‘Shoplifters’ and ‘Capernaum’ represent Asia at 2019 Oscars

HOLLYWOOD — Producers, directors, writers, actors, musicians, costume designers and the rest of Hollywood will soon be in full Oscar-mode, as the nominees of the 91st annual Academy Awards were announced, Jan. 22. Among the films nominated for the Oscar were Shoplifters and Capernaum; both films are up for Best Foreign Film.

            Shoplifters is Japan’s entry into this year’s Oscars; the Hirokazu Kore-eda drama tells the story family stuck in poverty and resorts to shoplifting for survival. The film’s narrative mirrors defenses of real-life crimes in the United States and elsewhere, where theft and similar malfeasances have been defended as acts of necessity – people committing crimes to survive the day, as opposed to wronging others.

            Earning an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film is the latest acclaim for Shoplifters; the film debuted at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme d’Or award. Shoplifters also won Best Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the recent Golden Globe Awards.

            Lily Franky and Sakura Ando star in the film’s leading roles. Shoplifters was one of the highest grossing films in Japan for 2018, earning nearly $38 million in its domestic box office haul.

            Representing Lebanon at the 91st Academy Awards, meanwhile, is Capernaum, which competed against Shoplifters for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Capernaum, which was written and directed by Nadine Labaki, won the festival’s Jury Prize. The film centers on the struggles of Zain, a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon for nearly a decade. Zain not only fights for survival on the streets but also battles his parents in court, where he sues his mother and father for giving him life.

            Capernaum was also up for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

            Rounding out this year’s list of Best Foreign Film nominees are Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany) and Roma (Mexico).

            A Fantastic Woman (Chile) earned last year’s Best Foreign Film award; The Salesman, which represented Iran, claimed the award two years ago. A Separation, also out of Iran, was the Best Foreign Film winner at the 2012 Oscars.

            Other Asian countries to take home the Best Foreign Film statute were Japan (Departures, 2009 Oscars) and Taiwan (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2001 Oscars).

            Three films from Japan were also recognized in the 1950s: Samurai, The Legend of Musashi (1955); Gate of Hell (1954); and, Rashomon (1951).

            Films from Cambodia, Palestine, Israel, Kazakhstan, China, India, Nepal, Georgia, Vietnam and Hong Kong were finalists for Best Foreign Film. Notable nominations included Immortal Love (Japan, 1962), Portrait of Chieko (Japan, 1968), The Policeman (Israel, 1971), Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) (Japan, 1981), Salaam Bombay! (India, 1989), Farewell My Concubine (Hong Kong, 1994), The Wedding Banquet (Taiwan, 1994), The Scent of Green Papaya (Vietnam, 1994), Eat Drink Man Woman (Taiwan, 1995), Lagaan (India, 2002) and Hero (China, 2003).

            The 91st Academy Awards will be held Feb. 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.