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  Newsmakers   Oscars 2016: Top foreign film picks zoom in on stark worlds

Oscars 2016: Top foreign film picks zoom in on stark worlds

REUTERS | ALEX DOBUZINSKIS
Published : Feb 27, 2016, 7:05 am IST
Updated : Feb 27, 2016, 7:05 am IST

Despite all their differences, harrowing Holocaust drama Son of Saul and the coming-of-age tale Mustang, the two frontrunners for the best foreign language film Oscar, both place their characters in a

Despite all their differences, harrowing Holocaust drama Son of Saul and the coming-of-age tale Mustang, the two frontrunners for the best foreign language film Oscar, both place their characters in a claustrophobic world of stark choices.

For Son of Saul director László Nemes and Mustang director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, a win at the Oscars on Sunday would mark an especially significant breakthrough, since these are the first full-length films of their careers. In Son of Saul, the film’s title character is an inmate at the Auschwitz concentration camp who risks his life to attempt a proper Jewish burial for a boy he believes is his son. As a member of the Sonderkommandos, doo-med prisoners given some preferential treatment for a time, Saul risks execution with any misstep.

Hungarian-French director Nemes depicts the Holocaust with a continuous series of close shots of Saul as he carries out his nightmarish job of herding detainees to their deaths and collecting their bodies for the crematorium, all the while trying to find a way to bury the boy.

“By narrowing the field of vision, I really wanted to rely more on the imagination of the viewer, not tell the viewer what to think or what to feel,” said Nemes.

The fate of five orphaned sisters in Turkish-French director Ergüven’s film Mustang is far less dire, yet their life choices are sharply constrained in their conservative Turkish village. After the girls are seen playing on the beach with some boys, their grandmother and uncle imprison them in a house by installing iron bars on the windows. Then, they start arranging the young women’s marriages. As it becomes clear that the uncle has been sexually abusing at least two of the girls, the youngest sister plots an escape to Istanbul.

“It’s a kind of prison-break movie, showing how with force of will, one can break through walls to reach a different future,” said Charles Gillibert, who produced the film. Son of Saul has already won a Golden Globe. Mustang, France’s contender, has also fared well at Cannes and on the European awards circuit.

Location: Chile, Bíobío, Los Angeles