January 22, 2008 / 1:35 AM / 10 years ago

Brazil eyes rare foreign Oscar nomination

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian director Cao Hamburger has a good shot at scoring his country’s first foreign-language Oscar nomination in nine years on Tuesday.

Cao Hamburger, Brazilian director of the movie "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation," poses next to the movie's poster in New York, December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

His second feature “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation,” a tender coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Brazil’s dictatorship and its 1970 World Cup football victory, is one of nine films competing for five slots.

The others on the shortlist are “The Counterfeiters” (Austria); “Days of Darkness” (Canada); “Beaufort” (Israel); “The Unknown” (Italy); “Mongol” (Kazakhstan); “Katyn” (Poland); “12” (Russia); and “The Trap” (Serbia).

The last Brazilian film to be nominated was “Central Station” in 1999. It lost to Italy’s “Life is Beautiful.”

“It is very difficult to make the final five, and being included among the nine films (in the shortlist) is already a great victory,” Hamburger told Reuters. “It would be wonderful for the Brazilian cinema and for the Latin America cinema having someone in the Oscar.”

“The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” stars newcomer Michel Joelsas as a 12-year-old boy whose parents leave him with his grandfather, in a Jewish neighborhood of Sao Paulo, while they evade the country’s military authorities. He makes a diverse group of friends in the community as he desperately awaits his parents’ return and obsesses about Brazil’s World Cup chances.

The $3 million movie premiered in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival last February. Since then, it has been sold to 30 countries and participated in countless festivals. It begins its U.S. run in Los Angeles on February 15.

“The reception has been great. We have the feeling the movie has an universal appeal everywhere. The story touches people from every country,” Hamburger said.

Hamburger is working already in three projects, including the second season of the HBO series “Filhos do Carnaval” (Sons of the Carnival). He also plans two new features for the end of the year — one about Indians in Amazon called “Xingu” and another a thriller about death called “UTI.”

His first feature movie was “Castelo Ra-Tim-Bum — O Filme,” based on a famous TV show for kids in Brazil.

Brazil has been nominated four times in the foreign-language category, but has never won. The only Latin American film to win the prize since the competitive category was introduced in 1957 was Argentina’s “The Official Story” in 1986.

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