It was pitch black this morning as I joined the Drafthouse Films team in the living room of our Sundance condo to watch the Oscar nominations announced lived. We were all in our pajamas, bleary-eyed and sort of nervous: Bullhead, Drafthouse Films' upcoming release, had been shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
If nothing else, making the shortlist was a triumph, and a surprising one at that. Bullhead is a tough and smart Belgian film set in the world of the meat industry, where mafia-controlled hormones are illegally injected into cattle. Jackie, a man who is haunted by childhood trauma, shoots steroids into himself to bulk up. The film centers around a stunning performance by Matthias Schoenarts, who won Best Actor at the Palm Springs Film Festival a few weeks ago.
Bullhead seemed like a dark horse. The Drafthouse team, who bought the film after it played at Fantastic Fest last year, knew that four of the five slots were pretty much spoken for by films like A Separation and Monsieur Lazhar. It was that fifth spot they were gunning for, one of nine films trying to make it down to the final five.
We switched around from channel to channel, trying to find the best broadcast of the Oscar nominations. We eventually settled on the E! Channel; Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League jokingly texted "Make Bullhead happen" to on-air commentator Chris Gore.
A few minutes later Bullhead DID happen. The Best Foreign Language Film category was announced, and we heard "From Belgium..." and before Bullhead came up on screen we were screaming and shouting, surely waking up all of our neighbors. After that, the champagne. Not even seven am and we were swigging champagne.
I can't tell you how proud and excited I am to work with Tim League, Evan Husney and James Shapiro, the guys who make up the beating heart of Drafthouse Films. Right now I can hear them working the phones, getting elements in place and talking about the film's release and trailer. They're as smart, driven and and talented people as I've ever had the luck to work with.
And the film itself! I saw Bullhead at Fantasia last year and really liked it, but never imagined it would go this far. On a day when some of the other Oscar nominations smell strongly of bullshit, this is one that reaffirms your belief that every now and again an awards show can get something right.
Congrats to Drafthouse Films and congrats to Bullhead director Michael Roskam. And stay tuned for more information on when you're going to get a chance to see Bullhead for yourself.