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‘White Ribbon’ top contender for foreign Oscar

Germany's award-winning "The White Ribbon," which won the top prize at Cannes last year, will compete with another prize winner, the melancholy Peruvian drama "Milk of Sorrow," and three other films from Israel, Argentina and France for the Oscar for best foreign language film.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Germany's award-winning "The White Ribbon," which won the top prize at Cannes last year, will compete with another prize winner, the melancholy Peruvian drama "Milk of Sorrow," and three other films from Israel, Argentina and France for the Oscar for best foreign language film.

Set in pre-World War I Germany, "The White Ribbon" is a stark black-and-white morality tale examining communal guilt, distrust and punishment among the residents of a small German town.

Director Michael Haneke is an art-house favorite whose past films, including "Cache," "The Piano Teacher" and "Funny Games," have garnered a string of awards in Europe and beyond.

Haneke declined media requests for comment, but the film's producer, Stefan Arndt, called Tuesday's nomination "smashingly awesome."

"I still don't know what to say," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I didn't even expect this to happen in my dreams."

Arndt added he was thrilled the movie also scored a nomination for best camera, with lead cameraman Austrian Christian Berger in contention for the prize.

Young Peruvian director Claudia Llosa's "Milk of Sorrow," which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, addresses the lingering problems of women abused during the Peruvian government's decades-long war against leftist guerrillas.

It stars striking actress Magaly Solier as Fausta, a young woman suffering from a mysterious illness that according to popular legend is transmitted through the milk of mothers who were raped during the conflict. "Milk of Sorrow" is the second film from 33-year-old Llosa.

Another South American feature, "El Secreto de Sus Ojos," ("The Secret in their Eyes") by Argentine director Juan Jose Campanella, is the story of a detective who plunges into a cold murder case.

Campanella, whose "Son of the Bride" was nominated for an Oscar in 2002, told Argentine cable channel Todo Noticias he was stunned by Tuesday's news.

"I cannot believe it," he told the channel in Spanish. "You go through the process with so much anxiety that when it happens the news is a relief."

Newcomers Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani's "Ajami" depicts the brutal life of drugs, violence and poverty in a mixed, Jewish-Arab neighborhood in the Mediterranean city of Jaffa.

Copti said he was overjoyed about the nomination and said he hoped the film would help spread awareness about Israel's Arab minority, which makes up about one-fifth of Israel's population of 7 million.

"Maybe with the nomination, people will have a chance to understand what a Palestinian living in Israel is," Copti told The AP in a phone interview from Dubai. "It will put us on the map."

Acclaimed French director Jacques Audiard's prison drama "Un Prophet" ("A Prophet") scored the second-place prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival. A gritty prison drama, the film chronicles the rise of an illiterate inmate who educates himself and becomes a player in drug and smuggling circles while serving a six-year sentence.

Its outsider hero is Malik, played by actor Tahar Rahim, a young Frenchman of North African origin who is sent to prison and forced to find a path between its rival gangs, including Muslim inmates and Corsican gangsters. Tense, brutal and sometimes tender, the film shows Malik's education on the rules of prison life, which turn out to be not so different from those outside.

Rahim, garnered several prizes for best actor at smaller film festivals.

Audiard won international acclaim for his last feature, 2005's "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," the story of a young man torn between following in his father's footsteps in a life of thuggish petty crime and pursuing his love for classical music.