This year's Karlovy Vary award winner The Class by Ilmar Raag is Estonia's national nomination for the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Academy Awards next February.
The selection committee, which annoounced its choice Sept. 24, faced an unprecedented situation where no fewer than three of the six features released in 2006 had been in the official programmes of Cannes, Karlovy Vary and Venice. The Class (www.klassifilm.com) is a snapshot of daily school violence in the vein of Gus Van Sant's Elephant. Shot by debut director Ilmar Raag, it picked up the East of the West jury award at Karlovy Vary and was also named the Best European Film by the Europe Cinemas label. Also unusual for an Estonian film, The Class was picked up at Karlovy Vary for international distribution by the Scandinavian sales company NonStop Sales AB (www.nonstopsales.net). The straightforward school story is co-written by amateur actors playing the real-life juvenile antiheroes. The Best Foreign Language contestant was chosen by a committee of five persons representing distributors, state funds and professional organisations. Other contenders included Magnus by debutante Kadri Kõusaar, which featured in Cannes' Un Certain Regard, and Autumn Ball by another first-timer Veiko Õunpuu, which won the main prize in the Horizons sidebar of Venice. The Class briefly hit the Top 10 after domestic release but its grim subject matter probably kept it from becoming a box-office hit beyond that. The nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Jan. 22, 2008, and the awards ceremony will take place Feb. 24. About 100 productions worldwide are competing to be one of five nominations in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and ultimately the winner of an Oscar.