The latest issue of Screen kicks off our awards-season coverage in print.
And we start with a bang, including profiles of all 76 films submitted in the foreign-language Oscar race.
As the leading international trade, Screen has been championing these films year round. I remember back at Cannes 2012 when we first wrote about Wadjda; The Match Factory was starting sales then and we wrote about the remarkable story of how Haifaa Al Mansour had beaten the odds to direct the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. And that she is a woman is even more remarkable — she persevered for five years to get the film off the ground and during the shoot she had to direct from inside a van.
What I love about Wadjda is that it’s a powerful story of political and social repression but it’s also a Friday night feel-good trip to the cinema. This is a simple, well-told story of a young girl who dreams of having her own bicycle. It has all the local details to make it something we’ve never seen before, but it never feels like heavy-handed homework.
Now the film is the first-ever Oscar candidate from Saudi Arabia. What good news for that country and for the film industry as a whole that new voices are being heard.
I’d be shocked if Wadjda isn’t on the foreign shortlist; my other picks would be led by The Broken Circle Breakdown, Gloria, The Past, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, Bethlehem, Walesa. Man Of Hope, Omar, Eat Sleep Die, Ilo Ilo, The Grandmaster, Renoir, The Notebook and Heli (the latter only if Oscar voters can stand a bit of penile flambé). There are at least another five that also could be serious contenders. Every year it seems the foreign-language submissions get stronger, as local film industries around the world thrive and grow.
Films of substance
I’m also thrilled the issue includes an interview with Steve Coogan. When I saw Philomena at its Venice world premiere, I was both moved and impressed by the film. Of course, Judi Dench will rightly get a lot of recognition for her lead. Also the script is extremely smart — a story that could have easily become sentimental and treacly was actually told in an emotional, funny way.
We all know and love Coogan for his comedy work but he really should get a lot of credit for Philomena’s brilliance — it was his baby from the start. As he says: “I found it depressing that there were not that many films around that were actually about anything. Films for an adult audience that had a point, a view about anything; that had the guts to say something sincere.”
Now that the summer blockbusters are long behind us, here’s to enjoying more of those films of substance this awards season.