One of the terrific highlights of the upcoming Cairo International Film Festival is the section screening eight of the foreign language Oscar contenders from the world over. Admittedly, this may be a small number compared with the record submissions this year -- 85 and no less -- but bunching them together in a single festival is indeed significant.
India’s offering for the Academy Awards of Vetrimaraan’s excellent Tamil work on police brutality, Visaaranai or Interrogation, does not, though, find a berth among Cairo’s selections. The festival, however, has selected three Indian titles, one of them, The Narrow Path in Malayalam, for the prestigious international competition.
Among the eight works to be shown at the festival will be the German drama, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann -- a hilarious take on a father’s desperate efforts to get close to his daughter working in another country. He barges into her office, disguises himself as a bear and indulges in equally insane acts to grab a few moments of the girl’s attention.
From Hungary, we would have Kills on Wheels by Attila Till -- a comic look at the adventures of three disabled people who use their wheelchairs in the most ingenious ways.
The Slovak entry, Marko Skop’s Eva Nova, is a movie about an actor fighting her alcoholism and trying to reconnect with her son.
Canada’s It’s only the End of the World by Xavier Dolan (whose first feature, I Killed My Mother, got a standing ovation at the 2009 Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight) paints the pathetic picture of an author who returns home and to his family after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Ma’ Rosa, by the celebrated Filipino auteur, Brillante Mendoza, is a desperate tale of a mother trying to hold her family together by selling narcotic drugs. The lead actor, Jaclyn Jose, won the acting award at Cannes in May.
Nepal’s Academy hopeful, Kalo Pothi or The Black Hen by Min Bahadur Bham describes the travails of two boys searching for their missing hen during the civil war in the country between 1996 and 2006. Kalo Pothi clinched the Best Film Award at the International Critics Weeks in Venice last September.
Saudi Arabia’s Oscar contribution, Barakh Meets Barakh by Mahmoud Sabbagh and shot in Jeddah, talks about the dilemma faced by boys and girls in the kingdom, who are discouraged from mingling with each other. Interestingly, it was only as recent as 2012 that a full-length feature was made in Saudi Arabia. Called Wadjda, the work enjoyed another first. It was helmed by a woman, Haifaa al-Mansour, who explores the struggle of a little girl wanting to ride a bicycle in a country which frowns upon women doing that. In fact, Haifaa, once told this writer that she had a tough time directing men, and she had to do it from a closed van, giving instructions with the help of a microphone! Saudi Arabia sent Wadjda for the Oscars, where it did not win a nomination. It did, however, garner one at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards.
Finally, the host State, Egypt, will present its Oscar entry, Mohamed Diab’s Clash. Most of the events here take place inside a police vehicle crammed with protestors from different parts of the nation, which has in recent times seen much unrest.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Cairo International Film Festival.)