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Heartland's Oscar buzz

November 19, 2008
You know how, when you're gathered in the living room filling out you Academy Award ballot with friends and there are the inevitable jokes about nobody having any idea what the nominated documentaries are about?

Well, this year, it could be different. At least, if you attended the Heartland Film Festival. Two documentaries that were screened at this year's fest are on the short list of films that could be nominated this year. See the L.A. Times story here.

Both have a heroic female focus. The first, Heartland's best documentary winner "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," concerns the women's movement that changed history in Liberia. The second, "Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Sensesh" exploring the life of the woman who parachuted behind enemy lines on a Holocaust rescue mission.

Meanwhile, the fictional "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," which had its North American premier at Heartland (and is getting an aggressive push from the Truly Moving Pictures folks) is earning mixed reviews in theaters.

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis called it "See the Holocaust trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked for a tragedy about a Nazi family." At the other end of the spectrum, Ty Burr at the Boston Globe said, "Because its gaze is so level and so unyielding, it stands as one of the better dramatic films made on this subject." He continues with "If you want to resist this movie - and some reviewers have, vocally - you're within your rights. Those who lower their guard may be astonished at the cold, calculated punch "Boy" packs." (My thoughts on the film can be found here. )

Does "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" have any possibilities of earning a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars? Unlikely. Trade publication Variety doesn't have the film on its list of 22 contenders--or on its back-up list of potential underdogs.

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