Foreign language Oscar nominations for 2011

Below are the nominated films, and a brief synopsis of each.

“Biutiful” – Mexico

Biutiful is directed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu and is his first film to be set in Spain. The story takes place in Barcelona and stars Javier Bardem as Uxbal, a man with a troubled past and, thanks to a recently diagnosed terminal illness, a short future. The film follows Uxbal as he tries to make ends meet and to plan for the care of his two beloved children within their complicated family set up after he’s gone. The film could certainly not be described as ‘light-hearted’, but it’s an interesting film which has been critically acclaimed as a result of the fine acting and directing that went into it.

“Dogtooth” – Greece

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos , Dogtooth is a compelling yet at times disturbing film that follows the story of three teenagers who live in rural ‘prison’ with their passive mother and controlling, manipulative father. They have no contact with the outside world and have even been taught a warped version of the local language so that they can’t communicate with outsiders. The family’s well-ordered life starts to fall apart when the father brings one of his female work colleagues home to fulfil certain needs…

Good, but not necessarily easy to watch, the film explores the concept that there is, in all societies, a desire to control what young people believe and understand.

“In a Better World” – Denmark

In a Better World is a Danish drama film directed by Susanne Bier and written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen. Its original Danish title is Hævnen, which means “The Revenge”. It won a 2011 Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film, and is a film that explores both the complexity of human emotions and the issue of male responsibility, and what it means to stand up for yourself and others. The story plays out in African refugee camps, where the main character Anton spends time as a doctor, and back in his idyllic Danish hometown where his son is suffering under the tyranny of a vicious school bully.

“Incendies” – Canada

Based on an acclaimed play by Lebanese-Canadian Wajdi Mouawad, ‘Incendies’ is directed by Denis Villeneuve. It follows the story of a pair of twins who are drawn into the Middle East conflict when they begin to investigate their mother’s past. At the reading of their mother Nawal’s will, twins Simon and Jeanne learn for the first time that they have a brother, and that their father, whom they thought was dead, is actually alive.

They discover that as a young woman, Nawal fell pregnant out of marriage in her Middle-Eastern homeland. Although spared an honour killing, she was forced to give up her baby, vowing one day that she would find him…

“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” – Algeria

“Outside the Law” is Rachid Bouchareb’s story of three brothers who lose their family farm in French-occupied Algeria and end up at the helm of the underground Algerian independence movement in Paris. The film takes place principally in the shanty towns and red light district of 1950s Paris and during the two hours the viewer discovers each of the three brothers’ reasons for taking on the cause. Hors la Loi is both a gripping, fast-paced thriller and an fascinating film that also offers a great insight into the history of the Algerian independence movement.

If you have seen any of the films, or have an opinion on which should win, please leave us your comments below!

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