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International Oscar Race: Korea Selects Documentary CONCRETE UTOPIA

Aug 21, 2023
  • Source by Variety
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"A world class film with a major star"


Image: Alexandra Film



Estonia: Smoke Sauna Sisterhood


Estonia has selected Anna Hints’ documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood as its entry for the best international feature film Academy Award. The film won the directing award in the World Cinema Documentary section at Sundance.


Greenwich Entertainment will release it in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year. Autlook Filmsales has sold the rights to more than 30 international territories.


As Jessica Kiang’s review for Variety explains, the film centers on “a group of women who gather on and off through the changing seasons in a log-cabin sauna nestled in pretty woods by a lake, a setting straight off the top of a chocolate box, to sweat out their secrets and heal each other with heat, talk and arcane sauna-based rituals.”


Kiang adds: “The small, smoky, steamy miracle of this film is how it creates something so intangible, so lyrical, from the absolutely elemental: fire, wood, water and lots of naked female flesh.”


Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is produced by Marianne Ostrat of Alexandra Film.


All submissions and materials for the race must be received by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences by 5 p.m. Oct. 2. Films must meet all the qualifying conditions between Dec. 1, 2022, and Oct. 31, 2023. A shortlist of 15 will be announced on Dec. 21. Final nominees will be announced on Jan. 23. The 96th Academy Awards is set to take place on Mar. 10.



South Korea: ​Concrete Utopia


South Korea, a previous winner in the best international feature category with Parasite has selected current box office hit Concrete Utopia as its contender in the 2023-24 race. The second film by director Um Tae-hwa, Concrete Utopia is set in a Seoul that has been largely destroyed by a massive earthquake. One building stands tall among the wreckage and becomes a refuge for this already inside, but the inhabitants must fend of the unwanted attentions of outsiders.


The film was released on Aug. 9 in Korean cinemas and earned $16.2 million in its first eight days.


Announcing the Oscars decision, the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) said that selectors wanted to pick a world class film with a major star. Lee Byung-hun, who previously starred in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and RED 2 as well as a string of top Korean films (I Saw the Devil, The Age of Shadows and A Bittersweet Life), more than fits the bill. KOFIC urged the film’s international distributor Lotte Entertainment to appoint a U.S. publicist as soon as possible and for the publicist to develop a “bold” marketing campaign. 


Dir: Um Tae-hwa. Int’l sales: Lotte Entertainment. 



Tajikistan: Melody


Tajikistan has selected drama film Melody as its national representative in the 2023 Oscars’ best international feature film category. The selection of Melody is the first time in 18 years that Tajikistan has chosen to enter the category and only its third time ever.


The film is the story of a woman (Melody) who teaches at a center for children with cancer. With 30 children at the hospice, she is asked to compose a piece using the songs of 30 different birds. She finds just 20 and her mute helper makes Melody understand that hunters have forced the old bird expert out of the village.


Melody is written, directed and produced by Behrouz Sebt Rasoul, who is also a novelist and experienced director of commercials. Production is by Sebt Rasoul’s company Nama Film Company.


Shot in the Persian language as a Tajikistan-Iran coproduction, Melody enjoyed a commercial release in Iran in March. French-based international sales agent Dreamlab is now seeking festival berths and overseas distribution.


The film’s selection was made by TV Safina and the Union of Cinematographers of Tajikistan, the organization accredited for the task by AMPAS. 


Dir. Behrouz Sebt Rasoul. Int’l sales: Dreamlab Films. 



Switzerland: Thunder


Writer-director Carmen Jacquier’s feature debut is a coming-of-age film set in 1900 against a glorious mountainous landscape and the conservatism of rural Switzerland. It turns on a teenage girl (Lilith Grasmug) who is about to take her vows at the nunnery but is forced to return home when her elder sister dies in mysterious circumstances. The girl is forced to investigate her sister’s death and in doing so tests the constraints of family and the village community.


Produced by Flavia Zanon, Thunder (“Foudre”) world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before a successful run on the international festival circuit, picking up several awards in the process, including two Swiss Film Awards, an Emerging Swiss Talent Award at Zurich, a Special Jury Prize in Rome and a best director prize in Marrakech. 


Dir: Carmen Jacquier. Int’l sales: WTF Films. 




By Leo Barraclough, Patrick Frater, John Bleasdale 


Link: https://variety.com/2023/film/awards/2024-international-feature-oscar-submissions-1235688041/

Republication, copying or redistribution by any means is prohibited without the prior permission of KOFIC and the original news source.
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