Of the 92 submissions accepted for Best International Feature Film (the Oscar formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film), Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is by far the most widely seen. In fact, it’s so admired that the South Korean stunner has an excellent shot at vaulting into the Best Director and Best Picture categories.
The only other submission with significant U.S. visibility is Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, which means there are 90 excellent movies from around the globe awaiting your discovery. Intrigued? Fifteen (including the Almodóvar) screen Jan. 3-9 in the annual For Your Consideration series at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Some of the titles chosen by curators João Federici and Karen Davis will receive theatrical releases: Brazil’s separated sisters saga Invisible Life opens Jan. 3, Italy’s Cosa Nostra history The Traitor arrives Feb. 7, and Russia’s post-war portrait Beanpole and Sweden’s gay-themed And Then We Danced both open Feb. 21. The Czech Republic’s The Painted Bird, adapted from Jerzy Kozinski’s novel, will probably find its way into theaters. In addition, the U.K.’s Malawi-set The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is on Netflix. (To be sure, it’s an even more powerful experience on the big screen.)
Perhaps it’s a coincidence (spoiler: it’s not) that a trio of acclaimed dramas propelled by female protagonists don’t have U.S. distribution. Algeria’s Papicha (Jan. 8, with a Jan. 19 screening at the Roxie) follows a young woman’s determined pursuit of a fully expressed life and career in dangerous times. For Your Consideration may be your only chance to see Canada’s Antigone (Jan. 8), which transposes Sophocles’ female-fueled tragedy to present-day Montreal. Ditto for Morocco’s Adam (Jan. 9), which portrays the unexpected connection between a grief-paralyzed widow and a pregnant homeless woman.
Five of the Smith Rafael’s 15 selections—The Painted Bird, Beanpole, Pain and Glory, Parasite and Hungary’s Those Who Remained (Jan. 5)—made the 10-film shortlist for the Academy Award. While that’s one measure of Davis and Federici’s handicapping skills, I mention it primarily for those who take their Oscar preparations very, very seriously.