Antigone chosen as Canada's Oscars contender for best international film

Quebec filmmaker Sophie Deraspe's Antigone has been put forward as Canada's contender for best international feature film at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Quebec filmmaker Sophie Deraspe's film is modern retelling of Greek tragedy

Sophie Deraspe's Antigone is billed as an indictment of the refugee experience in North America. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press )

Quebec writer-director Sophie Deraspe says she's proud that her film has been chosen as the "Canadian ambassador" in the lead-up to the 2020 Academy Awards.

Telefilm Canada announced Friday that Canada is putting forward Antigone to vie for a nomination in the Oscars' best international feature film category, previously known as best foreign language film.

Deraspe said she sees the recognition not only as an endorsement of her craft, but also of the ideal the film espouses.

"Antigone is also a film about values — values of sympathy, integrity, love," the Montreal filmmaker said by phone after Friday's announcement.

"I feel proud of ... campaigning not only for film, for the art of filmmaking, but also those values."

A modern take on Sophocles' Greek tragedy, the drama, set in Montreal, centres on Antigone, played by newcomer Nahéma Ricci — a teenager caught in a clash between her moral code and Canada's justice system when tragedy strikes her immigrant family.

Deraspe, who wrote and directed the film, said the story represents the power of the individual to shatter the "immovable wall" of the system.

"It's about a young woman who has no power in terms of what power is in our world ... and she stands against authority because of what she believes," said Deraspe, whose credits include the 2015 documentary The Amina Profile and the feature Les Loups.

"That's what the film wants to carry — that OK, there's this big system above us, but we are those that are powerful deep inside."

Antigone won the $30,000 Canada Goose Award for best Canadian feature film at the Toronto International Film Festival last Sunday.

Since then, Deraspe said she's been fielding calls from American film agents offering to help her break into Hollywood.

While she's interested in the opportunity to expand her cinematic reach, the 45-year-old said moving to Los Angeles wasn't really her "dream."

"We live in a country that supports art and filmmaking ... that supports auteur filmmaking, not only commercial voices," she said.

"We can bring out something to an audience that resonates more than just for fun or adventure, and in that way, yes, I'm proud of my country, and I'm proud of being the ambassador."

Antigone, which hits theatres in Quebec on Nov. 6, is competing against films submitted by dozens of other countries, including two Canadian co-productions, in the race for an Oscars' nod for international feature.

A short list of 10 films will be unveiled on Dec. 16, and the chosen five official nominees will be announced on Jan.13.

Palestine is entering Elia Suleiman's It Must Be Heaven, co-produced by Canada, Palestine, Qatar, Turkey and France.

Cuban-Canadian co-venture A Translator by Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastian Barriuso will represent Cuba in the race.


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