room-mate to get an abortion, banned because of reasons which are more political than moral. Ensues a harrowing diary of 24 hours through which the two women survive the trauma of raising money, hiring a hotel room and negotiating the surgery with a mood-swinging doctor. Without dwelling on the women’s strength in weakness, suffice it to say that just one scene - showing a ludicrous conversation at a dining table - merits comparison to the emotional pitch achieved by such peerless cinema stylists as Krzysztof Kieslowski and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Practically every scene is achieved in one shot. There are only silences and broken sentences in lieu of background music. Directed by Cristian Mungiu and elevated by tremendous performances by Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasliea, the film was tipped by international critics to waltz away with the Best Foreign Film Oscar this year. Oh well, never mind. News is that 4 Months... may be released in India shortly. Here’s keeping one’s toes, fingers and hope crossed that its volatile passages aren’t sheared by the censors.
Meanwhile, the competition is...

Quite strangely, or perhaps not so strangely given the Academy Awards penchant for political correctness, all the five contenders for the Best Foreign Film this year are related to themes revolving around politics and war.

Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort (Israel) concerns the moral dilemma of soldiers caught in the southern Lebanon conflict.
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters (Germany-Austria) documents the true story of a secret Nazi plan to demolish the English currency by hiring a Jewish counterfeiter.

Master director Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn (Poland) is an elegy to the Polish soldiers who were massacred by Soviet forces during World War II.

Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol (Kazakhstan) is an allegorical war film going back to the times of Genghis Khan during his childhood. And Nikita Mikhalkov’s 12 (Russia), inspired by Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Young Men, looks at a jury wracked by guilt while judging a boy accused of murdering his military officer stepfather (PS: Basu Chatterjee made Ek Ruka Huwa Faisla in 1986, also inspired by the Lumet film).

Unarguably, the nominated films all seem thematically strong and relevant. Still, you know how it is. Since 4 Months... — that No. 1 in your heart and mind isn’t among the nominations -why wake up on Monday, sixish?