March 8, 2010 / 4:20 AM / 8 years ago

Argentina's "Secret" wins surprise foreign film Oscar

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Argentina’s drama “The Secret in Their Eyes” won the best foreign-language film Oscar on Sunday in an upset that brought the South American country its second Academy Award.

<p>Director Juan Jose Campanella of the Argentina film "The Secret in their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)," poses for photographers ahead of the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, March 5, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>

“The Secret in Their Eyes” (El secreto de sus ojos) stars Argentine actor Ricardo Darin as a retired prosecutor who sets out to write a book after he is haunted by a 25-year-old rape and murder case.

Director Juan Jose Campanella accepted the award for the film that beat out the favorite, Germany’s black-and-white entry “The White Ribbon” by Austrian director Michael Haneke.

“On behalf of a crew and cast ... I want to thank the Academy for not considering Na‘vi a foreign language,” joked Campanella, referring to the language created for the blue aliens in the blockbuster movie “Avatar.”

Other foreign language films nominated this year included France’s gritty prison drama “A Prophet,” Peru’s mournful entry “The Milk of Sorrow,” and Israel’s “Ajami,” which explores divergent views among an urban neighborhood’s Muslims, Christians and Jews.

“The Secret in Their Eyes” won best Spanish language foreign film at Spain’s Goya Awards this year. Argentina has had six foreign-language film nominations and last won an Academy Award with its 1985 movie “The Official Story.”

‘REWARDING THROWBACK’

For the first time ever two South American films were nominated in the category, a fact that Campanella said showed “many preconceptions were shattered in the process” as European films have traditionally dominated the category.

Campanella, 50, said earlier this week his film took a year and half to write after it was adapted from novelist Eduardo Sacheri’s “The Question In Their Eyes” (La pregunta de sus ojos). The film has been a major success in Argentina.

Its title is derived from a focus on the intentions in all the characters’ eyes. In attempts to solve the crime, the main character looks over old photographs and focuses on a man who stares at the female victim in several pictures.

Hollywood trade paper Variety called the film, “a deeply rewarding throwback to the unself-conscious days when cinema still strove to be magical.”

Campanella also directed “Son of the Bride” (El hijo de la novia), a 2001 film that was nominated for an Oscar.

Far from Hollywood, the winning film’s crew celebrated the surprise decision in a Buenos Aires bar.

“This is incredible. We thought the German film would win,” said Marcelo Pons, the film’s art director.

Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sue Zeidler and Guido Nejamkis in Buenos Aires; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sandra Maler

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