Last Updated: Thu Jan 26, 2012 17:18 pm (KSA) 14:18 pm (GMT)

Iran and Israel go head to head in Oscar race

Shlomo Bar-Aba in a scene from the Israeli film Footnote, which was nominated for best foreign film for the 84th Academy Awards. (Reuters)
Shlomo Bar-Aba in a scene from the Israeli film Footnote, which was nominated for best foreign film for the 84th Academy Awards. (Reuters)

Oscar nominations are the most highly anticipated of the awards season. As collated lists of artistic endeavor, the nominations can highlight films or individuals that at other times of the year get little coverage.

Two films and a documentary included in the nominations recognize the significant skill of directors from the Middle East and South Asia. Among the nominations for Best Foreign Language Film are an Iranian offering, “A Separation,” by Asghar Farhadi, and the Israeli film “Footnote,” directed by Joseph Cedar.

In the Documentary Short category, the documentary film “Saving Face”, a joint effort by Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and British director Daniel Junge, charts the journey of several women aided by a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon treating their injuries caused by acid attacks.

The prominence of the two films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film is marked by the ongoing political unease between the two countries so deeply defined by their respective state religions. According to the Los Angeles Times, Cedar said that during his conversations with Farhadi the two have observed “there are more than a few things common to our situations.”

“There is something poetic about competing against Iran. Like in the film, there is a constant double sensation – on the one hand excitement and pride, and on the other hand fear,” he added.

The hard-hitting “Saving Face” brings to the forefront an issue that is systematically under-reported in Pakistan and rarely covered elsewhere. It follows women in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi, as well as in the Saraiki linguistic belt that covers the southern edge of Punjab province in Pakistan, who have suffered acid attacks and are seeking justice, as well as treatment for their debilitating injuries.

An acclaimed British-Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr. Muhammad Jawad, specializes in acute burns and post-burn reconstruction. The documentary charts the women’s journey’s of endurance, recovery and fight for justice.

After finding out the film was nominated for an Oscar, Chinoy said, “I am speechless. It has reaffirmed my belief. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you put quality work out there, it will be appreciated.”

The fact that “A Separation” is the favorite to win the Foreign Language Film Oscar proves how far Middle Eastern film has come in the global film industry.

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