It’s been a year since Argentina walked away – to many people’s surprise – with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for El Secreto de Sus Ojos, staring the country’s biggest sex symbol (in my opinion), Ricardo Darin. 2011 was not a winning one for Latin America in Hollywood, but here are some Oscar-related features still worth checking out.
Biutiful – Mexico/Spain
This was the only Latin American film to make it into the Best Foreign Film category this year and it ended up being pipped to the post by Denmark’s In a Better World. Biutiful is the work of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel) and stars Javier Bardem as a cancer-ridden street hustler in Barcelona. Bardem’s performance has been widely praised and earnt him a nomination for the Best Actor award.
Waste Land – Brazil/UK
With all the talk of The Social Network versus The King’s Speech in the run up to the awards, it was easy to overlook the documentary category. Waste Land, one of this year’s nominees, is a moving tale of Jardim Gramacho, a trash dump in the outskirts of Rio, and the people who make their living scavenging from it. The documentary shows what happens when renowned artist Vik Muniz decides to turn the rubbish tip into his canvas.
Carancho – Argentina
This was Argentina’s entry to the Best Foreign Film category. It seems they were hoping leading-man Darin would do it for them again. Unfortunately, Carancho (Vulture) didn’t make the Academy’s shortlist, but it’s an interest concept. It tells the dark story of a dastardly ambulance chaser, who hangs out at accident scenes touting for business for his legal firm.
Tambien La Lluvia/Even the Rain – Spain/Bolivia
This one was one step ahead of the Argentine entry as it made the Academy’s longlist Best Foreign Film. Unfortunately, it didn’t then make it through to the final five. It’s a film-within-a-film concept that sees Gael Garcia Bernal staring as a Spanish filmmaker using Bolivia as the location for his drama about Christopher Columbus battling the indians. He casts a Bolivian as a rebellious leader of the natives, only to find current times mirroring history as the exploited extra gets embroiled in the country’s 2000 water protests. The Bolivian actor – who lives in El Alto, one of the poorest city’s in South America – was nominated in the Spanish Goya Awards as Best New Actor.
Ok, this one has nothing to do with the Oscars and probably never will, but it’s intriguing, so I’m slotting it in. One year after Chile’s major 8.8 earthquake, this dramatic interpretation of events has just been released. It’s called 03:34, because that is the time the quake struck. A cash-in? Well, if it is, the money is going to the right place: profits will go into rebuilding schools destroyed in the disaster.