'Borgman' and 'Heli' Selected as Foreign Language Oscar Contenders
Gotta go Borgman! With the awards season officially underway, Oscar buzz is heating up. Many countries submitting a film for the Best Foreign Language category are announcing their title. While many critics love Blue is the Warmest Color (Palme d'Or winner and my Cannes fave) France chose to submit Gilles Bourdos' Renoir starring Michel Bouquet. A number of other countries have chosen their films to submit, and two of them in particular (both of which first premiered in Cannes) are worth mentioning. The first is the film Borgman, submitted by The Netherlands, a twisted new take on home invasion that I just saw at TIFF and loved. The other is Heli, submitted by Mexico, a very bleak but affecting film from director Amat Escalante.
Borgman (which the teaser photo above is from), directed by Alex van Warmerdam, stars Jan Bijvoet as "Borgman", a man who finagles his way into a wealthy family's house. It didn't break out of Cannes with the best buzz, but I finally caught up with it at the Toronto Film Festival and seriously enjoyed it. The film kind of reminds me of Michael Haneke's Funny Games in the way it's a bizarre and yet refreshingly unique take on home invasion. The performances are all outstanding and the film will get under your skin and stick with you in an odd sort of way. It's a solid choice for The Netherlands, and I hope it ends up with a nomination.
Heli, directed by Amat Escalante, premiered in Cannes to some mixed buzz due to some of the terrifyingly brutal scenes in it. The bleak drama is yet another Mexican film showing just how bad crime and corruption is in Mexico, focusing on two teenage kids, one training to be a police officer, who get mixed up with local drug gangs. I personally wasn't the biggest fan of the film, but I did speak with numerous people who think Amat Escalante is a very talented up-and-coming director and this should help him break out. He's gaining support from Hollywood and this should bring more attention to him and Heli and all of his past films, too.
Other Best Foreign Language contenders chosen recently include: Hannah Espia's immigrant story Transit submitted by the Philippines; Chung Mong-hong's "spiritual horror thriller" Soul submitted by Taiwan; Andrzej Wajda's historic biopic Walesa: Man of Hope submitted by Poland; Sebastian Lelio's drama Gloria submitted by Chile; and Haifaa Mansour's Wadjda as the first ever submission from Saudi Arabia. These are in addition to Heli from Mexico, Borgman from The Netherlands, and Renoir from France. Right now it's hard to say if there's a frontrunner, but as always each country chooses one of their finest films to submit and they're almost always worth seeing. We'll be watching for any other big awards season updates.