This Sunday, the 81st annual Academy Awards ceremony will be held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Cinema Without Borders will be ready to report the international cinema related Oscar news. (Please check The Notebook section for interviews with five directors of the movies nominated for the Best Foreign Language movie award)
The five nominees for the Best Foreign Language film of 2009 are “The Baader Meinhof Complex” A Constantin Film Production, Germany, “The Class” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France, “Departures” (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan, “Revanche” (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria, and “Waltz with Bashir” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel.
The Baader Meinhof Complex – Germany in the 1970s: Murderous bomb attacks, the threat of terrorism and the fear of the enemy inside are rocking the very foundations of the yet fragile German democracy. The radicalised children of the Nazi generation lead by Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment, many of whom have a Nazi past. Their aim is to create a more human society but by employing inhuman means they not only spread terror and bloodshed, they also lose their own humanity. The man who understands them is also their hunter: the head of the German police force Horst Herold. And while he succeeds in his relentless pursuit of the young terrorists, he knows he’s only dealing with the tip of the iceberg.
The Class is the story of François and his fellow teachers prepare for a new year at a high school in a tough neighborhood. Armed with the best intentions, they brace themselves to not let discouragement stop them from trying to give the best education to their students.
Cultures and attitudes often clash in the classroom, a microcosm of contemporary France. As amusing and inspiring as the teenaged students can be, their difficult behavior can still jeapordize any teacher’s enthusiasm for the low-paying job. François insists on an atmosphere of respect and diligence. Neither stuffy nor severe, his extravagant frankness often takes the students by surprise. But his classroom ethics are put to the test when his students begin to challenge his methods…
Departures – ” follows Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and who is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled “Departures” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a “Nokanshi” or “encoffineer,” a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.
Revanche – A nature scene. Late summer. A small lake in the woods. No people. Silence. Not far away, a newly built house inhabited by a couple: Robert (Andreas Lust) and Susanne (Ursula Strauss). They live an ordinary life like so many other people.
Meanwhile in Vienna. Nightlife, red light district, the world of prostitution. Here money rules. Most people have jobs that barely let them scrape by. Like Alex and Tamara (Johannes Krisch and Irina Potapenko). She is a prostitute from Ukraine; he, the boss’ errand boy. They are lovers, but they have to keep it a secret. Employees aren’t allowed to engage in amorous relations.
They want to escape this life, but they need money first. Alex devises a plan to rob a bank in a little village out in the countryside. Tamara wants to come along, and he reluctantly agrees. Everything is going exactly as planned until a policeman happens to walk up: Robert. He fires a few shots at the getaway car as it speeds off and hits the young woman. Overcome with despair, Alex leaves the body behind in a forest clearing. He lies low at his grandfather’s place. The old man lives on a desolate farm at the edge of the woods. Silent and withdrawn, Alex begins the task of chopping the firewood for the approaching winter. He is consumed with pain, grief, and the hate he harbors for the man responsible for Tamara’s death. A lake in the woods, this is where Robert goes to be alone. Now he comes here to try to sort out what happened. Alex observes the policeman, spies on him, follows him as he goes about his daily routine. And he meets Susanne, the policeman’s wife. The lives of all these people will change as a result of Tamara’s death – more radically than they suspect. And autumn comes, just like every year
Waltz With Bashir – One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari Folman about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early eighties. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing anymore about that period of his life.
Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal image…