Not to the surprise of many watchers of foreign language Oscar nominations, Aamir Khan's directorial vehicle Taare Zamren Par could not make into the Oscar list. The movie just hasn't been garnering the kind of mainstream reviews and media attention the actor's Lagaan received a few years ago. It received high praise from many key American publications including The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and garnered one of the five nominations.
The Oscar selection committee announced on Tuesday a short list of nine movies out of which five will make into the final competition. In all there were 65 entries; each country nominates one film. The final list will be announced on January 22.
The competition has been so severe this year that the much lauded Gomorrah, an Italian entry, was left off.
The list includes the much praised Israel's animated Waltz with Bashir, a Golden Globe winner, which examines Israel's role in the 1982 war on Lebanon. Some critics described it as an animated documentary since it combines audio interviews and animation. It is one of the most honoured of the 2008 films shown in America but it has grossed a modest $400,000. With the Golden Globe boost, it is bound to have a higher boxoffice profile.
The film deals with the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon. One night Christian militia invades refugee camps in the heart of Beirut and massacres more than 3000 Palestinians while Israeli soldiers surround the area. Ari Folman was one of these soldiers and he says the film is not attempt to come in terms with the horror of that night.
Though the nine film list was ready before the Golden Globes were announced on Sunday, the win for Waltz with Bashir will boost its chances as four films are eliminated from the current list.
Many Hollywood insiders not only expect Waltz with Bashir to be on the final Oscar list but also to win the coveted award.
At the Golden Globe event seen by some 14 million viewers in America and a bigger audience abroad, Folman dedicated the victory to 'eight tiny babies born' to the crew during the four years it took to film it.
'I hope that one day when they grow up that they watch this film together and they see the war that takes place in the film like an ancient video game that has nothing to do with their lives whatsoever,' he said.
At a party after the awards, he told reporters, as Variety reported, 'Unfortunately, the film is always relevant. There's only one major statement, which is an antiwar statement, and it is relevant now and unfortunately it was relevant when we were working on it.'
Though the nine-film list contains a number of brilliant films including Turkey's 3 Monkeys, morality tale that was a big hit in Cannes as well as the Toronto International Film Festival, the Italian modern day Mafia saga Gomorrah was shut out.
Gomorrah, which opens in select theatres in America soon, is being presented by Martin Scorsese. A grim and taut drama, it was a hit at Cannes, and became a smash box office hit in Italy and several other European countries.
But the Oscar committee chose another Cannes favorite, The Class, a French movie set in a tough Parisian high school.
Other films on the list are: Revanche (Austria), The Necessities of Life (Canada), The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany), Departures (Japan), Tear This Heart Out (Mexico), and Everlasting Moments (Sweden).