New East Digital Archive

Which of these 6 Eastern European films will scoop an Oscar?

Which of these 6 Eastern European films will scoop an Oscar?

18 December 2019

It’s set to be a bumper year for New East filmmakers, with six of the ten shortlisted films for the Academy Awards’ Best International Feature hailing from Eastern Europe.

Selected from a pool of 91 eligible productions, seven of the shortlisted films were voted for by Academy members from all branches, while three were the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee’ favourites.

While Painted Bird, Beanpole and Those Who Remained are all accounts of Second World War trauma, Honeyland and Truth and Justice explore the complicated relationship between nature and humankind. Rounding off the list is Polish thriller Corpus Christi, which examines the dark side of Christianity.

Honeyland, North Macedonia

Hot on the heels of a major awards haul at this year’s Sundance Festival — including wins for the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, a Special Jury Award for Cinematography, and the Special Jury Award for Originality — Honeyland dives into the world of an elderly female beekeeper in the mountains of North Macedonia. Alternating between grand landscape and detailed animal-close ups, the film explores the balance and tension between nature and humankind.

Painted Bird, Czech Republic

This black-and-white masterpiece tells the heart-wrenching story of a boy looking for refuge in war-torn remote villages across Eastern Europe. An adaptation of a controversial eponymous 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosiński, the film takes its title from a scene in which a starling splashed with white paint is mistaken for an enemy and pecked to death by its flock.

Beanpole, Russia

Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s book, The Unwomanly Face of War, Beanpole is a complex account of the strong bond between two women in 1945 Leningrad. With each frame dominated by red and green tones, the film alternates PTSD-infused psychological weight with tender sensuality.

Those Who Remained, Hungary

As the Second World War ends, two people who lost their families in battle embrace new lives as a middle-aged father and an adoptive teen daughter — but their physically-close relationship breeds suspicions about what to many looks like an immoral sexual connection. An elegant, delicate production exploring history, trauma and life-affirming love.

Truth and Justice, Estonia

Set in 1870s Estonia, this classically-made film tells the story of a young farmer battling with nature to pursue his dream of a flourishing farm. Based on the five-book series by 19th century Estonian novelist Anton Hansen Tammsaare, the film is an exploration of humanity’s moral and physical struggles.

Corpus Christi, Poland

This unusual film tells the story of a 20-year-old convict who wants to become a priest — an impossible dream because of his criminal record. He gets sent to a small village to work as a carpenter but, by an unexpected turn of events, he takes over the parish. The young man’s arrival serves as an opportunity to heal the wounds of the community, generated by a tragic series of murders. As his congregation is divided on how to move on from their painful past, the young priest teaches the ultimate Christian lesson: “to forgive means to love someone despite their guilt.”

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