January 31, 2006

Foreign films bring world issues to Oscar stage

By Arthur Spiegelman and Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Palestinian filmmaker Hamy
Abu-Assad fell in love with Hollywood on Tuesday when the
Academy Awards made history by nominating a Palestinian film
for an Oscar for the first time.

Abu-Assad's dramatic portrayal of suicide bombers preparing
to die in "Paradise Now" was one of five films nominated for
best foreign language film.

Other nominees included France's "Joyeux Noel," Germany's
"The Final Days," South Africa's "Tsotsi," and Italy's "Don't
Tell," and like many of the U.S. films nominated for Oscars,
the foreign language films deal with social issues, politics,
war and morality.

"I used to think that Hollywood was old and fat people only
interested in making money, but now that I have come here and
have seen and met the people, I see that they are young and hip
and an amazing mix of people who really care about cinema,"
Abu-Assad told Reuters.

He added that being nominated for an Oscar was an honor and
"many people in Palestine are so happy because they have had
recognition from the civilized world. We are being recognized
as being part of civilization."

Marc Rothemund, who directed "Sophie Scholl - The Final
Days," said he hopes his movie instills in people a sense of
right and wrong and the courage to speak up about issues.

"Sophie Scholl" tells the story of a young woman, Sophie,
her brother Hans and other members of the White Rose resistance
movement in Nazi Germany. The student group was based in Munich
and distributed leaflets condemning the Nazis.

"She becomes a heroine. She fights for values, for freedom
and peace, and to see that these values of 60 years ago still
resonate today -- that people gave their lives for them --
people will appreciate it," Rothemund said.

He said that world audiences today are not that much
different than U.S. movie goers, and the movie is expected to
begin playing in the United States in February.

"Joyeux Noel" also is expected to take advantage of the
hype surrounding the Oscars to help build audiences when it
begins playing in U.S. theaters in March.

It tells of a Christmas Eve in 1914, and a World War I
battlefield on which troops held their own truce to celebrate
the holiday together.

South Africa's "Tsotsi," which is slang for "gangster,"
tells a story of triumph over adverse conditions that include
the AIDS epidemic and post-apartheid violence.

Finally, "Don't Tell" provides audiences with a tale of
adult siblings scarred by child abuse. Its lead actress,
Giovanna Mezzogiorno, won the award best actress honors last
year at the Venice Film Festival for her work in the movie.