War, immigration, politics mark foreign Oscar picks

Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:01pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Political themes weigh heavily in three films nominated on Thursday in the Oscars' foreign-language race, with the animated anti-war movie "Waltz with Bashir" in the running to win Israel's first Academy Award.

The film recounting Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, coming as the Mideast was convulsed by war in the Gaza Strip, will compete with "The Class" from France, Germany's "The Baader Meinhof Complex," Japan's "Departures" and Austria's "Revanche."

"It's a pretty good list. I'm particularly fond of the Israeli picture," said film critic Emanuel Levy, author of the book "All About the Oscars."

"Waltz with Bashir," which mixes documentary filmmaking and animation, deals with Israel's incursion into Lebanon 26 years ago by revisiting director Ari Folman's memories of fighting in the conflict.

The film is widely considered the Oscar foreign-language front-runner after winning a Golden Globe earlier this month and being named the best movie of 2008 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States.

Folman's offering brings to eight the number of Oscar nominations Israeli filmmakers have amassed over the years.

"Israel has never won the Oscars, never," he told Reuters. "I'm overwhelmed, but I was not surprised. I was hoping that nothing would go wrong," he said of Thursday's nomination.

The nod came one day after Israel withdrew the last of its troops from the Gaza Strip after a 22-day offensive against the Hamas group that controls the Palestinian territory.   Continued...

<p>A scene from the Israeli film "Waltz with Bashir" is seen in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Sony Pictures Classics/Handout</p>