International Oscar Race: Taiwan Picks Supernatural LGBT-Themed Comedy Marry My Dead Body
Taiwan has selected supernatural comedy “Marry My Dead Body” as its representative in the 2023 Oscars’ best international feature film category (see details below).
All submissions and materials for the 2023 race must be received by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences by 5pm Monday Oct. 2. And films must meet all the qualifying conditions between Dec. 1, 2022 and Oct. 31, 2023. A shortlist of 15 will be announced on Dec. 21. Final nominees will be announced on Jan. 23, 2024. The 96th Academy Awards is set to take place on Mar. 10, 2024.
Taiwan: “Marry My Dead Body”
Directed by Cheng Wei-hao, “Marry My Dead Body” hitches a homophobic policeman with a ghost. But despite his fears of homosexuality and ghosts, the cop finds himself working with his spooky partner to catch criminals. The result is an absurdist tear-jerker that is the seventh highest grossing film of all time in Taiwan theaters. It also achieved respectable box office numbers in Hong Kong, Korea and Vietnam before being picked up by Netflix.
The announcement was made on Wednesday by the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, operating under Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture.
Director: Cheng Wei-hao. Int’l sales Calendar Studio.
Australia has selected “Shayda” by Iranian-Australian director Noora Niasari as its contender in the best international feature film category of the 96th Academy Awards. The film follows an Iranian mother and daughter who take refuge in an Australian shelter during the Iranian New Year, but they find that even there they cannot escape violence.
The film premiered in Sundance in January. It recently played as the opening film of the Melbourne festival and at Locarno. It was picked up for North American release by Sony Pictures Classics and will have its Australian commercial release in October through Madman.
Production is by Australia’s Dirty Films, which counts Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton among its backers.
Dir: Noora Niasari. Int’l sales: HanWay Films.
Canada has selected Zaynê Akyol’s Islamic State documentary “Rojek” as its candidate in the best international feature film category. In the film, director Zaynê Akyol talks to imprisoned members of the Islamic State, alternating their words with aerial views of the countryside. The documentary is told in a mix of Arabic, English, French and Kurdish.
“Rojek” premiered at the 2022 Visions du Réel Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland. It has screened at festivals around the world and won several prizes including at Docville, Valladolid, Jihlava and Hot Docs.
It is produced by Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre, Sylvain Corbeil and Akyol of Metafilms. It is being distributed in Canada by Maison 4:3 and in the U.S. by Icarus Films.
Dir: Zaynê Akyol. Int’l sales: Andana Films
Chile: “The Settlers”
Chile has joined the Oscars race, choosing “The Settlers” (“Los Colonos”) as its entry for international feature film at the 96th Academy Awards. Chile’s biggest prizewinner to date this year, along with Maite Alberdi’s “The Eternal Memory,” which scooped Sundance’s World Cinema Grand Prize, Galvez’s feature debut walked off in Cannes with the Fipresci Intl. Federation of Film Critics Award for best film in the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand.
The film is set to have its North American premiere at the Toronto Festival on Sept. 11, 50 years after Augusto Pinochet’s bloody coup d’etat in Chile. Mubi has moved forcefully swooping on U.S. domestic rights on Gálvez’s movie as well as closing the U.K., Latin America, Turkey, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Benelux and India.
Lead produced by Giancarlo Nasi at Chilean powerhouse Quijote Dilms, co-written by Antonia Girardi, in collaboration with Mariano Lines, co-writer on “Argentina, 1985”), “The Settlers” plumbs with a searing but certain grasp of the bigger historical picture of how Chile turned to the British Army vets, out of work after the end of Second Boer War, to apply their expertise in scorched earth tactics to conquer much of Chile’s south.
A revisionist Western, as Variety says in its review, Galvez stands on its head the central driving metaphor of Westerns, bringing civilization to the wild, showing how three horseman commit barbaric acts, in the interests of agri big business, slaughtering Indigenous Selk’nam to carve out a trade route for a big landowner’s cattle reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
Dir: Felipe Gálvez. Int’l sales: MK2
Germany: “The Teachers’ Lounge”
Germany has selected Ilker Çatak’s “The Teachers’ Lounge” as its candidate in the best international feature film category of the 96th Academy Awards. The film stars Leonie Benesch and is produced by Ingo Fliess.
The film had its world premiere in Berlinale’s Panorama section, and won the Label Europa Cinemas prize. It took five prizes at the German Film Awards, including the Lola in Gold for best feature film, and has been shortlisted for the European Film Award.
Sony Pictures Classics bought the film for North and Latin America as well as for Eastern Europe. In addition, Be For Films sold the film to all other territories worldwide, with the exception of Southeast Asia.
In this gripping classroom-ethics thriller an idealistic teacher in a German school faces spiraling consequences when one of her students is accused of stealing.
“The Teachers’ Lounge” was produced by If…Productions Film, and co-produced by ZDF and ARTE, and supported by BKM, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein as well as the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) and the German Federal Film Board (FFA).
Dir: Ilker Çatak. Int’l sales: Be For Films
Estonia: “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood”
Estonia has selected Anna Hints’ documentary “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” as its entry for the best international feature film Academy Award. The film won the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary section at Sundance.
Greenwich Entertainment will release it in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year. Autlook Filmsales has sold the rights to more than 30 international territories.
As Jessica Kiang’s review for Variety explains, the film centers on “a group of women who gather on and off through the changing seasons in a log-cabin sauna nestled in pretty woods by a lake, a setting straight off the top of a chocolate box, to sweat out their secrets and heal each other with heat, talk and arcane sauna-based rituals.”
Kiang adds: “The small, smoky, steamy miracle of this film is how it creates something so intangible, so lyrical, from the absolutely elemental: fire, wood, water and lots of naked female flesh.”
“Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” is produced by Marianne Ostrat of Alexandra Film.
Dir: Anna Hints. Int’l sales: Autlook Filmsales.
South Korea: “Concrete Utopia”
South Korea, a previous winner in the best international feature category with “Parasite” has selected current box office hit “Concrete Utopia” as its contender in the 2023-24 race. The second film by director Um Tae-hwa, “Concrete Utopia” is set in a Seoul that has been largely destroyed by a massive earthquake. One building stands tall among the wreckage and becomes a refuge for this already inside, but the inhabitants must fend of the unwanted attentions of outsiders.
The film was released on Aug. 9 in Korean cinemas and earned $16.2 million in its first eight days.
Announcing the Oscars decision, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) said that selectors wanted to pick a world class film with a major star. Lee Byung-hun, who previously starred in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “RED 2” as well as a string of top Korean films (“I Saw the Devil,” “The Age of Shadows” and “A Bittersweet Life”), more than fits the bill. KOFIC urged the film’s international distributor Lotte Entertainment to appoint a U.S. publicist as soon as possible and for the publicist to develop a “bold” marketing campaign.
Dir: Um Tae-hwa. Int’l sales: Lotte Entertainment.
Tajikistan has selected drama film “Melody” as its national representative in the 2023 Oscars’ best international feature film category. The selection of “Melody” is the first time in 18 years that Tajikistan has chosen to enter the category and only its third time ever.
The film is the story of a woman (Melody) who teaches at a center for children with cancer. With 30 children at the hospice, she is asked to compose a piece using the songs of 30 different birds. She finds just 20 and her mute helper makes Melody understand that hunters have forced the old bird expert out of the village.
“Melody” is written, directed and produced by Behrouz Sebt Rasoul, who is also a novelist and experienced director of commercials. Production is by Sebt Rasoul’s company Nama Film Company.
Shot in the Persian language as a Tajikistan-Iran coproduction, “Melody” enjoyed a commercial release in Iran in March. French-based international sales agent Dreamlab is now seeking festival berths and overseas distribution.
The film’s selection was made by TV Safina and the Union of Cinematographers of Tajikistan, the organization accredited for the task by AMPAS.
Dir. Behrouz Sebt Rasoul. Int’l sales: Dreamlab Films.
Writer-director Carmen Jacquier’s feature debut is a coming-of-age film set in 1900 against a glorious mountainous landscape and the conservatism of rural Switzerland. It turns on a teenage girl (Lilith Grasmug) who is about to take her vows at the nunnery but is forced to return home when her elder sister dies in mysterious circumstances. The girl is forced to investigate her sister’s death and in doing so tests the constraints of family and the village community.
Produced by Flavia Zanon, “Thunder” (“Foudre”) world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before a successful run on the international festival circuit, picking up several awards in the process, including two Swiss Film Awards, an Emerging Swiss Talent Award at Zurich, a Special Jury Prize in Rome and a best director prize in Marrakech.
Dir: Carmen Jacquier. Int’l sales: WTF Films.
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