Toronto's Deepa Mehta thrilled by Oscar nod
"Floating was the word, that's the way I describe it."
So says director Deepa Mehta of the feeling she had upon learning that her film "Water" had been nominated for the Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
Mehta says a bottle of champagne was cracked open around the breakfast table at her Toronto home when the nominations were announced early Tuesday. But in the ensuing excitement, the phone didn't stop ringing and "I didn't have a chance to have more than a sip," she told CTV Newsnet.
"Water," filmed in Hindi with English subtitles, was nominated along with entries from Denmark, Algeria, Germany and Mexico. It's the first non-French film from Canada to be up for a best foreign language film.
The film, set in 1938 India, tells the story of the appalling treatment of Hindu widows, including an eight-year-old girl. It was shot secretly in Sri Lanka in 2004, after Hindu fundamentalists shut down the production in India in 2000.
The film has already scored three Genie Award nominations and the prestigious National Board of Review's Freedom of Expression Award.
"As a Canadian, I feel truly proud. Not only is this truly a multicultural country, it's also multilingual," Mehta said.
The director told Canada AM that she'll be heading to L.A. for the award and to walk the red carpet, but won't be fussing about what gown to wear.
"The gown is no problem. I always wear a sari. You don't get into designers and all that," she laughed.
Two other Canadian-born film figures earned Oscar nominations: actor Ryan Gosling for his role in "Half Nelson" and screenwriter and director Paul Haggis for his writing work on the Clint Eastwood-directed "Letters from Iwo Jima." In addition, "The Danish Poet," co-produced by the National Film Board, was nominated for best animated short film.
"I was thrilled, of course; who wouldn't be?" the London, Ontario-born Haggis told CTV Newsnet from New Mexico.
This was the third straight screenwriting nomination for Haggis, who wrote the adapted script for the Oscar-winning "Million Dollar Baby." He also and wrote and directed last year's Best Picture winner, "Crash," a film about racism in Los Angeles, where Haggis has lived for more than two decades.
Haggis wrote "Letters" in English along with co-writer Iris Yamashita, and then director Eastwood had the script translated into Japanese with English subtitles.
"It was fascinating being on the set watching Clint direct this and, of course, not understanding a word of Japanese," Haggis said.
"I'm terrifically happy for Clint because this really was a passion piece for him. He really wanted to tell the story of the other side of that battle."
Gosling said in a statement it was "extremely encouraging to see a small film be recognized at this level.''
"By recognizing me, I feel that it honours everyone I love and for that, I am truly grateful.''
The nomination for "The Danish Poet" was the 69th for the NFB.
Canada last took an Oscar in 2005 for the animated short "Ryan." And in 2004, Denys Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions'' won the best foreign-language film award.