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The Foreigners of the Oscars

 

11-21 January, 2018

Istanbul Modern Cinema presents a program of films nominated for the “Best Foreign Language Film” category in the 90th Oscars ceremony. The films in the program represent a category which brings together films from diverse cultures and languages which were big hits in world festivals and, despite being Oscar-nominated, are outside the Hollywood track. Some of the outstanding films in the program are by acclaimed names from European and world cinema: Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel’s long-awaited return feature Zama, which premiered in Venice, Ruben Östlund’s satirical take on the contemporary art world, The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year and Happy End, depicting yet another bourgeois family in Europe by Michael Haneke, whose films were featured in a special retrospective at the Istanbul Modern Cinema in 2013.

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SUMMER 1993 (ESTIU 1993), 2017

Spain |DCP, Color, 97' |Catalan

Director: Carla Simón

Cast: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí

Following her parents’ death, the six years old Frida is adopted by her uncle and aunt-in-law. Now, a brand new life and a new home await her. However, Frida is overcome by a longing for her mother, and finds it hard to cope with such a tremendous trauma and to adapt to her new life. Her new family on the other hand will do everything in their power to make Frida happy despite the hardships. Carla Simón’s first feature film eloquently depicts the story of an orphaned child without playing on the audience’s heartstrings.  

 

 

ON BODY AND SOUL (TESTRÖL ÉS LÉLEKRÖL), 2016

Hungary |DCP, Color, 116´ |Hungarian

Director: Ildikó Enyedi

Cast: Géza Morcsányi, Alexandra Borbély, Zoltán Schneider

On Body and Soul follows the mystical love story of a shy man and a woman. Endre is the bookkeeper at a slaughterhouse near Budapest who falls head over heels for a surveillance officer named Maria, during her first sight visit to the slaughterhouse. But Endre is unable to open up to Maria, let alone acknowledge these feelings to himself. After a while, the pedantic, meticulous and just as introverted Maria and Endre realize that they have incidentally seen the same dream. The love that they can’t manifest in real life begins to intensify in the marvelous environment they meet at every night. Blending a poetic narrative with stark reality, the film won the Golden Bear top prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2017.

 

 

FOXTROT, 2017

Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland| DCP, Color, 114' |Hebrew, Arabic, German

Director: Samuel Maoz

Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonatan Shiray

Well-known for his first feature length film Lebanon, Samuel Maozreturns with Foxtrot, his new film in which the characters try but fail in changing their destinies, just like the dance that the film is named after with its back and forth movements. Reminiscent of a play made up of three acts, the carefully composed film’s first act portrays parents who are given the news of the death of their soldier son, and the army members who try to “aid” them during their mourning process. The following acts deliver several surprising plot twists and masterfully highlight the meaninglessness and the individual effects of the consequences of war. A psychological thriller that is hard to forget, the film won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.

 

 

THE INSULT (L’INSULTE), 2017

Lebanon, France |DCP, Color, 112' |Arabic

Director: Ziad Doueiri

Cast: Nah Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Rita Hayek

The conflicting political views of two men initially result with an insult, then slowly turning into a national crisis. A devout supporter of the Christian Democratic Union of Lebanon, the far right Toni makes a complaint about the construction in his neighborhood and argues with building site foreman Yasser, a refugee who doesn’t have a work permit. During the argument an insult is made, and the two men find themselves in court. Before long, the incident becomes a deeper political issue involving the whole country. The political film brought its leading actor Kamel El Basha, the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, and renders the national crises of Lebanon through the depiction of a relationship between individuals.

 

 

120 BEATS PER MINUTE, (120 BPM), 2017

France |DCP, Color, 140' |French

Director: Robin Campillo

Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel

ACT-UP is an activist non-governmental organization, which aims to raise awareness about AIDS across the world. The goal of the members at ACT-UP Paris is to both raise people’s awareness about disease prevention and to convince pharmaceutical companies to stop capitalizing on the disease by surrendering their interests. Despite fighting for their lives, the group members hold their ground and keep on having fun, falling in love and being passionate. In fact, the group’s methods of resistance are just as passionate as its members. In his film, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, Robin Campillo portrays the story of these activists and their humanity with humor, compassion and sincerity.

 

 

THE SQUARE, 2017

Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany |DCP, Color, 148' |Swedish, Danish, English

Director: Ruben Östlund

Cast: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West

The reputable curator of a contemporary art museum, Christian is preparing to exhibit an installation titled “Square” that invites viewers to be more generous, to be more sacrificing, and reminds them of their responsibilities towards each other. During the process, Christian will be dragged into a tragicomic existential crisis due to problems regarding his personal life and for having to deal with the consequences of a publicity campaign that the museum had executed. With its witty screenplay managing to be serious and irreverent at the same time, The Square won the Palme d’Or at Cannes to become one of the most talked about cinema events in 2017.

With the Contributions of 

 

 

A FANTASTIC WOMAN (UNA MUJER FANTÁSTICA), 2017

Chile |DCP, Color, 104' |Spanish

Director: Sebastián Lelio

Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco

Acclaimed for his 2013 film Gloria, Sebastian Lelio is back with yet another striking story. A transwoman, Marina loses her older boyfriend Orlando all of a sudden, and is faced with the difficult task of having to deal with the derision and ostracism stemming from gender discrimination from her late lover’s family, the doctors and the police before she can even find solace for the shock, pain and loneliness of this loss. The film offers an in-depth investigation of gender and the rights of trans individuals through a depiction of Marina’s story, and is commendable for its unbiased take on this delicate subject as well as its successful cast.

 

 

HAPPY END, 2017

Austria, France, Germany |DCP, Color, 107' |French, English

Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz

The middle-class Laurent family live in Calais in Northern France. When the family’s young granddaughter unexpectedly decides to settle in with them, three generations begin living together, and cause the family’s history filled with dark secrets and crimes as well as bottled up emotions of revenge to surface. The Austrian Michael Haneke’s latest film Happy End, which competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2017,depicts a thick-skinned and dysfunctional family with the master director’s idiosyncratic dark and abrasive style.  

With the Contributions of 

 

 

IN THE FADE (AUS DEM NICHTS), 2017

Germany |DCP, Color, 106' |German

Director: Fatih Akın

Cast: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Johannes Krisch, Numan Acar

Katja loses her Kurdish husband from Turkey along with her son during the terror attack in Hamburg carried out by a racist group, and sets out to get justice in court all the while she is mourning their loss. However, the legal system has already collapsed, and as a woman who has nothing left to lose, she embarks on a challenging journey to find justice her way. The film brought Diane Kruger the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 for her unforgettable performance, and is written and directed by Fatih Akın who dedicated the film to the victims of racist murders in Germany.

With the Contributions of 

 

 

RACER AND THE JAILBIRD, (LE FIDÈLE), 2017

Belgium, France, The Netherlands |DCP, Color, 130' |French, Dutch

Director: Michaël R. Roskam

Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Matthias Schoenaerts

It is love at first sight for Gino who starts an exciting, passionate and unconditional relationship with the maverick racing driver Bénédicte. But Gino has a dark secret, which can hurt everyone around him. Even so, the couple will brave their weaknesses and what their fate brings, and put up a bitter struggle in order to hold on to their relationship. Blending just the right amount of action, romance and drama, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.

 

 

LOVELESS (NELYUBOV), 2017

Russia, France, Belgium, Germany |DCP, Color, 127' |Russian

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Cast: Mariana Spivak, Alexei Rozin, Matvei Novikov

Andrey Zvyaginstev’s dramatic suspense thriller focuses on a loveless and tired couple on the verge of a divorce, and their twelve-year-old son who they don’t love and openly admit that they want nothing to do with. When their son suddenly goes missing, the couple begins a search mission and encounter useless public institutions, individuals that have grown apart because they have drowned themselves in technology and a trauma that has passed on from generations to generations. This multilayered, white-knuckle drama offers both the portrait of a family on the brink of destruction and an intense critique of society.

 

 

THELMA, 2017

Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark |DCP, Color, 116' |Norwegian

Director: Joachim Trier

Cast: Eili Harbo, Okay Kaya, Ellen Dorrit Petersen

One of Norway’s most acclaimed contemporary directors, Joachim Trier is back with a new coming of age story. The film follows Thelma, a shy girl who leaves her village and her conservative family to attend university in the big city. Thelma tries to make sense of her intense emotions and the supernatural powers that are manifested when she falls in love with a girl from one of her classes. She strives to find herself among the rights and wrongs that are ingrained in her head from her upbringing, her overbearing family and the contrasting emotions stirring up in her inner world. Hooking viewers on from its opening scene, this intriguing film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.

 

 

ZAMA, 2017

Argentina, Brazil |DCP, Color, 115' |Spanish

Director: Lucrecia Martel

Cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas, Matheus Nachtergaele

Lucrecia Martel’s first film in nine years, with Pedro Almodóvar and Gael García Bernal among its producers, Zama is a masterpiece. Adapted to the movie screens from Antonio di Benedetto’s novel with the same name, Zama portrays the story of Diego de Zama, a judge who has been stuck waiting for a promotion during the 18th century in Paraguay, one of Spain’s colonies at the time. Exasperated of waiting with unfulfilled promises, away from his family and unable to get justice, the protagonist Diego de Zama decides to take matters into his own hands. Filmed with the spectacular nature of South America as its background, Zama is also praiseworthy in terms of its impressive cinematography.

 

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