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Foreign films vie for Oscar glory

October 06, 2004 12:17 IST

A still from YesterdayA poignant story of a woman's struggle to survive and lead a meaningful life, despite being an AIDS victim, is South Africa's nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

The film, Yesterday, also has the distinction of being the first Zulu language film made with international collaboration.

HBO is one of the film's producers with Anant Singh, South Africa's best-known producer. Singh has been making anti-apartheid films including Sarafina! for over two decades with his partner director Derrel Roodt.

Roodt also directed the new film.
"We have made a moving film without oversentimentalising anything," Singh said at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. "The film shows that AIDS can also be caused by factors other than physical conditions." 

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He also added that during the apartheid regime, thousands of men from indigent 'homelands' created by the white government had to live away from their families for many years, due to the lack of jobs in their so-called


As they moved to the cities, they began taking more than one sexual partner. The lack of sexual education also contributed to the HIV virus and lack of strong medical infrastructure made the problem worse.

 "The film challenges the prevalent view of AIDS in South Africa," Singh said.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, involved in the fight against AIDS, presents the film.

Singh's long-awaited screen bio of Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom, to be directed by Shekhar Kapur, is finally expected to be shot next year, he said. Morgan Freeman will portray Mandela in his older years.

More than a dozen countries including South Africa, Italy and Sweden have already submitted their Oscar nominees. The selection committee will have to choose five nominees from films made in about 50 countries.

A still from ShwaasMarathi film Shwaas (left) beat out Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Swapner Din (Chased By Dreams) as India's official entry. Directed by debutant Sandeep Sawant, Shwaas won this year's National Award for Best Film, and emotively explores the relationship between an old man and his ailing, soon to be blind, grandson.

Another success at Toronto, The Sea Inside, based on the true story of a paralysed Spanish poet fighting a legal battle for his right to die, has been nominated by Spain as its entry. It pushed aside another acclaimed film, Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education, about young men haunted by their childhood nightmares of an abusive priest.

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, who made the Nicole Kidman starrer, The Others (the inspiration for the recent Hindi dud, Hum Kaun Hai?), The Sea Inside won the Silver Lion and best actor award for Javier Bardem at this year's Venice Film Festival.

The film is shaping into a sizeable hit in Spain, having grossed $15 million in less than four weeks.

'Hollywood has to make the selection, but we're still going to celebrate,' Amenabar told reporters in Madrid.

A still from The House Of KeysThe Italian entry, The House Of Keys, tells a poignant and haunting story about a difficult relationship between a young father and his handicapped son. Directed by Gianni Amelio, it was a favourite with many critics at Venice and Toronto.

The Italian press reacted angrily when it got no prizes at Venice where the British film Vera Drake was a winner, and the Spanish melodrama The Sea Within won several top awards.

Sweden's candidate As In Heaven, from writer-director Kay Pollak, is a romantic drama about a legendary conductor who returns to his childhood home following an emotional breakdown.

The Academy Award jury will announce its nominations on January 25. The Oscars will be presented on February 27 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

Arthur J Pais in New York