By C. Molly Smith
July 17, 2016 at 11:52 PM EDT
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
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Son of Saul won Best Foreign Language Film at Sunday’s Academy Awards. The film was widely considered to be the frontrunner in this race. 

Directed by first-time feature filmmaker László Nemes, the Hungarian Holocaust drama is set in Auschwitz-Birkenau in October, 1944 and tells the story of Saul Ausländer (newcomer Géza Röhrig), an inmate responsible for disposing of other prisoners who eventually finds the body of a boy that he takes on as a son and attempts to give him a proper Jewish burial. Nemes also co-wrote the film with Clara Royer. 

“Even in the darkest hours of mankind there might be a voice within us that allows us to remain human. That’s the hope of this film,” director László Nemes said while accepting the first win for Hungary.

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Colombia’s Embrace of the Serpent, France’s Mustang, Jordan’s Theeb, and Denmark’s A War were also nominated in the category.

In EW’s review, critic Chris Nashawaty gave Son of Saul an A and called it an “absolute masterpiece.” Additionally, he praised it for its unique take on a familiar subject. “It’s impossible to be a lover of cinema without having been down this road before in films like Schindler’s List and The Pianist,” he writes. “But Nemes is telling his story in a revolutionary new way—and it’s devastating.”  

Röhrig echoed the devastating nature of the film in a video interview he did with EW at the Toronto International Film Festival. “When I first read the script, I right away realized that this is not going to be one of those movies that try to avoid the darker realities of the Holocaust,” he said. “In one way I was happy about that, because I thought that lots of movies have it too easy. If you make a film about the Holocaust, you better recognize the Holocaust for what it is, and not try to surround the subject matter with cheap sentimentalism and give some sort of a survivor’s tale, which is really the exception. Most people did not survive.”

Beyond the Oscars, the Hungarian entry was recognized with a Golden Globe Foreign Language win, a Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix win, and many more wins and nominations.

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release date
  • 02/28/16
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