Oscars: India Selects 'Court' For Foreign-Language Category

Court Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Golden Orange Film Festival, Antalya

Court Still - H 2014

A thought-provoking take on India's judicial system, the film's many honors include the Venice Film Festival's Lion of the Future award for its debutant director Chaitanya Tamhane.

The Film Federation of India announced Wednesday that Court is the country's Oscar entry in the foreign-language film category.

With its thought-provoking take on India's judicial system, the multiple award-winning title generated strong buzz on the festival circuit last year after its Venice premiere.

Among its accolades, Court's debutant director Chaitanya Tamhane was awarded the Venice Film Festival's Lion of the Future award with the title also earning the Orizzonti Award for best film.

New York-based Zeitgeist Films acquired the film for U.S. distribution last year which also saw Court playing at the New Directors/New Films festival in March in New York, organized by Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art

Court begins with the discovery of a Mumbai sewage worker's body and the subsequent arrest and trial of an aging folk singer whose songs may have pushed the worker to suicide. As the trial unfolds, the film also looks at the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case. Primarily in the Marathi language, the film also incorporates Hindi, Gujarati and English.

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter described the film as a "compellingly clear-eyed indictment of modern-day India's institutional dysfunction."

The film stars Vivek Gomber (also its producer), Vira Sathidar, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Pradeep Joshi, Usha Bane and Shirish Pawar. Court was partly funded from the Rotterdam festival's Hubert Bals Fund. The film's selection for the Oscars left Tamhane "genuinely surprised," as he was quoted stating in local reports, "At every juncture of the film's journey, we have felt that it has given us more than we can ever imagine."

India has never won an Oscar in the foreign language category and only three films have ever made it to the final list of nominees: Mother India (1958), Salaam Bombay (1989) and Lagaan (2002). In 2014, India was considered to have had its best possible chance at the Oscars only if breakout hit The Lunchbox had been nominated. Following its critically acclaimed response at Cannes, Ritesh Batra's directorial debut was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for North America.

THR's Scott Feinberg named The Lunchbox among his five picks for best foreign film, an endorsement that was also used in the film's Indian publicity campaign.

But in one of the most controversial snubs ever, India sent in the relatively unknown The Good Road instead.

Last year, India submitted road drama Liar's Dice as the country's Oscar entry.