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GlobalPost correspondents chime in with their overlooked picks for this year's Best Foreign Film.
on weighty issues such as race and politics while being very, very funny. The film stars Riaad Moosa, who in real life quit being a medical doctor to pursue comedy.
Technically this movie wouldn't qualify for the foreign language film category at the Oscars — it's in English. But, eish, those South African accents can be thick!
— Erin Conway-Smith in Johannesburg
5) “The Clown” (Brazil)
"The Clown," a 2011 film by Selton Mello, was Brazil’s official entry this year in the foreign Oscar nominations. It was a worthy choice by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture.
The film is Mello’s second, and in a brilliant casting choice he stars as the main protagonist. It’s not just a beautiful film to watch — poetically shot and paced just right — it also does justice to clowns everywhere by treating the profession as a complex and nuanced metier that explores some of the deepest, oldest questions about why we are here and what we’re supposed to do with ourselves.
The film’s main storyline follows father-and-son duo Benjamin and Valdemar (their clown names are Pangare and Puro Sangue) as they travel the country in a circus troupe. The tension comes from Benjamin’s shattering sense that he is no longer funny. His efforts to come to grips with this fear and his increasing longing for stability are what everyone, not just clowns, can relate to powerfully.
— Marie Doezema in Paris
6) "Mystery" (China)
Debuted at Cannes, this atmospheric thriller was the first film by envelope-pushing director Lou Ye since he received a five-year ban for making a film that depicted incidents at Tiananmen Square.
The film's backstory provides a good part of the interest: During the first cut, China's government censors made Lou eliminate a sex scene and a scene depicting the murder of an indigent with a hammer. Then, shortly before the Cannes debut, Lou was told to make further cuts. He balked, denouncing the censors on social media. At last he complied, but protested the cuts by removing his name from the final version.
“I accept that I'm a film director working in an era of censorship. I just want dialogue, not confrontation,” he said.
Apart from the politics, "Mystery" itself has been well-received: a dark and technically sophisticated, if somewhat overwrought, drama among the contemporary noveaux-riches of smoggy, colossal Wuhan. Lou Ye has marked himself as an outspoken director worth watching.
— Benjamin Carlson in Hong Kong
7) "Caesar Must Die" (Italy)
Italy's choice for the foreign-language Oscar was "Caesar Must Die," a raw docu-drama featuring a troupe of high-security prisoners preparing for a production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." The actors include drug smugglers, murderers and Mafiosi, and the film is shot entirely within the walls of Rome's Rebibbia prison. The result is a claustrophobic classic. It's not easy viewing, but there are surprising dashes of humor. Veteran directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani switch from scenes of the inmates' impassioned interpretation of ancient Roman mayhem to intimate shots of rehearsals within the confines of their cells. Shot mostly in a grainy black and white, the movie grabbed the top prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival. Salvatore Striano pulls off the standout performance as Brutus. He's now a professional actor, after serving his sentence and turning his back on a career with Naples' Camorra mob. "Caesar Must Die" doesn't shove its redemption-through-art message in your face — the intensity of the performances means it doesn't have to.
— Paul Ames in Brussels
8) "Pieta" (South Korea)
"Pieta," a South Korean film directed by the well-known filmmaker Kim Ki-duk and shown at Cannes, should have made the list. The twisted and churlish flick is a commentary on the Korean underworld, telling the story of a loan shark who dwells in a gritty industrial neighborhood. Residents barter their limbs in exchange for cash. When they don't pay, he cuts off their hands and throws people off buildings. One day, a woman claiming to be his mother shows up at the door, offering her unconditional love — even after he rapes her. The soulless gangster eventually falls under her charm. It's a commentary on the