Oscars Race: Germany Enters ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ in International Film Contest

Germany has entered Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in the race for the 95th Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category.

The decision was made by an independent jury whose members were appointed by various associations working within the German film industry. Nine films were in the shortlist.

The film tells the story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches.

It is adapted from the German anti-war novel of the same name, published in 1928, which drew on Erich Maria Remarque’s own experiences in the trenches.

The film is produced by Amusement Park Film for Netflix. It will have its world premiere in the Special Presentations section at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 12, and the European premiere will be held as a gala premiere during the Zurich Film Festival.

Netflix will partner with 24 Bilder for the film’s nationwide theatrical release in Germany on Sept. 29. It will open in U.S. cinemas in October, and can be seen on Netflix from Oct. 28.

The nine-member jury, headed by Maria Furtwängler of the German Film Academy, commented: “[The film] is unsparing in its portrayal of the machinery and dehumanization of war through the material symbolism of bullet-ridden uniforms, trenches collapsing and shattered bodies. The violence of the events translates into powerful imagery from which there is no escape.

“The Iron Generation of the 1910s presents itself as the Lost Generation whose individual destinies mercilessly perish in teeming battle scenes. Edward Berger exposes with clarity how those vainglorious decision-makers detached from the real world display an arrogant vanity in sending the young soldiers into battle and sacrificing them without any feelings of conscience. The first German film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s almost hundred-year-old novel is startlingly topical and makes a powerful statement against war.”

Canada Selects ‘Eternal Spring’

Jason Loftus’ animated, Mandarin-language documentary “Eternal Spring,” which had its world premiere in March 2022 at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, has been selected to represent Canada in the competition to nab a coveted Best International Feature Film nomination for the 2023  Academy Awards.

The decision was announced Aug. 24 by Telefilm Canada, the chair and coordinator of the 22-member pan-Canadian selection committee, which includes reps from government film agencies and national industry associations.

At a media conference in advance of the public announcement, Loftus said that a major platform sale of the film, covering most English-language markets, will be announced soon, and that the film, which has many international broadcast partners, will see a theatrical release in several markets.

“The recognition that Canada is providing is a game changer before we get into the wide release,” said Loftus, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee whose work spans docs, VR, games, and animation.

“Eternal Spring” had its North American premiere at Hot Docs in April 2022, where it won the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary and claimed the top spot in the overall audience poll of cinemagoers and online doc-watchers.

The film, which also scooped awards and noms at European festivals, mixes 3D and new live footage to trace the story of comic-book illustrator Daxiong (“Justice League,” “Star Wars”), a Falun Gong practitioner, who fled China after police began cracking down on members of the outlawed spiritual group.

At the media conference, Loftus, who was seated with his wife and filmmaking partner Masha Loftus, said they met Daxiong while making a kung fu video that featured hand-drawn artwork.

“We learned he was originally from China and was living in New York at the time,” Loftus said. “He worked with a sort of preeminent kung fu novelist in China and we just thought, this is great. He is an amazing, artistic talent and also the cultural background suited to working with us on this kung fu property.”

While working with him in Toronto on the project, the artist told them the story of why he left China. Turned out Daxiong was from the same hometown as Loftus’ wife and business partner, the daughter of a mid-level government official.

“She didn’t have connections with the Falun Gong community, so hearing what had happened in her own hometown by someone who had endured this really hit home for her. And for me.”

While the jury is still out on whether the film will experience the same Oscar nomination hat-trick as “Flee,” the success to date of “Eternal Spring” illustrates how animation in documentary storytelling is having more than a moment.

“We had this opportunity to have animation and the artistic process be part of the story,” Loftus said at the media conference. “So that’s why we have this kind of blend of live-action and animation—the art comes from an individual who has personally experienced trauma, who has left his home behind, who has this nostalgia, and who also colors his own art with the memories of torture and abuse.”

“This venture represents an exceptional opportunity for ‘Eternal Spring’ to reach new audiences and offers a golden opportunity to showcase the high quality of Canadian filmmaking,” said Christa Dickenson, Telefilm executive director and CEO. “That is why Telefilm will be supporting the film team in this prestigious competition and we wish them the best of luck.”

“Eternal Spring” was written and directed by Jason Loftus, who produced the film with Masha Loftus, Yvan Pinard, and Kevin Koo. The film was edited by David Schmidt and lensed by John Trans, with animation by Alex Smith and Matthew Sousa. David St-Amant served as animation director.

The film is produced by Lofty Sky Entertainment and the international sales agent is Sideways Film. 

Uruguay Submits ‘The Employer and the Employee’

Uruguay has submitted social thriller “The Employer and the Employee” by Manuel Nieto Zas as its official entry to the 95th Academy Awards in 2023. Nieto Zas’ third film had its world premiere in last year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight before it went on to play in the San Sebastian Film Festival and other prominent festivals worldwide, including Guadalajara, Jerusalem, Beijing, Karlovy Vary and Mar del Plata. Madrid-based Latido Films picked up world sales rights ahead of the film’s debut in Cannes.

Featuring “Persian Lessons” and “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” star Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, “The Employer and The Employee” (“El Empleado y El Patrón”) follows the parallel lives of an employer, Rodrigo (Pérez Biscayart), and an employee, Carlos (Cristian Borges), the teenage son of a land laborer toiling on the vast estates of Rodrigo’s father. Desperate to find a qualified driver for one of his combine harvesters, Rodrigo hires Carlos despite the latter’s lack of experience or a license. This inevitably leads to an accident whose aftermath plays out through the rest of the film.

“The Employer and the Employee” won awards at Toulouse’s Latin Film Festival, Mar del Plata’s LoboLab and San Sebastián’s WIP Latam, among others.

Lead-produced by Nieto’s Roken Films in Montevideo, the film’s production partners are Pasto (“A Family Submerged”) and Murillo Cine (“The Snatch Thief”) in Argentina, France’s Paraiso Production Diffusion (“Agosto”), Brazil’s Vulcana Cinema (“Castanha,” “Rifle”) and Sancho & Punta (“Yesterday There Were Strange Things in the Sky”) and Nadador Cine (“Belmonte”), Uruguay.

Taiwan Submits ‘Goddamned Asura’

Lou Yi-An’s “Goddamned Asura” has been selected as Taiwan’s entry for best international feature film at the Academy Awards.

The decision to submit the social psychological drama into the Oscar race was announced by the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, part of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture on Monday.

The film premiered at the Golden Horse Film Festival in November 2021 and picked up multiple awards at the Taipei Film Awards in June.. It had its commercial release in Taiwan in March this year.

The third film by Lou (2013’s “White Lies, Black Lies” and “A Place of One’s Own”) presents a multi-layered narrative drama that delves into a random shooting by an ordinary teenager through six characters, a popular video game and an alternate reality.

The leading cast members are Joseph Huang, Morning Mo, Huang Peijia, Devin Pan, Wang Yu-Xuan and Lai Hao-zhe.

The film was produced by Content Digital Film and Seashore Image Productions. Hope Marketing Entertainment is handling international Sales.

Lou’s previous work was known for his dark humor and the character-driven interleaving storyline in his
films. He is deeply interested in Taiwanese local culture, racial issues and social problems caused by class differences and generation gaps. He has said that “Goddamned Asura” was inspired by real events in Taiwan.

South Korea Submits ‘Decision to Leave’

South Korea has selected Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” as its national contender in the International Feature Film section of the Academy Awards. The film had its world premiere in competition at Cannes and earned Park the festival’s best director award.

Announcement of the decision was made on Thursday evening by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

“All the films in the running had artistic merit, but when we took into consideration the particular characteristics of the Academy Awards, the film’s pure artistry, the director’s name recognition, workmanship and directing skill, the possibility of box office success in the North American market, and the ability of overseas distributors to promote, we agreed that [“Decision to Leave”] is the most appropriate choice,” said the KOFIC committee. “We look forward to the promoting this work.”

Starring Korea’s Park Hae-il and Chinese star Tang Wei, the film tells a slow-burn tale of police detective who starts out investigating the death of a man in the mountains, but falls for the mysterious charm of his not-very-grieving widow.

The film was released in Korean theaters on June 29, 2022, and remains in the top ten chart. As of Wednesday, it had grossed $14.2 million from 1.79 million spectators.

In North America, the film is scheduled to play at the Toronto festival in September and the New York Film Festival in October, ahead of a commercial release through Mubi, penciled in for Oct. 14.

Korean films had never won in the Oscars foreign-language category until 2020 when “Parasite” claimed four Oscar wins including best film, best international feature film, achievement in directing for Bong Joon-ho and best original screenplay. Given the subsequent success of Korean-language film “Minari” and the attention drawn to Korean TV drama since the release of “Squid Game,” “Decision” stands out as an immediate front-runner.

Switzerland Submits ‘A Piece of Sky’

Switzerland has chosen Berlin competition title  “A Piece of Sky” as its International Feature Film contender.

Honored with a special mention at Berlin, “A Piece of Sky” marks director Michael Koch’s  follow-up to his 2016 debut “Marija,” which marked him out as a talent-to-track. Set in a remote Alpine farming community, “A Piece of Sky” follows a taciturn farmhand, Marco (Simon Wisler) and a single mother, Anna (Michèle Brand), who build a life together in the Alps. When Marco falls ill with a brain tumor everything changes, bu. Anna stands by Marco through thick and thin. 

In his review, Variety’s Guy Lodge hailed “A Piece of Sky” as an impressive, austere Alpine tragedy.

“Stunning image-making fills out the stark storytelling in Swiss director Michael Koch’s potent, stoically moving second feature,” Lodge added. 

“A Piece of Sky” is produced by Hugofilm. New Europe Film Sales handles world sales. 

“Michael Koch’s ‘A Piece of Sky’ is marked by powerful images that are able to maintain the tension between the apparent simplicity and the great weight of the drama,” said the Swiss jury that selected the film.

“In this way, emotions develop their resonance and attain depth. Carried by strong amateur actors, the film surrenders to the rhythm of nature and regards its protagonists as part of the rugged mountain world. Their love not only stands up to the adverse circumstances, but also dares to question the inevitability of death,” added the jury, led by Swiss writer-director Stéphanie Chuat.

The 95th Oscar awards ceremony will take place on March 12, 2023.  

Ireland Submits ‘The Quiet Girl’

The Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) has chosen Colm Bairéad’s Irish-Language film “The Quiet Girl” (“An Cailín Ciúin”) as Ireland’s entry for the Oscars’ best international feature film category at the 95th Academy Awards.

Set in rural Ireland in 1981, the coming-of-age film follows Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she is sent from her overcrowded, dysfunctional household to live with distant relatives for the summer. It recently became the first Irish-language film to win the Irish Academy Award for best film and received seven awards including director, actress, cinematography, editing, production design and original score.

The film was selected by IFTA’s 2023 Irish Selection Committee, which includes producer and Emmy-nominated actor Roma Downey (“Ben-Hur”), Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly (“Chicago”), producer and Paramount TV executive VP of international strategy David Flynn (“Bodkin”), Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot”), director Aisling Walsh (“Maudie”) and actor Fionnula Flanagan (“The Others”). The committee was chaired by Academy CEO, Áine Moriarty.

Moriarty said: “This is such a unique and beautiful film that captures your heart from the outset, and leaves you profoundly moved. How proud we are to submit this outstanding Irish language film into the Oscar competition, to compete with the best in the world, as we know this story will resonate with international audiences, beyond the borders of language, and no doubt with American Academy members too.”

Bairéad and producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoi of Inscéal added: “We are honored beyond words that “An Cailín Ciúin”/”The Quiet Girl” has been selected to represent Ireland. Our heartfelt thanks to IFTA and its selection committee. We have always believed in the idea that an Irish-language film could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of world cinema and we feel so proud to be representing our country and our language in this way. It has been an extraordinary privilege adapting Claire Keegan’s ‘Foster’ to the big screen and we can’t wait to introduce our film to more and more members of the Academy as ‘The Quiet Girl’ continues its roll-out on the international stage.”

“The Quiet Girl” was produced by Ní Chrualaoí as part of the Cine4 funding scheme for Irish-language film, in partnership with Screen Ireland, TG4, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the film is also in receipt of the Irish Government’s Section 481 tax incentive.

The international film contenders will next be shortlisted to 15 finalists on Dec. 21. These will then be ultimately shortlisted to the final five Oscar nominees in the category on Jan. 24, 2023. The 95th Academy Awards ceremony is currently scheduled to take place on March 12, 2023 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

World sales for “The Quiet Girl” are being handled by Bankside Films.

Leo Barraclough, Jennie Punter, Naman Ramachandran, John Hopewell, Patrick Frater and Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this report.

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