During a heady morning for filmmakers situated from Los Angeles to Lebanon, Poland and beyond, directors of the five Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Language Film contenders took time to share reactions with Deadline.
Capernaum helmer Nadine Labaki “screamed and danced” with part of her team in attendance as they watched the big reveal from Beirut, and contacted her actors all over the world while Ida FL winner Pawel Pawlikowski juggled a barrage of calls in Warsaw, particularly given he’s also in the Best Director race for the first time with Cold War. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, also a previous Foreign Language laureate, for 2006’s The Lives Of Others, was in LA and had great praise for Caleb Deschanel who scored his 6th Best Cinematographer nomination with the helmer’s German entry, Never Look Away.
Here are the musings of the group of five — which also includes Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma (tied overall for nominations today at 10) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters — who have now advanced to a nomination in a category that had an embarrassment of potentials this year:
Labaki was “glued to the television” to watch the nominations as her social drama advanced. “It was an enormous moment for us,” she told Deadline. Of being the second-ever nominee from Lebanon after last year’s The Insult, Labaki said that it helps put the country’s somewhat fledgling industry on the map internationally. “During the war years there weren’t a lot of films shot, so we can’t really talk about an industry. I have the impression that we’re taking our first steps and it’s getting more robust.” Labaki is also “proud to represent female directors in the best way possible.” But, she said, it’s been a struggle for both men and women. “I recognize that in Hollywood it’s not the same thing, and the #MeToo and TimesUp movements are very necessary to talk about the problem so that in a few years we don’t have to talk about it anymore. I’m very optimistic… I’m proud of all the women around me who get to express their vision.”
In between a round of radio and TV interviews, Pawlikowski told me the nominations for his black-and-white romance today are “a big deal in Poland.” Was he surprised to be included in the Best Director category? “Yes. Not that I think it’s badly directed,” he laughed. But, “We had to squeeze by all these juggernauts with all these massive PR operations.” He regrets that Cold War star Joanna Kulig didn’t appear in the Best Actress race, but overall feels he’s in “really good company” and is pleased for his DOP Lukasz Zal who is “such a marvelous, great, talented guy who really puts himself into every film.”
Pawlikowski also noted of the abundance of FL titles in key races, “I think there happened to be some really good films outside the American/Hollywood environment. It’s an American competition, plus some interlopers, but it’s really good to be there.” And that’s particularly important because “it means that people might be tempted to watch the film which is a great thing. I think this will draw attention to our film and wish and hope a lot of Academy members will watch it.”
Cuaron told Deadline that Roma is “unquestionably my most personal film. All the films are personal, I don’t think any serious filmmaker can do a film that is not personal. But this one, I was not talking in an oblique way, I was talking in a very direct way.” He also praised the support he got from Netflix. “We’ve been in theaters for almost two months now. That is very unlikely for a foreign film. and on top of that we have an amazing presence with the platform. And on top of that, the amazing support that they’ve been giving in marketing this film. So I’m very happy.” (For more of Cuaron’s reaction, click here.)
Von Donnersmarck was especially over the moon for Deschanel. “Caleb is the one who made me understand that cinematography can be art. I remember the exact moment when I was seven and one of the first films I saw was The Black Stallion. I came out of it thinking ‘This is my favorite art form, telling stories in images.’ He’s continued to perfect that art form.” Of Never Look Away in general, von Donnersmarck adds, “What I think in a way appeals to people in different countries about our film is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s a very German film, but it’s also about how art is still the best weapon we have against political extremism. That is something that is of real concern.”
As for Kore-eda, whose Shoplifters was the Cannes Palme d’Or winner in 2018, he sent the following statement to Deadline: “I want to thank The Academy for the nomination of Shoplifters in the Foreign Language Film category. The other four nominated titles in the category are absolutely amazing and strong, and I’m proud that Shoplifters has been selected among them. I never expected that this film about the meaning of family would resonate from Cannes to Los Angeles — and so I’m very grateful. Thank you very much.”