Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Film Notes: The 2010 Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary

As mentioned in an earlier post, I've been frantically watching movies these past months (to the detriment of my reading though). I just wanted to catch up on the Oscar-nominated films this year and I still have a couple of films I've yet to watch even if the awards season has officially (sort of) closed last week.

It has been said that the competition for Best Foreign Language Film is oftentimes more interesting than the Oscar's Best Picture. Yesterday I watched the winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Film, The Secret in Their Eyes from Argentina. The strongest element of the film is its acting, especially that of Ricardo Darin, whom I thought was very familiar until I realized he is also in that excellent film XXY.

The Secret in Their Eyes was against Germany's The White Ribbon, which I also saw about a month ago. The White Ribbon was in fact the critics' favorite to win, as well as France's The Prophet. So I was surprised that The Secret in Their Eyes won. I think Germany's entry was stronger; it is far more nuanced and textured, albeit recondite at times as opposed to the accessibility of the film from Argentina.

At the moment I already have a copy of Peru's entry The Milk of Sorrow and in the coming days I shall look for the finalists from France and Israel to round up my Best Foreign Language Film selection.

I've always admired the power of documentaries in bringing to mainstream audiences some of the most critical issues of our time. Remember how An Inconvenient Truth managed to open our eyes to climate change?

Leading to the Oscars last week I squeezed into my schedule the Best Documentary Feature nominees. I have mentioned of course that I already watched Burma VJ several months ago in the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Thanks to torrent, I found Food Inc and The Cove. The latter eventually grabbed the prize on Oscar night.

My heart was of course leaning towards Burma VJ because it's a Southeast Asian film (well, sort of). But there was a controversy over the film as critics allege it's more of a docu-drama (as opposed to the strict definition of a documentary) because many of the scenes in the film were re-staged without the film-makers indicating these specific scenes as such.

Food Inc is an examination of food production in the US, particularly how a few corporations are controlling the industry, hence raising issues on farmers' rights, food safety, and a bevy of other related issues. This is definitely an eye-opening film, but with the sheer number of the issues it tackles the film is bogged down by its lack of focus.

The edge of the The Cove over Food Inc, therefore, is how the former kept its eye on the target, that of exposing the massive dolphin slaughter in one Japanese town. Watching this documentary is akin to watching a detective movie as a group of environmentalists use stealthy documentation to record the grisly carnage taking place in what is seemingly an idyllic location.

I still have a couple of documentaries to download, namely The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers and Which Way Home, so excuse me while I search for them on torrent.

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