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'Son of Saul,' 'Mustang' and more in Golden Globes foreign language nominations

'Son of Saul,' 'Mustang' and more in Golden Globes foreign language nominations
Director and writer Deniz Gamze Ergüven, center, and the cast of "Mustang": from left, Elit Iscan, Günes Sensoy, IIayda Akdogan, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, and Tugba Sunguroglu, are seen in the Los Angeles Times photo studio at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, 2015. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The Golden Globes are bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., so it makes sense that one of their most prescient categories reflects the rest of the world. The winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film has matched up with the Academy Awards in the same category in four of the past five years.

So five filmmakers flung around the globe must have been very happy on Thursday morning to learn they had been nominated in that category. All are also representing their respective countries for the Oscars as well.

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The Globes nominated "The Brand New Testament" from Belgium, "The Club" from Chile, "The Fencer" from Finland, "Mustang" from France and "Son of Saul" from Hungary. Though they are a diverse group of stories, they are bold and original and are deeply engaged with the world.

Director László Nemes, left, works with actor Géza Röhrig, who stars as Saul in the movie "Son of Saul," distributed by Sony Pictures Classic.
Director László Nemes, left, works with actor Géza Röhrig, who stars as Saul in the movie "Son of Saul," distributed by Sony Pictures Classic. (Ildi Hermann / Sony Pictures Classics)

Since its premiere earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was a rare debut feature in the prestigious main competition, the intense Holocaust drama "Son of Saul" has been presumed as the year's front-runner in the category.

"It is a very happy and gratifying moment for us," director László Nemes said in a statement regarding the Globes nomination. "Since the film's premiere at Cannes in May, we have been on a whirlwind tour and are stunned by the positive reaction to the film in the US. 'Son Of Saul' is about such an important topic, one that bears acknowledging for every generation."

Though "Son of Saul" may be considered a front-runner, there are few clear-cut favorites and likely nominees yet this year. Last year, the Russian film "Leviathan" and the Polish film "Ida" seemed locked in battle for prizes. "Leviathan" would win the Globe, while "Ida" would take the Oscar.

Making films is like dropping a message in a bottle in the sea. It is always a miracle when it finds a response.


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A film that has been gaining some momentum in the awards race is "Mustang," the first feature by Deniz Gamze Ergüven. "Mustang" was the only female-directed film nominated Thursday in any category of the Golden Globes.

In the film, five sisters are locked away in their house by their uncle. Together and separately, they begin to rebel. In her review in the L.A. Times, Katie Walsh called the film "a moving portrait of sisterhood, a celebration of a fierce femininity and a damning indictment of patriarchal systems that seek to destroy and control this spirit."

Ergüven was born in Turkey and lives in France. Though the film is set in a small Turkish town and is in the Turkish language, it has been selected to represent France at the Academy Awards and elsewhere. (It has French producers and some French financing.)

"I am so proud to represent France with 'Mustang' and I am so thankful for everything this country has offered me," Ergüven said in a statement. "I am so happy that my young actresses, and through them, all the girls and women they represent, finally stand in the light through this beautiful nomination."

Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain was nominated for an Academy Award, but not a Globe, for his previous film "No." With "The Club," Larrain continues his examination of the institutions of everyday life, this time setting his sights on the Catholic Church. In the film, co-written by Larrain, Guillermo Calderon and Daniel Villalobos, a group of former priests lives in relative seclusion in a small seaside house, quietly placed out of sight for varying transgressions that come to haunt them.

"I had the privilege of counting on a group of extraordinary actors, actors whom I have admired all my life, and most of whom I've worked with before," Larrain said in a statement. "In almost every case, the screenplay we wrote together with Daniel and Guillermo was written with these actors in mind, which allowed us to create very precise, dangerous, and extraordinarily mysterious characters."

A more fanciful take on faith and religion can be found in "The Brand New Testament." Filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael gained a cult following with his 2009 film "Mr. Nobody," starring Jared Leto and Diane Kruger. His new film imagines that God lives in Brussels and has problems of his own. The film stars Benoit Poelvoorde and also features Catherine Deneuve in a supporting role.

In a statement, Van Dormeal said, "Making films is like dropping a message in a bottle in the sea. It is always a miracle when it finds a response."

In a 1950s-set period story based on the life of Estonian fencing master Endel Nelis, "The Fencer" showcases a man trying to escape the grasp of Soviet occupation while founding a school for young competitors.

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Like his fellow nominees, Klaus Härö, director of "The Fencer," was heartened by the Globe nomination.

"My first encounter with the Golden Globes comes to mind: I was eleven when I saw Steven Spielberg's 'E.T.' — the film that made me want to make films in the first place," he said in a statement. "It was at that same time I remember seeing, in the local papers, that that film was nominated for the Golden Globes. There was the 'E.T.' ad and a picture of the award. Those two have been connected in my mind: the movie that made me want to go into movies and this prestigious prize."

Follow on Twitter: @IndieFocus

Follow The Times' complete coverage of the Golden Globes and Oscars

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