Arūnas Matelis’ feature documentary Wonderful Losers: A Different World has been selected as Lithuania’s entry for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ award – the Oscar – in the best foreign-language film category. This is Matelis’ second film with a shot at an Oscar nomination. In 2008, the Lithuanian jury picked his documentary Before Flying Back to Earth to submit to the Academy.
This year, Matelis’ film was picked from among five shortlisted candidates: three documentaries and two fiction films. The other Lithuanian candidates for the best foreign-language film nomination were What We Leave Behind (dir. Jūratė Samulionytė, Vilma Samulionytė, 2017), Owl Mountain (dir. Audrius Juzėnas, 2018), Ancient Woods (dir. Mindaugas Survila, 2018), Miracle(dir. Eglė Vertelytė, 2017).
The winning documentary has been one of the most successful Lithuanian films in recent years. It has toured numerous international film festivals, garnering multiple prizes, as well as triumphing at Lithuania’s national Silver Crane awards as the year’s best documentary. The composer Alberto Lucendo has been awarded for composing the score for the film, which also took home the audience prize.
Wonderful Losers: A Different World tells a story of people at one of the world’s most prestigious cycling competitions, Giro d’Italia. An important, though generally overlooked, role at the Giro is played by the so-called “gregories”, cyclists who go through tremendous challenges in order to assure victory for their team’s leader. Matelis’ documentary glimpses into the behind-the-scenes world of the prestigious race that has been shielded from filmmakers’ cameras for four decades.
Matelis spent eight years making the film which is one of the biggest European coproductions, involving as many as eight countries: Lithuania, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Northern Ireland (the UK), Latvia, Spain and Belgium. The film’s production was supported by the Lithuanian Film Centre.