Welcome to The Awards Circuit’s 2017 Foreign Oscar Guide. This weekly series will shine a spotlight on this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, looking at all 92 submitted films and their interesting trends and regional perspectives.
Less than a year after the historic “Moonlight” win at the Oscars, its influence is already being felt. Indeed, if the 2017 race for the Foreign Language Oscar is anything to go by, queer cinema will once again be at the forefront of awards chatter this season. Like “Moonlight”, these acclaimed films are bringing new LGBT perspectives to the screen, representing a diverse spectrum of genres and countries from across the globe. Here’s a look at the 6 submissions hoping for some “Moonlight” afterglow.
To understand the “Moonlight” effect, the South African submission is the perfect place to start. In what is surely their most controversial pick ever, South Africa has chosen John Trengove’s coming of age drama “The Wound.” While being celebrated abroad, the film was highly criticized at home for its depiction of sacred rituals and taboo homosexuality. But despite safer choices like “Vaya” being eligible, the brave selection committee instead went with the film that has been heralded as “Africa’s Moonlight Moment.”
While “The Wound” shed light on contemporary struggles for the LGBT community, a pair of European submissions looked to the past to show how far we’ve come. From Finland, the life and work of a gay icon is celebrated in “Tom of Finland.” Directed by Dome Karukoski, this biopic shows the rise of the famous gay erotica artist Touko Laaksonen, who worked under the titular pseudonym to escape persecution in post-World War II Europe. Meanwhile, the more recent history of the AIDS crisis was the focus for the French submission. A critics and audience fave at the Cannes Film Festival, France will be very confident in the prospects for “BPM (Beats Per Minute)“, which chronicles the experiences of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in 1990s France. Its director Robin Campillo is no stranger to the Foreign Language Oscar race, having written the screenplay for 2008 nominee “The Class”.
Alongside France, Chile will also have a formidable contender in Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman.” This heartrending story of tragedy, discrimination and triumph has been a highlight of the festival circuit since its award-winning Berlin premiere. And with the coveted backing of Sony Pictures Classics, its captivating lead Daniela Vega could also be a dark horse contender for a historic Oscar nomination for a transgender actress.
Rounding out the LGBT submissions are pair of films representing atypical genres in the Foreign Language Oscar race. Taiwan has submitted “Small Talk” a deeply personal documentary about director Huang Hui-chen’s tense relationship with her mother, a lesbian Taoist priestess who never wanted children. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the Teddy Award for Best LGBT-related documentary. And lastly, Norway brings rare sci-fi intrigue in the form of “Thelma.” A lesbian love story with supernatural elements, it is directed by respected Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier and has been gaining buzz following premieres in Toronto and New York.
Contenders to watch: “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”