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Home Red Carpet Foreign Films You Should Watch Before The Oscars

Foreign Films You Should Watch Before The Oscars

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Have you had enough free time to catch up on all of the nominated films for the Oscars? And not just the mainstream flicks but the foreign ones as well? 

Before you watch the Academy Awards on Sunday night, check out our rundown of nominated foreign films that you might not have had the opportunity to watch yet. 



Country: Poland
Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
Starring: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik

A look into 1960's communist Poland, Ida follows the personal journey of a young orphan nun about to take her vows of Catholicism when a long-lost aunt comes into the picture. She shares that Ida is actually of Jewish decent, which leads into the search for answers of how her parents died. The film is tragically beautiful as it sifts through Poland's dark and heartbreaking past.

With the Oscars quickly approaching, Ida seems to be the frontrunner despite Leviathan taking home the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Golden Globes. Ida, along with Best Foreign Film, is nominated for Best Cinematography, as it is beautifully portrayed in black and white.

Cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski explained the choice, saying that "We chose black and white and the 1.33 frame because it was evocative of Polish films of that era, the early 1960s. We designed the unusual compositions to make the audience feel uncertain, to watch in a different way."



Country: Russia
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, and Vladimir Vdovichenkov

Taking place in a small fishing village, Leviathan follows Kolya, a mechanic who must go up against the corrupt nature of his mayor in order to keep and preserve his scenic home, which has been in his family for generations. After refusing a small sum of money for his home, the mayor is determined to seize the land, forcing Kolya to reach out to an old friend who has become a lawyer to help fight this injustice.

Leviathan gained critical acclaim during the festival circuit with a successful showing at Cannes last year. The film boasts stunning cinematography and a blend of social and political undertones that can be focused on the Russian government as well as any government under criticism of corruption.

Zvyagintsev co-wrote the film with Oleg Negin by paralleling the biblical story of Job, where the film actually derived its name.

"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you?"

With a great deal of focus on politics, producer Alexander Rodnyansky comments that, "It deals with some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia while never becoming an artist's sermon or a public statement; it is a story of love and tragedy experienced by ordinary people."

Leviathan was recognized at the Golden Globes in January by winning Best Foreign Language Film, yet has a strong competitor at the Oscars - Ida. 



Country: Estonia, Georgia
Director: Zaza Urushadze
Starring: Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nüganen, Mikheil Meskhi, Giorgi Nakashidze, Raivo Trass

As the Soviet Empire fell in the 1990's and war raged on, Tangerines follows an Estonian carpenter living in Georgia who, instead of fleeing from the ever-growing threat of war, helps his neighbor on a tangerine farm. When they find two wounded soldiers from opposite sides of war, they decide to help them, even though the two vow to kill each other once they are better.

Over the past year, Tangerines has been extremely successful by receiving recognition, nominations, and even 10 awards from various festivals. This is Estonia's first nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, and director Zara Urushadze is proud to share his vision.

"The war is not the main focus in the film. It is rather an intimate drama about relationships between our characters, about maintaining their humanity in difficult situations," Urushadze has said. "The war was extremely painful for us Georgians; we lost many of our people, we lost our land… I lost friends in the conflict… All of this has affected me deeply and inspired me to make a film with an anti-war message. I’m really against institutionalized slaughtering and believe in equality with no difference of nationality or religion."



Country: Mauritania
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Starring: Abel Jafri, Hichem Yacoubi

A cattle herder, Kidane, and his family find their peaceful days disrupted by a violent takeover in nearby Mali by Fundamentalist Islamic jihadists. The overall terror of changing politics and judicial law is intercut with intense daily instances of townspeople trying to adjust to the extreme laws and fear they have of the invaders. Simple daily pleasures such as music, soccer, and even something as human and basic as laughter has been outlawed in this anxiety-filled place. 

Timbuktu reflects the actual takeover of Mali in 2012. Sissako wanted to set out and make much more than a documentary about Islamic extremists. He found inspiration in the history of Timbuktu, which is represented as a hub of tolerance and learning. The film also sheds an interesting light on jihadists, and enemies in general, by showing them as both extremists and humans like any of us. 

In the film, the invaders subject the city to their own view of Shariah law and through the movie, show the hypocricy of it all. They obsess over soccer yet forbid people to play it, stone adulterers to death yet lust for wives of other men. Sissako said this depiction of the enemy is to show that a jihadist or any enemy really is not "simply a bad guy, who does not in any way resemble me, who's completely different... he's also a fragile being. And fragility is an element that can make anybody tip over into horror."

This is Mauritania's first entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.


Wild Tales

Country: Argentina
Director: Damián Szifrón
Starring: Ricardo Darín, Óscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, Darío Grandinetti

This anthology consists of six standalone stories that all relate through a theme of vengeance and violence. Wild Tales is made up of dark comedy elements as each storyline shows the results of someone being pushed over the edge. Some stories include a happy wedding day drastically ruined when the bride learns of her groom's infidelities or a boasting hot-shot in a sports car that must rely on those he insults when stuck with a flat tire.

"It's easy to see the lack of freedom in past eras," says Wild Tales director, Damian Szifrón. "But sometimes it's hard to see the tyranny of this world, of our present time in big cities. The film is contemporary in that sense. It's about the pleasure of reacting toward abuse of power, injustice… and against each other."

Be sure to check out these amazing films before the Oscars or even after. Share your thoughts with us @womensforum

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