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In a new series, Variety catches up with the directors of the films shortlisted for the International Feature Film Oscar to discuss their road to the awards, what they’ve learned so far, and what’s taken them off guard.
The triumph-over-adversity drama “Hive,” which is based on a true story, centers on a Kosovan woman whose husband went missing in the war. Her attempt to set up a business is met with hostility from the men in her village. The film picked up the audience, directing and grand jury prizes in Sundance’s World Dramatic competition last year.
What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for the best international feature Oscar?
It means a lot and it’s an honor in many ways. First of all, because of the inspiring story of the women of Krusha who decided to do something about themselves and their children and they did it; because of everyone who worked hard and put their passion into this film; and because of our beautiful small country Kosovo. People have gone through a lot in this country and the journey of “Hive” is giving them hope. Everybody, literally everybody, is so proud of our film and they are all cheering for us in this awards season.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of your campaign thus far?
The film started its beautiful journey virtually at Sundance, where it broke records and made history with three awards and changed “Hive’s” and our lives. And for several months it continued to be so and what we were missing was in-person screenings and hearing the reactions from the audiences directly. I am not very experienced in campaigning, so I had my doubts how I might do in this process but for me it’s been beautiful so far. We got to screen the film, talk to many people, hear directly from them about how the film touched and inspired them. For me it was another way — a beautiful way — to feel this story once again.
Although you are shortlisted in the international feature category, the best picture category has been devoid of non-English language features. “Parasite” (2019) was the first winner in history. Do you feel international voices are siloed in media and film criticism?
When I talk about giving hope to people from a small country like Kosovo, “Parasite” did exactly that for me and I think for all international filmmakers. Besides the fact that “Parasite” is a remarkable film, and Bong Joon-Ho is a brilliant director, the win changed many things and above all inspired and gave hope to many of us. And I look forward to more international films winning in this category.
When trying to get consumer audiences to watch an international feature, there seems to be a focus on the length of a movie, but when something like “Avengers: Endgame” gets a three-hour runtime, Marvel fans are ecstatic and say they could go longer if they wanted to. Is that fair?
From my point of view, running time is not something that should speak to us and be something to determine what is a good story or not. What matters is always the storytelling and how that story touches people.
The Academy has favored European countries, with Italy and France winning triple the number of times than a country like Japan. How can we encourage more diversity from all countries globally?
The Academy’s Streaming Room is a relatively new resource and is an invaluable way for Academy members to access films from all around the world easily. Plus having films like “Parasite” win seems to indicate the whole film industry is becoming more diverse and open to beautiful films, no matter where they are from.
You are representing your country to an American awards body (although there are voters who are international). How do you feel about being that representative?
A huge responsibility and an honor. The whole of Kosovo has their eyes on us, plus we are known as people who love America very much. America helped our country get liberated and we will forever be grateful for that, and people relate our representation to that and have great expectations.
The Oscar nominations will be unveiled on Feb. 8.