Estonian film “Truth and Justice” among the ten international Oscar nominees

The Estonian movie, “Truth and Justice” (“Tõde ja Õigus” in Estonian), is among the ten films that have advanced to the next round of voting in the best international feature film category for the Oscars 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced.

The Beverly Hills-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on 16 December announced the shortlists in consideration for the Oscars in nine categories: documentary feature, documentary short subject, international feature film, makeup and hairstyling, music (original score), music (original song), animated short film, live action short film and visual effects.

The ten selected international feature films that will advance to the next round of voting (after which the final five nominees will be announced) in January 2020 are:

Czech Republic, “The Painted Bird”
Estonia, “Truth and Justice”
France, “Les Misérables”
Hungary, “Those Who Remained”
North Macedonia, “Honeyland”
Poland, “Corpus Christi”
Russia, “Beanpole”
Senegal, “Atlantics”
South Korea, “Parasite”
Spain, “Pain and Glory”

Ninety-one films were eligible in the category. According to the Variety magazine, the Academy members from all branches were invited to participate in the preliminary round. “They must have viewed the submitted films theatrically and met a minimum viewing requirement to be eligible to vote in the category. Their seven choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s International Feature Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist,” the magazine said.

Based on an Estonian novel

“Truth and Justice”, directed by Tanel Toom and released domestically in February 2019, is based in part on the five-volume book series by Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1878-1940). His pentalogy, “Truth and Justice”, written from 1926 to 1933, is considered one of the quintessential works of Estonian literature and the Estonian novel.

Adapted from the book’s first volume, the movie presents life in an Estonian village, as farmers battle against the nature during the last quarter of the 19th century. The two main characters, both unique and powerful men, represent the essential conflicts of human nature: not only good vs evil, but also hope vs conservatism and conquest vs pettiness.

Just like the first volume of the book, the film deals with universal issues that are as relevant today. Although set in rural Estonia at the threshold of modernity, it somewhat still characterises modern Estonians – a story of simple people who work endlessly, striving to build a world were truth and justice prevail.

Desperately seeking truth and justice

The film starts with a showing of a young and energetic man, Andres, together with his wife, Krõõt, arriving to their new farm, bought on a loan, to start their new life. The household needs a lot of work and consistency – a battle with nature, fate and Andres’s spiteful neighbour, Pearu, begins.

When life deals Andres more sufferings than long-awaited successes, he searches desperately for truth and justice – from court, the tavern and the Bible, sacrificing his family, friends and eventually himself in the process. The dream of a prosperous and a nurturing farm – called Robber’s Rise – descends deeper and deeper under the shadow of reality.

A still from the “Truth and Justice” (Allfilm).

A strong team

The Estonian Film Institute that submitted the movie for the foreign language Oscar consideration in August, highlighted in the accompanying statement the movie’s “well-adapted scenario where tension persists, but also beautiful film language, biblical characters and a good actor ensemble”.

“Truth and Justice” was produced by Allfilm – in recent years, the most successful film production company in Estonia. In 2013, Allfilm produced the Estonian-Georgian movie, “Tangerines”, that ended up as one of the final five nominees for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film (the category was previously called thus, but this was changed in April 2019 to Best International Feature Film, after the Academy deemed the word “foreign” to be outdated) category at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.

A still from the “Truth and Justice” (Allfilm).

In Estonia, “Truth and Justice” has so far been seen by over 265,000 cinema-goers – a record since the country regained independence in 1991.

The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on 9 February 2020.

Read also: Truth, justice and an outsider’s affection for Estonia.

Cover: A still from the “Truth and Justice” (Allfilm).

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