Lao horror movie Dearest Sister has been selected as the country’s first ever submission for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category.
The sophomore feature of Mattie Do, Laos’ sole female and sole horror director, Dearest Sister (which we reviewed here) revolves around a poor country girl named Nok who travels to Laos’ capital city of Vientiane to look after her rich cousin Ana, whose eyesight is failing. She comes to realise that in the blurred spaces of her cousin’s deteriorating vision, Ana is able to perceive the spirits of the recently departed who begin imparting winning lottery numbers, which Nok then uses to fund her new materialistic and avaricious lifestyle.
The Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category has existed in its current form since 1956 and has been awarded annually since then. For those not familiar with the process, every country except the USA can submit one feature film for consideration each year, the only provisos being that the dialogue is in a language other than English and the movie in question is primarily a production of its submitting nation. After all entries have been received and screened for the selection committee, shortlist of nine is selected by ballot, and then from them the five official nominations. Should Dearest Sister be selected and go on to win, it would be only the twelfth time (out of 69) the award has gone to a film from a non-European nation, the sixth from an Asian nation, and the second from an Asian nation other than Japan.
Laos has not been producing films for long – Dearest Sister was only the thirteenth it ever made – but its selection shows the quality of films the nation is already creating, and should its submission be taken further it will also move horror movies a little further along the still unacceptably lengthy journey towards mainstream recognition.
We reached out to Mattie for a comment, but she was unavailable as her time is currently being spent running around in circles and flailing with jubilation while emitting a euphoric wail so high-pitched only her dog can hear it. However, had she responded she would have said something like:
“For anyone who makes film, I’m sure it’s common to want to make a film that could be submitted to the Oscars, but for someone like myself, it seemed like an unreachable goal. The way that I fell into filmmaking made being blindsided with the chance to submit to the Oscars a delirious combination of delight, shock and pride, as well as pressure to make something even better for my next films.
I really think it’ll impact Laos’ film industry positively – because if anything, it means that at least there is interest in our small and relatively unknown country, and this could really open the doors for others to become more interested in the stories that haven’t yet been told in Laos!”
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