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Malayalam Film Jallikattu is India’s Official Entry for Oscars 2021

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A still from Jallikattu

Malayalam independent film Jallikattu was announced as India’s official entry for the 93rd Academy Awards. The Film Federation of India said on Wednesday that the decision was taken by a 14-member committee to send the Lijo Jose Pellissery directorial for the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category.

The committee, chaired by Rahul Rawail, consisted of Abhishek Shah, Atanu Ghosh, C Umamaheswara Rao, Jayesh More, Kalaippuli S Thanu, Niraj Shah, Nirav Shah, P Sheshadri, Prabuddha Banerjee, Sabarni Das, Satarupa Sanyal, Shrinivas Bhanage, and Vijay Khochikar.

Jallikattu is a visceral, disorienting, man vs animal film that has more to it than the traditional game it is named after. It starts with a bull, who runs amok in a small village in Kerala, and how every man in the village run after it to capture it. While Jallikattu as a game is used as a running theme in the film, it is majorly about human greed and what that entails.

The film premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. It was also showcased at the 24th Busan International Film Festival. In India, the film released in October, 2019. Pellissery received the Best Director trophy at the 50th International Film Festival of India.

Jallikattu is a traditional game played in Tamil Nadu during Pongal every year, where a group of young men jump onto and grab the hump of a running bull to bring it to a stop. The game has drawn comparisons with the Spanish bull festival. The game has also faced criticism for being cruel to animals.

The game was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014, after the Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case against the game protesting against its violent nature. In 2016, responding to a petition filed by the Animal Welfare Board against the Environment and Forest Ministry seeking the continuation of the tradition, although under certain conditions, the Supreme Court upheld the ban. In 2017, large unorganised protests were held at Chennai’s Marina beach seeking a withdrawal of the ban. People attended it in thousands, compelling the Tamil Nadu government to reinstate the game. Consequently, the state government passed a bill exempting Jallikattu from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).

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Protests at the Marina beach, Chennai, in 2017 opposing the ban on Jallikattu

The film features Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad, and Santhy Balachandran, and is based on S Hareesh’s short story Maoist. Hareesh has also written the screenplay of the film. The independent action film was contending with 26 other films, including The Sky is PinkShakuntala Devi, and Chintu Ka Birthday, among others. Zoya Akhtar‘s Gully Boy was India’s official entry for Oscars 2020.

Three Indian filmmakers have been invited to the Oscars 2021 jury- Nishtha Jain, Shirley Abraham, and Amit Madhesiya.

Ireland, Italy and Hungary also announced their respective entries for the Academy Award’s Best International Feature Film category this week.

Notturno (top left), Arracht (top right), Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (bottom)

Arracht is Ireland’s official entry for the Academy Awards this year. The film is set in the 1845 Irish famine during The Great Hunger and revolves around a fisherman who witnesses the famine creep in and the resultant hiking of prices by landlords, making it difficult for his family and others from the community to make ends meet.

The film will be the country’s seventh submission to the category and features Dónall Ó Héalai, alongside Dara Devaney, Michael McElhatton, along with newcomer Saise Ní Chúinn. It had its Irish premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival in February. It was selected by the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) and won two Irish Academy Awards at the IFTA awards ceremony.

Italy picked Notturno, a documentary film directed by Gianfranco Rosi, as its official entry for the Oscars. Shot over three years, the film follows different people from the war-zones of the Middle-East- Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, and Lebanon. The film premiered this year at the Venice International Film Festival and was also screened at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. The country’s film body ANICA (Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche Audiovisive e Multimediali) decided to run the movie for the Oscars race.

Italy’s tryst with the Oscars has been a successful one, bagging 14 awards. Italian filmmakers Federico Fellini remains unmatched, having directed four Best International Feature Film-winning films, including the first one, La Strada, in 1956.

Hungary picked psychological thriller Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, directed by Lili Horvat, as its official Oscars entry. The story revolves around a neurosurgeon based in America who falls for another doctor and returns to Budapest for him. After they meet, he claims to never have seen her. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was awarded the Golden Hugo in the New Directors Competition at the Chicago Film Festival.

The final list of nominations will be announced on March 13, 2021.

Some other entries include Mexico’s I’m No Longer Here, Indonesia’s Impetigore, Japan’s True Mothers, Germany’s  And Tomorrow the Entire WorldCzech Republic’s Charlatan, and South Korea’s The Man Standing Next. Netflix has pitched four films for the Oscar race- MankThe Trial of Chicago 7Da 5 Bloods, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

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