Newton, a political satire revolving around a government clerk sent on election duty in a conflict-ridden area, is India’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars 2018.
Directed by Amit V Masurkar and starring Rajkummar Rao, the Hindi film was chosen from among 26 titles from different languages by a 14-member jury appointed by the Film Federation of India.
The Film Federation of India, an autonomous trade body authorised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to select India’s entry for the Oscars, chose Newton over Aamir Khan’s hugely popular Dangal.
Over the years, the selection procedure for Indian films has been criticised, especially when “The Lunchbox” didn’t make the cut in 2014.
India has come a long way since its maiden entry at the Oscars – Mother India in 1957 – yet it has never brought home an award. It is odd that a country that makes around 1,500 films a year, has made it to the top 5 only three times.
Many blame this on lack of promotional activity and it will no suprise if this small-budget film misses the coveted trophy in March 2018.
Saawan is Pakistan’s submission to Oscars 2018.
Saawan is based on the true story of a nine-year-old boy suffering from polio in Pakistan’s Balochistan valley. Shunned by most of society including his father, the boy undertakes a dangerous journey back home to his family in the main city.
Directed by Farhan Alam and written and produced by Mashood Qadri, the film stars Saleem Mairaj, Syed Karam Hussain, Arif Bahalim, Najiba Faiz and Imran Aslam in lead roles.
Saawan is an attempt to raise awareness and help Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts. However, many critics feel that the fantastical idea of raising awareness about polio got lost in a series of plots and subplots.
“…as with a major chunk of other Pakistani films, Saawan suffers from a poorly-structured screenplay. Here is an idea that had the potential of being Pakistan’s very own Tokyo Story or A Bicycle Thief, if only the writer Mashood Qadri had kept it simple,” wrote a critic in a Pakistani daily.
The Pakistani Academy Selection Committee was chaired by two-time Academy Award and Emmy winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy among others.
Khacha (The Cage) is Bangladesh’s entry for the 90th Academy Awards.
The film chronicles the plight of a Hindu family trying to migrate to India after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
Khacha stars Mamunur Rashid, Azad Abul Kalam and Jaya Ahsan in central roles. The screenplay was written by Akram Khan and Azad Abul Kalam based on a short story of the same title by Hasan Azizul Haque.
However, the Oscar Bangladesh Committee’s selection was surprising as only two films were submitted to the committee.
Unfortunately, the film was taken off the only movie theatre in Dhaka, Star Cineplex, just after a week its release.
That’s the fate of most parallel cinema films in South Asia. Newton, India’s entry, released in only 300 cinema houses across the country as against the usual 1,500 for a commercial film.
Seto Surya or White Sun that has picked up a few international awards already is Nepal’s entry to the Oscars.
The second feature from writer-director Deepak Rauniyar is about a family divided by bloody war but who must come together to put their father to rest. The film is set against the backdrop of the Himalayas and the violent history of Nepal, during which a war between royalists and Maoists cost 16,000 lives between 1996 and 2006.
White Sun premiered at the Venice film festival and was considered one of the sleeper hits out of the festival picking up the Interfilm award. The film was co-produced with Qatar, the Netherlands and the US.
Nepal has scored only one nomination at the Oscars with 1999’s Caravan, the country’s first submission in the foreign-language category. Since then, Nepal has submitted seven other films, including last year’s The Black Hen.
A record 92 countries have submitted films in the Foreign Language Film category for the 90th Academy Awards, nominations for which will be announced on January 23, 2018, and awards on March 4, 2018 in Los Angeles.
Haiti, Honduras, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Senegal and Syria are first-time entrants to the Academy Awards 2017.
The films will now compete with high-profile contenders like Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father from Cambodia, Michael Haneke’s Happy End from Austria, Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman from Chile, Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) from France, Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot from Israel, Joachim Trier’s Thelma from Norway, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless from Russia.