Sunday, January 2, 2011

Life, Above All - SA's submission for Best Foreign Language Film


Oliver Schmitz's Life, Above All (aka Le Secret de Chanda, apparently) is South Africa's official submission to be considered for inclusion among the  Best Foreign Language Film nominees at this year's Oscars.

IMDB.com describes the film as 'A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa'. It seems to be a coming-of-age story touching on township life, HIV, hardship, superstition... Production & performances look top-notch, so let's hope it can follow in the footsteps of Yesterday Tsotsi (the themes are certainly close enough). 

The trailer:


The Academy's nomination policies for Foreign Language Films are bizarre and complicated - every country gets to submit only one film for consideration, and the final nominees are whittled down from there. Complex eligibility requirements also exclude some films from being submitted for consideration. The combination often results in the critics or the public (less likely) bemoaning the exclusion of their favourite Foreign Film from the final five (e.g. Shutting out Romania's Palme D'or winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days in 2008, or France's La Mome (aka La Vie en Rose) competing for Best Costume Design and winning Best Makeup & Best Actress, but not being considered for Best Foreign Language Film, as France had submitted Persepolis instead). True, the resulting five are often an odd bunch, but the Academy has nevertheless done well in choosing their winners in the past few years. 

This is likely due to the one great rule that applies to Foreign Language Films, and not to other categories: members are only allowed to vote for the winning film if they have attended screenings for each of the five nominated films. This means the winner is determined by merit, not popularity. For a change.

Oliver Schmitz made his name locally with 2000's Hijack Stories, and made his small mark internationally by contributing the 14th 'segment' to 2006's tapestry of 5 minute short films based on themes of love & Paris: Paris, Je t'Aime. Schmitz's segment, Place des fêtes, has strong performances & a quiet intensity that elevates the slight story into one of the better segments in the film, in my opinion. Odd, moving & effective.

Place des fêtes (XIXe arrondissement) — by South African writer-director Oliver Schmitz. A Nigerian man (Seydou Boro), dying from a stab wound in the Place des fêtes asks a woman paramedic (Aïssa Maïga) for a cup of coffee. It is then revealed that he had fallen in love at first sight with her some time previously. By the time she remembers him, and has received the coffee, he has died.  (Wikipedia)

Place des fêtes clip in next post.