Village Rockstars, the classic underdog success story has become India’s official entry to the Oscars. Das’ simple, adorable story about a village girl from Assam who dreams of starting her own band adapts local dream, a colloquial context adding up to a touching honest story.
Village Rockstars has accolades from global film festivals and critical praise on its side. The film hasn’t yet released in India, thus omitting an opportunity for audiences at home to watch it. This year, it also faces tough competition from quality films with similar stories of underdogs and humane, moving stories in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
While multiple films from across the world have been announced as official entries, some share similarities in terms of stories, contexts, and appreciation from international film festivals. Visibility and awards at other film festivals, coupled with relevant themes, makes them strong contenders.
Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not A Witch from the United Kingdom is the country’s official entry this year. It’s a satire about a young girl in Zambia who has to survive accusations of being a witch. Its portrayal of a young girl being banished to a witches’ camp draws from real incidents in Africa. The film premiered at Cannes, has won multiple awards including a BAFTA. The British Film Institute backs the Zambian- Welsh director Nyoni’s film.
Two films, Belgium’s Girl by Lukas Dhont and Never Leave Me from Bosnia and Herzegovina also deal with issues of young people. Girl deals with the tale of a young girl born in a boy’s body. Apart from multiple awards at Cannes, including the Camera d’Or, Girl has a relevant story (of LGBT identity issues) going in its favor. Aida Begic directs Never Leave Me a story of three refugee boys and their search for a mythical reality to escape trauma.
Begic had made the memorable Children of Sarajevo before this. The relevant theme of being a minority in a world with closing borders has won Sweden’s Oscar entry, Border, much attention and praise worldwide. Ali Abbasi’s film won the UnCertain Regard prize at Cannes this year and has resonated with audiences because of its story.
A favorite with awards everywhere is the Second World War. France, Netherlands and Russia this year have nominated films based around human stories that occur during this period. Of these, Sobibor from Russia is the most talked about. It made an impact at Cannes when graphic visuals of Nazi gas chamber scenes became a talking point. About an uprising at Sobibor extermination camp in 1943, Sobibor touches upon a less explored historical incident.
France has nominated Memoir of War by Emmanuel Finkiel for the Oscars. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel set in 1944 Nazi-occupied Paris, the film resonates with typical French cinematic themes of tragedy, love, and perseverance. And then there’s The Resistance Banker from the Netherlands. Beautifully shot and narrated, this film tells the untold story of a brave banker and his friends that funded the Resistance right under the Nazi jackboot.
Films from India that get nominated to the Oscars tend to lack visibility, campaign support, and buzz in the final race. Village Rockstars is not a typical Indian film in more ways than one. Perhaps it’s surprise factor can give it an edge in this competitive category that has both variety and cinematic quality to offer.