Oscar 2014: Mateo from Colombia for Best Foreign Language

Colombia’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected “Mateo,” the debut picture of  NYU and La Femis-trained Colombian native Maria Gamboa, to represent the country in the foreign-language Oscar race.

Youth drama trumped 18 other contenders, led by finalists “Tierra en la Lengua” by Ruben Mendoza and “Los Hongos” by Oscar Ruiz Navia, for the honor.

The film centers on the titular Mateo, an at-risk 16 year old played by non-pro Carlos Hernandez, who discovers a way out from a potential life of crime through theater. With the exception of Felipe Botero, who plays the unconventional priest Father David, the rest of the cast comprises of non-pros.

“Mateo” has won many awards in the festival circuit and has been theatrically released in Colombia by indie distrib Cineplex. It will continue screening in non-traditional spaces in Colombia and run the festival circuit from Germany and Seville to Morocco and Istanbul.

“I got the idea for this film when I was working on TV series ‘Revelados’ and saw how theater helped kids from joining the armed conflict in Colombia,” says Gamboa, who co-wrote the screenplay with Adriana Arjona.