TRAILER: Paraguay Picks Intimate Doc ‘El tiempo nublado’ as First-Ever Oscar Entry

The foreign language Oscar race is heating up. Over the last week or so, film industries across the world have begun making their final decisions as to which feature will carry their flag to the 88th edition of the oldest and most prestigious televised film awards ceremony. Judging from 2014’s crop, the Academy can look forward to over 80 submissions from countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Bosnia, before settling on their nine-title short list in mid-December. But while everyone’s vying for a coveted slot, the shortlist only tells part of the story. Indeed, over the past few years, the Best Foreign Language Film submissions have been one of the most forceful indicators of the ever-expanding film production boom in Latin America.

Just last year, Panama entered the history books with their first submission ever, the documentary Invasión by Abner Benaim, while last week Guatemala sent the Academy their first submission in over thirty years in the form of Ixcanul (Volcano). But from the looks of things, this Oscar season still has some tricks up its sleeve, and the latest first-time submission came just a few days ago from Paraguay, which officially presented the documentary El tiempo nublado for awards consideration.

Of course, Latin American film buffs may recall recent international hits from Paraguay, like Hamaca Paraguaya or 7 cajas (7 Boxes), but until this year the landlocked South American nation actually had no official film body with the authority to submit those titles. Luckily for director Arami Ullón, they got things together in time to honor her highly personal debut feature, which has already picked up awards at important festivals like Visions du Réel and Rencontres de Toulouse.

The film documents Ullón’s homecoming to Paraguay after years of living abroad in Switzerland. After a lifelong battle with epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, it seems her mother’s health is declining and her caretaker is no longer able to look after her. Suddenly Ullón is faced with a universal dilemma that hits home, especially for Latin American audiences: should she continue to pursue her own personal ambitions, or sacrifice it all to care for her mother?

Watching El tiempo nublado‘s trailer, one is immediately struck by the textured, cinematic quality of the images, which seem so carefully photographed that it could easily be confused with a narrative feature. On the audio track, an emotive string score accompanies the poetic reflection on family, forgiveness, and filmmaking that lend the film a melancholic, elegiac tone. Paraguay’s lack of film infrastructure may have already caused them to miss a few golden opportunities during previous Oscar cycles, but this time around we can be sure they’re sending a contender.