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French entry ‘Les Misérables’ nominated for best foreign language film Oscar

A still from Ladj Ly's Oscar nominee "Les Misérables".
A still from Ladj Ly's Oscar nominee "Les Misérables". © SRAB Films - Rectangle Productions - Lyly films

Months after winning the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, French director Ladj Ly’s “Les Misérables” will be vying for Oscar glory on February 9 when it takes on Palme d’Or laureate “Parasite” in the best foreign language category.

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Ladj Ly’s impressive debut feature was nominated for the 92nd Academy Awards on Monday, becoming the first French entry to get the nod since “Mustang”, by Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, in 2016.

“Les Misérables” will face heavyweights “Parasite” by South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho and “Pain and Glory” by Spain’s Pedro Almodovar, along with “Corpus Christi” by Poland’s Jan Komasa and “Honeyland” by North Macedonia’s Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov.

Both a critical success and a box-office hit, Ly's film casts a spotlight on the festering issue of police violence in some of France’s most deprived suburbs, blighted by poverty, unemployment and injustice.

It is inspired by the riots that swept through the poorer immigrant-rich suburbs of Paris in 2005, following the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted in a power station while running away from police in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Ly has taken another incident in nearby Montfermeil, his hometown and the setting for Victor Hugo’s 19th-century classic “Les Misérables”, as the basis for his movie, which follows the consequences of a violent police blunder in a tense and racially divided suburb, seen through the eyes of a cop who has just joined its anti-crime unit.

While the film draws on Ly’s own experiences in the Paris suburb – he once covertly filmed and published a video of police brutality in Montfermeil, leading to an unprecedented internal police investigation – the filmmaker has described it as a "universal" warning cry about poverty and racism, one that “should speak to as many people as possible”.

In other categories, Todd Phillips’ supervillain origin story “Joker” topped the field with 11 Academy Awards nominations, while Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” and Sam Mendes’ “1917” all trailed close behind with 10 nods apiece.

Those four were among the nine films nominated for best picture, with Bong’s “Parasite” also in the running.
 

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