Newton at the Oscars: Amit Masurkar's film has a long way to go to win the coveted award

Abhishek Srivastava

Sep,22 2017 18:22 56 IST

Despite the October 2 deadline for submission of foreign language films for the 90th Academy Awards, most of the entries have already been received. The battle lines, well almost, have been drawn and cinephiles can have now the luxury to make their own predictions.

Given the submissions, it can only be assumed that the race to be in the top five will be a tough one for Newton. Amit Masurkar’s Newton is pitted against films of legends like Angelina Jolie, Fatih Akin, Michael Haneke, Agnieszka Holland and Ruben Ostlund. There will be multiple hurdles for Newton; the film has to make it to the long list and a short list of films for the category, in order to be considered in the top five final films.

A Still from Newton. Image from Twitter / @DrishyamFilms

With Newton becoming India’s official entry to the Oscars, one thing is certain — no furore will be created this year over the choice of the selection committee of the Film Federation of India. With past selections like The Good Road and Liar’s Dice, there was always a voice of dissent.

The story of a government clerk who is sent to conduct elections in a Naxalite affected zone has been loved by all and sundry. The film also fits the parameters of a ‘foreign language selection’ category when seen from the eyes of the Indian milieu.

Newton has made rounds of close to 50 prominent film festivals across the world. The prominent ones that shine bright include Berlin, Tribeca, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Buenos Aires. While it won the jury prize at Hong Kong (chaired by the much revered filmmaker Agnieszka Holland) and the CICAE Art Cinema Award at Berlin, it was nominated at rest of the film festivals.

Along its journey, Newton will encounter some veterans who have been the toast of esteemed film festivals at Berlin, Venice and Cannes in past.

Prominent among them are films of filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Agnieszka Holland, Fatih Akin and Sebastian Lelio not forgetting the latest film by Angelina Jolie dealing with the atrocity of Khmer Rouge in 1975, an entry from Cambodia.

The films, which are likely to give stiff competition to Newton, are First, They Killed My Father (Cambodia), The Square (Sweden), Foxtrot (Israel), Loveless (Russia) and A Fantastic Woman (Chile). While The Square won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Loveless won the jury prize at the same festival. Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats Per Minute too won the Grand Prize at Cannes and is an entry from France.

At the Berlin Film Festival it was the turn of On Body And Soul, an entry from Hungary, which won the Golden Bear. Similarly the Silver Bear was won by Pokot, the entry from Poland by Agnieszka Holland whose Europa Europa had made it to the top five in foreign language category in 1992.  Foxtrot from Israel won the Grand Jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

But threat can loom large from any quarter. The above-mentioned are those who have repeatedly made their presence felt at various film festivals of the world. There are also some, which might just spoil the party for Newton, and they are Thelma (Norway) and Happy End (Austria).

It's now a common knowledge that being nominated in a category at the Oscars depends on the push a film receives. The umpteen screenings that are organised by producers of the films for various groups is also an effort to ensure that a right buzz is created around the film and it in circulation till the time the nominations are announced in February.

The joint might of Eros, the presenters of Newton and the producer, Drishyam films will be pitted against a Goliath called the Netflix.

The war between Netflix and Amazon to spread their supremacy over original films content space has now reached the next level. Amazon’s Manchester By The Sea made Netflix eat humble pie last year when they dominated both at the Oscars and at the Golden Globes. This year with the Angelina Jolie directed First, They Killed My Father they have a golden opportunity to make things even.

Needless to say the streaming agency, which recently pumped in 5 billion dollars to make original content, will do their best to take their sweet revenge and this primarily amounts to the millions they will be seen spending in form of advertisement and numerous screenings. The task to hit the right button will be their least concern as this time the playground is their home turf.  The clout that the streaming agency boasts will be an added bonus.

For Eros and Drishyam Films, the race to win the much-coveted trophy will be peppered with loads of hard work. The presence of Eros in the UK for years might be of some consolation to Newton. The role of a publicist is of paramount importance. The game plan is all about showing the film to the right people who might help creating relevant buzz needed.

We only hope Newton survives the journey and brings glory to the country. At the end of the day Newton is a great watch.