Oscars Race: Philippines Sends Venice Winner ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’ to the Academy Awards

Philippines picks ‘On the Job: The Missing 8’

The Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Directors Guild of the Philippines have chosen Erik Matti’s “On the Job: The Missing 8” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year where it won best actor for John Arcilla.

The film is a follow up to Matti’s “On The Job,” which bowed at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in 2013. Inspired by true events, the film follows a corrupt journalist seeking justice for his colleagues, and a convict who is frequently brought out of prison to perform assassinations.

The “On the Job” franchise was also expanded as a TV series for HBO, which was recently nominated in the TV Movie/Mini-Series category at the International Emmys. 

Pakistan Jumps for ‘Joyland’

Pakistan’s Oscar selection committee, headed by double Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, has chosen Saim Sadiq’s “Joyland” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The film had its world premiere at Cannes earlier this year where it won the Queer Palm and the jury prize at the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand.

The tale of sexual revolution sees a patriarchal family yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, while their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls for an ambitious transsexual starlet.

Producers are Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat (“Circus of Life”) and Lauren Mann (“The Card Counter”). It was produced through All Caps and Khoosat Films in association with Diversity Hire, One Two Twenty Entertainment, Blood Moon Creative, Film Manufacturers, Astrakan and Noruz Films, from producers Kathryn M. Moseley, Oliver Ridge, April Shih, and Katharina Otto-Bernstein.
Executive producers are Ramin Bahrani, William Olsson, Jen Goyne Blake, Tiffany Boyle, Elsa Ramo, Oleg Dubson, Kathrin Lohmann, Hari Charana Prasad, Sukanya Puvvula and Owais Ahmed.

Portugal Selects ‘Alma Viva’

Portugal has selected “Alma Viva,” the feature debut of Portuguese-French filmmaker Cristèle Alves Meira which world premiered at Critics’ Week in Cannes.

“Alma Viva” follows Salomé, a little girl who returns to her family village nestled in the Portuguese mountains for the holidays. As the holidays begin in a carefree atmosphere, her beloved grandmother suddenly dies. While the adults are tearing each other apart over the funeral, Salomé is haunted by the spirit of the one who was considered a witch.

“Alma Viva” is a personal project for Alves Meira, who was born in France to Portuguese emigrant parents and cast her own daughter is the role of Salomé.

The film was produced by Gaëlle Mareschi and Pedro Borges, and co-produced by Sébastien Delloye and Rachel Morte. Producers are Guillaume Marten, David Thion and Philippe Martin, Mathias Jenny and Thomas Berthon-Fishman.

Cristèle Alves Meira was trained as an actor and began her career as a theater director. She then directed a documentary in Cape Verde, “Som & Morabeza,” and one in Angola, “Born in Luanda.” She directed a few shorts, including “Campo de Víboras” and “Invisível Herói.”

Morocco Picks ‘The Blue Caftan’ as its Oscar Candidate

Morocco has chosen  Maryam Touzani’s “The Blue Caftan” as its official entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. The movie world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Fipresci prize. Films Boutique has sold the film to more than 30 territories.

Strand Releasing will distribute the film in North America. “The Blue Caftan” just had its North American premier at Toronto in the Special Screenings section.

Touzani’s follow-up to Un Certain Regard title “Adam,” “The Blue Caftan” tells the story of Halim and Mina, a married couple running a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. In order to keep up with the commands of the demanding customers, they hire Youssef. The talented apprentice shows an utmost dedication in learning the art of embroidery and tailoring from Halim. Slowly Mina realizes how much her husband is moved by the presence of the young man.

Produced by Nabil Ayouch (“Casablanca Beats,” “Much Loved”), “The Blue Caftan” stars Lubna Azabal (“Incendies”) and Saleh Bakri (“Costa Brava, Lebanon”). The film is produced by Ali n’ Productions in Morocco, Les Films du Nouveau Monde in France, Velvet in Belgium and Snowglobe in Denmark.

Argentina Submits ‘Argentina 1985’ to Oscar race

Argentina has sent “Argentina 1985,” directed by Santiago Mitre, to vie for the Academy Awards’ best international film prize.

The drama based on real events won the Fipresci jury prize at the Venice Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, and snagged the coveted Audience Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival, both in September.

Starring Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in Their Eyes,” “Wild Tales”), “Argentina, 1985” is inspired by the true story of prosecutor Julio Strassera, who – together with young upstart lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo and their even younger legal team – took on Argentina’s military junta and brought several members to trial. The military dictatorship of Jorge Videla was accused of sequestering, torturing and murdering alleged members of the opposition. It ruled with brutal impunity until democracy was finally restored in 1983.

As Infinity Hill producer Axel Kuschevatzky pointed out in a previous interview with Variety: “One of the reasons why we made this film is because most of us have young children; we made this for the generations to come and most of all, to demonstrate how fragile democracy is.”

“While there will always be doubts that justice can prevail in a democracy; this trial proves it can be done. The message is universal and can be applied to the current state of the world we live in: ‘Nobody is above the law.’”

Structured like a thriller but with some touches of wry humor, “Argentina 1985” is a co-production between Amazon Studios, Mitre’s La Unión de los Ríos, Kenya Films and Infinity Hill. Prime Video will launch the film worldwide on Oct. 21.

Denmark Selects ‘Holy Spider’

Denmark has selected “Holy Spider,” Ali Abbasi’s Iran-set daring thriller, to be its official Oscar entry for the international feature film race. 

The movie world premiered at Cannes in competition and won best actress for Iranian Ebrahimi. It went on to play at Toronto and earned unanimous praise. 

A Danish-Iranian filmmaker, Abbasi made his feature debut with “Border” which won a prize at Un Certain Regard in Cannes. “Holy Spider,” Abbasi’s sophomore outing, was one of the three films shortlisted by Denmark’s Oscar committee, along with ‘Forever’ by Frelle Petersen and ‘As in Heaven’ by Tea Lindeburg. 

Based on a true story, the film revolves around a family man, Saeed, who embarks on his own religious quest  to “cleanse” the holy Iranian city of Mashhad of  sex workers and turns into a serial killer. The film was produced by Sol Bondy at One Two Film,  and Jacob Jarek at Profile Pictures. Wild Bunch International handles worldwide sales. Utopia acquired North American rights off the film’s acclaimed world premiere at Cannes. The Danish release is scheduled for Oct. 13. 

Denmark’s Oscar committee comprises of chairman Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute, Danish producer Kim Magnusson  Søren Balle, screenwriter Mette Heeno, cinematographer Jan Weincke, film critic Nanna Frank Rasmussen, exhibitor Line Bjørn Daugbjerg Christensen and Marianne Moritzen, head of fiction at the Danish Film Institute.

Hong Kong Picks ‘Where the Wind Blows’ For Oscars Contention

Hong Kong has selected controversial crime thriller “Where the Wind Blows” as its contender for the Academy Awards’ best international film competition. The film is directed by Philip Yung, whose previous “Port of Call” was the territory’s Oscar contender in 2015.

The selection was made by a committee within the Hong Kong Film Producers Association. The organization said Tuesday said that “Wind” won on a majority vote, but it did not name the other titles on its shortlist.

The film, previously known as “Theory of Ambitions” was produced by Hong Kong’s Mei Ah Film Production in a co-venture with mainland Chinese firms Dadi Century and Global Group, with production taking place as far back as 2018. Its production budget has been reported as $38 million, making it one of the most expensive Hong Kong films of all time.

“Wind” stars Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Aaron Kwok, Patrick Tam and Michael Chow and Chinese actress Du Juan. The actors play four notoriously corrupt police officers who rose to power in 1960s Hong Kong, with Du one of their wives. 

The film was selected as the opening title of the 2021 Hong Kong International Film Festival, but its world premiere was cancelled at short notice by the producer who cited “technical reasons.”

“Technical reasons” is widely understood in mainland China as a euphemism for censorship and was the phrase used for the abrupt cancelation of Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” at the 2019 Berlin film festival and for the last-minute halt of “The Eight Hundred” which had been set as the opening film at the Shanghai festival later the same year.

Portraying corruption on screen has previously been difficult for filmmakers on the mainland. But had been a stock in trade for Hong Kong filmmakers for decades. The film’s 2021 cancelation was seen in some quarters that the Hong Kong film industry is increasingly under the control of mainland Chinese elements. Hong Kong law has been changed to include national security considerations in the film ratings and classification process.

The film was again selected as the HKIFF’s opening film in 2022 and played in public on Aug. 15, 2022. Yung was not present in Hong Kong when it screened.

Estonia Picks Basketball Film ‘Kalev’ For Oscars Consideration

A jury convened by the Estonian Film Institute has selected Ove Musting’s basketball film “Kalev” as the country’s candidate in the contest for the Best International Feature Film Oscar at the Academy Awards.

A jury led by Edith Sepp, the head of the EFI, selected this year’s nominee from among 11 candidates. Other members of the jury included cinema journalist Tõnu Karjatse, film designer Eugen Tamberg, film booking specialist Tõnis Lõhmus, distributor Kaupo Liiv, film critic and Black Nights Film Festival director Tiina Lokk, and film critic Johann