26 January, 2018
Lebanon's first Oscar-nominated movie and a Chilean picture with a transgender actor are among five finalists for best foreign language film at the 2018 Academy Awards.
The winner will receive an Academy Award, also called an Oscar. The 90th Academy Awards ceremony takes place on March 4 in Los Angeles, California.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the best foreign language film award to a movie recorded in a language other than English. All the films under consideration were produced in a country other than the United States.
Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri's "The Insult" is competing against four other films, including Chilean filmmaker Sebastan Lelio's "A Fantastic Woman."
The other finalists are "The Square" by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev's "Loveless" and "On Body and Soul" by Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi.
A film about the limits to our empathy
"A Fantastic Woman" tells about a transgender woman who is rejected by her partner's family after his death. Critics have praised the movie as a major turning point in how transgender people are represented in film. However, the director says he did not set out to make history.
Lelio told The Associated Press that he was surprised how timely the film seems. He noted how the movie has made its way from the world of theatrical productions and into the cultural conversation.
Lelio said he sees the film as a love story "that happens to happen to a transgender woman."
"For me, it has always been a film about the limits to our empathy," he said. "About what we are willing to allow from others, where we draw the line in terms of which people are legitimate or which acts of love are legitimate or not."
Showing hope in the Middle East
Paris-based Lebanese director Doueiri said the nomination for "The Insult" was "great news for us and for Lebanon."
"It's been a very, very long and difficult road to get where we are," he said.
In "The Insult," an argument between a Lebanese Christian man and a Palestinian refugee leads to a courtroom battle. The film shows examples of ongoing problems within Lebanese society. The film was first shown at the Venice Film Festival, where its Palestinian co-star, Kamel El Basha, won the best actor award.
Doueiri was briefly detained when he returned to Lebanon because he had visited Israel, where his movie "The Attack" was being filmed.
Lebanon and Israel are in a state of war. Lebanon's government bars Lebanese citizens from visiting Israel or having business with Israelis.
"Making films means crossing borders," said Doueiri. "Nobody can tell a director where to film."
The director added that he hoped "The Insult" would show movie goers a different side of the Middle East than violence and conflict. Yet with these problems, there is hope of compromise, he said.
A global representation
The nominees for best foreign language film will come to the Oscars after winning awards at other film competitions. "Loveless" took the first place at the 2017 London Film Festival. Judges there praised Zvyagintsev for turning the story of one family's problems into a universal tragedy.
The Russian director said the Academy Award nomination means a lot to filmmakers, and helps them, "continue to tell the stories that move us, in the way we want to tell them."
Hungarian film "On Body and Soul" won the Golden Bear award last year at the Berlin Film Festival.
The film, a love story, takes place in a building where animals are killed for their meat. Director Enyedi said the movie tells about two normal people whose lives are brightened by the power of dreams.
Enyedi is the only female director among the foreign language finalists. She said getting an Oscar nomination "in a year where so many exceptional women are being honored for their work behind the camera humbles me."
"The Square" is a story of a museum director whose well-organized life turns into crisis after a series of strange events. It won the Palme d'Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
Ostlund was very happy about the nomination of his film. "I wanted to make an entertaining, wild and funny movie at the same time," he told the AP from the Sundance Film Festival.
I'm Phil Dierking.
The Associated Press reported this story. Phil Dierking adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Have you seen or heard of any of these movies? What other foreign movies do you think should be nominated? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
conversation – n. a spoken exchange of idea or opinions
empathy – n. the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions
entertaining – adj. enjoyable and fun
humble – adj. not thinking of yourself as better than other people
legitimate – adj. fair or reasonable
transgender – n. people who feel that their true self is different from their sex at birth
universal – adj. done or experienced by everyone