LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From the backstreet sweatshops of Barcelona to bullying schoolyards in Denmark, this year’s Oscar nominations for best foreign-language film take moviegoers on a world tour of bleak family drama and struggle.
Dramas from Algeria, Canada, Denmark, Greece and Mexico clinched nominations on Tuesday from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but many of the films’ locations spill over to other countries like Spain, France and Kenya.
Perhaps the most recognizable of the five is “Biutiful” by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, which gets an added boost from a best actor nomination for Spain’s Javier Bardem.
Bardem plays Uxbal, a racketeer in the seamy underbelly of Barcelona who is dying of cancer and trying to make amends for his past by rescuing migrant laborers and his own children.
“This is a tough movie with no concessions and no happy ending, one that leaves no one indifferent,” Gonzalez-Inarritu told Reuters.
“That the Academy has recognized it is amazing and the response is the best thing an artist could hope for,” said Gonzalez-Inarritu, who also directed “Babel” and “21 Grams.”
Bardem, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for “No Country for Old Men” and credits Gonzalez-Inarritu for pushing his talent beyond its previous limitations, said he was “very happy for Alejandro and everyone who has made possible the special movie we made together.”
Danish director Susanne Bier’s film “In a Better World” received an Oscar nod after winning the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film last week.
“It means a lot personally and it means a lot for the movie, a movie that is in a language that is spoken by five million people ... and is having an exposure that it would never have otherwise,” Bier told Reuters Television.
The drama depicts two boys who become allies to fend off bullies and the often absent fathers imparting moral lessons, one of whom works as a doctor in Kenya and has to face his own dilemmas over revenge.
From Algeria comes “Outside the Law” by director Rachid Bouchareb, whose film “Days of Glory” was nominated for an Oscar in 2007. The historical drama portrays Algeria’s fight for independence from France, centering around a family displaced by colonial rule.
“You tell a story of 60 years ago, but today it can talk to many people about their situation and life, how to be free, how to fight injustices,” Bouchareb said from Paris.
Canada’s “Incendies” by director Denis Villeneuve, is based on the acclaimed stage work of Lebanese-born Quebec playwright Wajdi Mouawad and is a combination of thriller and family drama, set in Canada and a fictional Middle Eastern country.
“This author is a master and his ideas about consolation, about family, about peace are so strong that I think it touched deeply Academy members,” Villeneuve told Reuters.
While the other four nominated films roam around, Greece’s “Dogtooth” by director Yorgos Lanthimos stays largely within the grounds of an estate where a married couple keep their three teenagers confined from the outside world with disastrous consequences.
Additional reporting by John Russell in Park City, Utah. Editing by Christopher Wilson