Nation eagerly waiting for “Tangerines” Oscar win

"Tangerines" director Zaza Urushadze, actor Lembit Ulfsak and producer Ivo Felt at the Golden Globe ceremony in January
2/20/2015 2:51 PM
Category: Culture

Large part of an Estonian public is waiting anxiously for the Academy Award ceremony, taking place in Los Angeles on Sunday. It's the first time that the country of 1.3 million has managed to get one of its films nominated for an Oscar.

The Estonian-Georgian movie, “Tangerines” (“Mandariinid” in Estonian), was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 87th Academy Awards in January and has since sparked a widespread excitement in the country. Media outlets set up dedicated sections, and cinemas and TV-channels screened the film, originally released in 2013, again. One channel also bought rights to transmit the award ceremony live, an unusual feat, considering the cost.

Many people are also planning to gather at homes with their friends and stay up all night watching the live broadcast, despite having to work next day.

“Tangerines” has become the most successful film involving Estonian filmmakers, notching up tens of international awards since 2013. The film is a haunting tale of an older Estonian man who cares for two wounded soldiers from opposite sides of the 1990s-era war in Georgia. The movie reveals compassion to be the ultimate response to centuries of political, cultural and ethnic conflict, a compelling and relevant message for contemporary audiences.

The film was directed and written by the Georgian director, Zaza Urushadze, and produced by the Estonian producer, Ivo Felt. The cast includes Estonian actors Lembit Ulfsak, Elmo Nüganen, Raivo Trass, and Georgian actors Mikhail Meskhi, Giorgi Nakashidze and Zurab Bealishvili.

The New Republic, an American liberal magazine, recently called it “the anti-American Sniper”, a reference to the biographical war drama film about the US sniper who single-handedly killed about 200 insurgents during the last Iraq War. “In 'Tangerines', war is about how many people you don't kill," the magazine wrote.

When the Academy Award announcement came, there was a concern that too few people in the US have seen the movie. The Academy tends to, but not always, award the films that have had an exposure in the US market. Indeed, up until now, “Tangerines” lacked a distributor in America, but this all changed last week, when the motion-picture company Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired the US rights to the film.

“Zaza Urushadze has created a beautiful film with remarkable performances from his cast. The writing, directing and acting help balance both the humour and serious tones captured on film. I am very excited to bring this film to a US audience and wish Zaza and his team the best of luck at the Oscars next weekend,” Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films said, commenting upon the deal.

The Estonian-Georgian team behind the film is already in Los Angeles, calming their nerves in Santa Monica. “Unlike at the beginning of the nomination, I now believe that we have a chance to win. The Sattelite Award certainly added a more hope,” Ivo Felt, the film's producer, said to Delfi.

According to film critic Stephen Farber, it is really difficult to predict this year's win, among the Best Foreign Movie nominees. He concedes that “Leviathan” is a favourite, due to widespread publicity and distribution, but “Tangerines” is really liked by public. “It affects people emotionally,” Farber said.

Whether local employers need to worry about the productivity of Estonians on Monday, remains to be seen – but with the Independence Day taking place on Tuesday, “Tangerines” win at the Oscars would provide the country a double reason to celebrate.

S. Tambur

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