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September 25, 2017

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Palestinian, Belgian films among Oscar nominees

Paolo Sorrentino's bittersweet love letter to Rome, "The Great Beauty," won a Golden Globe on Sunday for best foreign film and looks like a strong contender for the Oscar.

Sorrentino's film follows a jaded journalist through the Italian city, from medieval squares and grand palazzi to hedonistic parties in modernist penthouses.

"I went to bed early and rose early, I had this beautiful sunrise with this exciting news," said Sorrentino, still in Los Angeles after his Globes triumph. "Let's say the morning produces perfection."

The poetic and sardonic film depicts Rome in all its decadent glory, contrasting the city's visual wonders with the malaise of some of its inhabitants — a mood that reflects Italy's economic and political paralysis. Still, Sorrentino said, "it is only incidental that it concentrates on Italy or Rome."

"It's about the miseries, splendors, joys of a city," he said.

In "The Missing Picture," Cambodia's Rithy Panh explores the legacy of Pol Pot's bloody dictatorship on his own family.

Based on his nightmarish memoir "The Elimination," Panh's film documents his family's experience under the Khmer Rouge, which resulted in the deaths of his parents and sisters. It won top prize in the "Un Certain Regard" sidebar competition at last year's Cannes festival.

"I am very, very happy for me, but also for my team and my country," the director told the AP, saying the nomination was an important recognition of a film that gives voice to the country's history.

He said it is "very important that this be recognized and give hope" to artists, writers, technicians and young Cambodians.

Love and tragedy mingle in "The Hunt," Thomas Vinterberg's tense drama about a teacher, played by Mads Mikkelsen, whose comfortable small-town life is destroyed when he is wrongly accused of child abuse.

"It's obviously a bit of a dark tale," said Vinterberg. "But I've seen people being profoundly moved by it. I think the love between the characters and the friendship of these people, speaks to the audience."

Vinterberg, whose previous films include "Festen" ("The Celebration"), said Academy Awards recognition is gratifying for any filmmaker, no matter where they come from.

"There is a very long distance from Denmark to Hollywood, in many ways," he said. "I think America is the frontier of western civilization, for good and for worse. And it's important that my film performs there."

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