The Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes a thriller about a 25-year-long manhunt, which paints rough times in recent Argentine political history, won the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
The Oscar win was the second for Argentina, following the win by The Official Story in 1985. The film's director, Juan Jose Campanella, previously directed a movie that was also nominated for best foreign film: Son of the Bride in 2002. He has also worked frequently in American TV, including the shows House and 30 Rock.
And he showed his sense of humour Sunday. I want to thank the academy for not considering Na'vi a foreign language, said Campanella, referring to the invented language of Avatar while he accepted the award.
The award was handed to Campanella by Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino. Campanella thanked his family, the film producers and the Argentine people for the success as well as a special mention for the Chilean people, suffering from the tragic earthquake.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” is the Argentine film that has had the largest audience in Argentina, over two and a half million viewers and had already been awarded a Goya prize by the Spanish Cinema Academy in the category of Ibero-American films. A second Goya Revelation award went to the main actress, Soledad Villamil. She’s a famous tango singer and has worked in television but was her first full play in a film.
The film script is based on a novel from Argentine author “The questions in their eyes” which tells the story of a staff member from a criminal court in Buenos Aires who retires and begins writing a novel of a unsolved killing he witnessed in 1974.
As Benjamin Espóstio, now retired, further investigates back in time to find the killer, the film reveals what it was to live under the political violence from the military regime in Buenos Aires that ruled the country until 1983. The film manages an excellent blend of humour, drama and re-edition or recent history.
According to the US press the win was unexpected considering the more honoured competition of Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, a black-and-white morality tale set in pre-World War I Germany by Michael Haneke, and A Prophet, a French drama about the rise of a petty criminal.
The White Ribbon won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year and the Golden Globe for best foreign film this year. Its cinematographer, Christian Berger, was also nominated for an Oscar for cinematography — a rarity for foreign films.
A Prophet won the grand prize at Cannes and the British Academy Award for best film not in English.
The other nominees were Milk of Sorrow, a drama about the lingering traumas of Peruvian women from wartime, and Ajami, a drama about conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli city of Jaffa.
The best foreign language film category is handled unlike other Oscar categories. It begins when countries are permitted to nominate one (and only one) film from its nation. The field is then winnowed down by several committees, including an executive committee designed to safeguard the process from overlooking obvious choices.
In recent years, the Byzantine process has found considerable criticism. Last year, the less-acclaimed Departures from Japan won over the Israeli animated documentary Waltz With Bashir and the Cannes winner The Class.
Numerous films generally considered worthy often don't make it to the final nominations — movies such as Gomorrah, Volver and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
This year, critics pointed to the omissions of The Maid (from Chile), Police, Adjective (from Romania) and others. But most granted that two most widely hailed films — A Prophet and White Ribbon — had been included.
The merits of The Secret in Their Eyes were less clear to American moviegoers because it hasn't yet been widely released in the US It drew good reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.