International Filmmakers Dominated the Live Action Oscars

Ben Friedman


After months of bitter campaigning, lavish parties, and controversial nominations, it can become so easy as to forget the goal of the Oscars – to celebrate the achievement of film. Yet, for most American audiences, it is easy to forget about filmmakers working internationally. To quote recent Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho, “Once you overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” No race better exemplifies the artistry, craft, and international storytelling talents on display then this year’s Best Live Action Shorts nominations.


Set in the lavish landscapes of Greenland’s countryside, Ivalu follows a Native girl searching for her missing sister. Visually mesmerizing, the film navigates through the Arctic, all while telling a story of regret, sexual abuse, and sisterhood. Co-directors Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jorgensen handle the sensitive subject matter with delicacy, allowing the short to be emotionally devastating. At 16 minutes, the short ultimately feels a tad rushed, yet the emotional complexity it achieves in such a runtime is remarkable.



Hailing from Scandinavia, Night Ride is an issue-based film with a remarkably wicked sense of humor. Sigrid Kandal Husjord portrays Ebba, a little person who after a series of events finds herself stealing and conducting a tram in the middle of the night. The situation further complicates when two of her passengers begin harassing a trans woman (Ola Hoemsnes Sandum). While the tonal shift from comedy to intensity is sudden, director Eirik Tveiten does an exceptional job in illustrating Ebba’s internal conflict in standing up for what is right versus remaining complicit at others’ expense.


Le Pupille is set in an Italian orphanage and follows a group of girls rebelling against nuns. Backed by Disney and Alfonso Cuarón, the film is directed by celebrated Italian director Alice Rohrwacher. The girls are effortlessly adorable and funny, especially Melissa Falascon, who portrays the protagonist, Serafina. Admittedly, of the five films nominated, Le Pupille was easily my least favorite of the group. At 37 minutes long, it felt so poorly paced, and largely aimless in its storytelling. Yet, where the film finds success is its visual flair and comedy, which is largely successful, especially a gag involving a cake that has a wonderfully hilarious payoff.



Seemingly the fan favorite, The Red Suitcase is a simple, pitch-perfect cat-and-mouse thriller. The film follows 16-year-old Ariane (Nawelle Ewad) who flies to Luxembourg to meet a much older man who she has been arranged to marry, but she decides to flee instead. Directed by Iranian filmmaker Cyrus Neshvad, The Red Suitcase is by far the most accessible film of the five nominated. Quick-paced and tension-ridden throughout, Neshvad’s directorial skills feel the most well-honed and will leave audiences clenching to their seat’s armrests.



Finally, the only English-language nominee, and Oscar winner, Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s An Irish Goodbye follows two Irish brothers Turlough (Seamus O’Hara) and Lorcan (James Martin) who are reunited after the death of their mother. When the brothers discover their mother’s uncompleted bucket list, Lorcan takes it upon himself to complete it before Turlough sells the family farm. If The Banshees of Inisherin’s success this awards season has taught us anything, it is that Irish filmmakers seemingly have a morbid sense of humor. The slapstick comedy of the two brothers completing random, pointless tasks is tonally well juxtaposed with themes of grief and reconciliation making for a film that is endearing, poignant, and incredibly funny.


Author Bio:

Ben Friedman is a freelance film journalist and a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. For more of his reviews, visit, his podcast Ben and Bran See a Movie, or follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube: The Beniverse


For Highbrow Magazine


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