‘Drive My Car’ Is Asian Oscar Favorite in International Category

Marking Japan’s entry into the international category for the Academy Awards, Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s “Drive My Car” appears to represent the odds of winning the favorite from Asia to win this category.

The drama with a global theatrical background follows the trajectory of South Korean film “Parasite” which won four statuettes as it began its way to victory in Cannes and took home awards on its way to the Oscars. Parasite won the Palme d’Or, which Drive My Car did not win, as this year it went to Julia Ducornu’s Titan, which became France’s entry into that category. He also recently won the New York Film Critics Circle.

However, “Drive My Car” won three awards at Cannes and has the added advantage of distribution in the United States, where it is currently shown in cinemas.

Japan’s win in the 2008 film “Leave” remains Japan’s only win since the category became competitive in 1956.

While Korean Ryo Seung-wan’s “Escape from Mogadishu,” in which North and South Korean embassy staff try to flee war-torn Somalia, does not have the thrust that Parasite does, the country is largely a flavor Brilliant as proves the resounding success of “The Squid Game” and the growing popularity of “Hellbound”.

Taiwan’s entries in this category are usually strong, and this year is not unlike Chung Mong-hong’s “The Falls,” which bowed out in Venice and is also spot on, being a drama set amid the COVID-19 quarantine.

If it’s the inspiring fare that Academy voters seek, they need look no further than entering Hong Kong, “Zero to Hero” by Jimmy Wan, which traces the journey of So Wa Wai, the territory’s first athlete to win a gold medal at the Paralympics.

China has its best chance in years with the spy thriller ‘Cliff Walkers’, which has a globally respected filmmaker in Zhang Yimou. Oscar voters are well aware of the film maker as the only two times China has received nominations are for “Ju Do” and “Hero.” While “Cliff Walkers” is not as close to chauvinism as some of the recent efforts from the Middle Kingdom, it is still strongly nationalist.

From Southeast Asia, the favorite was Camilla Andini’s “Yoni” girl-empowerment story, which won an award in Toronto, while the Cambodian version of “The White Building,” Cavic Ning’s nostalgic look at Phnom Penh’s iconic demolished structure, won a major prize in Venice.

Singapore entry chances, Wayne Bing’s “Precious Is The Night”, elegant mystery thriller, and Malaysian entry, “Hail Driver!” For Mozamir Rahman! Set in the world of illegal taxis, it is entirely based on award campaigns organized by the film teams. From Thailand, Pangong Pesanthanakon’s supernatural horror film “The Medium” was a huge box office hit, but it remains to be seen if Oscar voters embrace the genre.

In South Asia, there is no entrance from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where films are rejected. However, Afghanistan is the Australian entry site, “When the Pomegranate Counts” by Granaz Mousavi, which follows a 9-year-old boy working on the streets of Kabul. The strong global interest in Afghanistan and its exiled artists, along with the poignant subject matter may mean the film is in for a shout out.

India, the powerful regional power in South Asia, has been satisfied with the cheating of just three nominations since the category began, and in some years the choice of country to enter has been baffling. India’s entry this year, PS Vinothraj’s Pebbles, is a sound choice. The Tamil-language film, which examines the relationship between a boy and his abusive and alcoholic father, won first prize in Rotterdam and showed strong legs on the festival circuit.

Bangladesh also has a strong contender in Abdullah Muhammad Saad’s ‘Rehana’, which features an outstanding central performance by Azmeri Haque Badhon as a teacher in a deeply patriarchal society who raises her voice against the sexual abuse she witnessed. The film debuted at Cannes and was a mainstay on the festival circuit.

After several years of submitting entries, neither Pakistan has a competitor this year, nor does Nepal. Bhutan made Pawo Choyning Dorji’s “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” last year, but it was left out and re-presented this year. The subject of the film, a remote teacher who defies the elements and facilities, is friendly and has won big prizes in Palm Springs in 2020. It can thus find favor with Academy voters as well provided it has sufficient vision.

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