So apparently 71 films will be vying for the Foreign Language Film Oscar this year – a record number of submissions, which would have been even higher had Iran not acted like children and decided to boycott this year (after winning last year) because of a Youtube video made by a bigot. Anyway, I highlight 15 films that I have heard of, that may well play a role in the final nominees. Of course, they always pick a few films no one has heard of before, and ignore some very high profile ones, so it’s really a crapshoot until the shortlist of 9 or 10 films is announced. For now, these 15 will likely be the most talked about.
1. Lore – Australia – This has been a festival hit this year, and considering it is about WWII (and specifically children in WWII) it has a VERY good chance at being in play come Oscar time. The new rules, announced a few years ago, that state the movie does not have to be in an official language of the country helps a lot – considering this Australia film is in German.
2. Amour – Austria – Michael Haneke’s latest masterpiece is almost assured a nomination. It has already become one of the most acclaimed films of the year, and may even score some nominations outside of this category as well. Until something else unseats it, this is your frontrunner.
3. Our Children – Belgium – A controversial entry in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes this year, this certainly divided critics – but did come away with some very passionate supporters. This may well be too dark for the Academy, but a few familiar faces in the cast (Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup and Emile Deqeune) may help though.
4. Rebelle – Canada – I always highlight the Canadian film – and hope for the best. This film, about war torn Africa, has been a festival hit – picking up prizes in Berlin and Tribeca – and seems like it may be up the Academy’s alley.
5. No – Chile – The presence of an actor the Academy knows – in this case Gael Garcia Bernal – never hurts. And this film, from director Pablo Larrain, about an activist trying to come up with ad to defeat Pinochet, has been a festival hit all year. So, this could happen.
6. Caught in the Web – China – I know nothing of this film, other than it was directed by Chen Kaige – who made the wonderful Farewell, My Concubine, which was nominated for this award years ago. He can be great – but hasn’t been in a while now, so who the hell knows.
7. A Royal Affair – Denmark – I was mildly surprised when Denmark did not pick Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt for its selection – it is right in the Academy wheelhouse. Instead, they went with this highly thought of costume drama, starring The Hunt star Mads Mikkelsen. The Hunt would have been almost assured of a nomination, so I think this one could be as well.
8. The Intouchables – France – This one has already opened in North America – and did excellent business for a foreign film. Throw in the fact that France is nearly ALWAYS in play, and they overlooked Rust & Bone to put this one in, you know they think they have a nominee here – and they’re most likely right. I guess I DO have to watch this film, that I have been avoiding for months.
9. Barbara – Germany – Barbara has been a huge hit on the Festival circuit all year, and with baity subject matter - a East German doctor banished to a country hospital – it would be foolish to bet against this one at least finding its way to the shortlist.
10. Fill the Void –Israel – Israel has found itself in play for this award quite often in recent history, and strong word of mouth coming out of numerous film festivals for this one, make it seem like they may just have another nominee on their hands.
11. Caesar Must Die – Italy – The highly acclaimed directing brothers the Taviani’s return with this strange sounding film about inmates in a maximum security prison putting on a production of Shakespeare’ Julius Caesar. The winner of the Berlin Festival maybe a return to form for the brothers.
12. After Lucia – Mexico – The winner of the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes this year, the movie has very timely subject matter – high school bullying – so it could very easily find itself in play.
13. Beyond the Hills – Romania – If they didn’t nominate the almost universally acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days from Romanian Cristian Mungiu, I find it hard to believe they will nominate his follow-up – which has a much more mixed critical response. Still, this is one of the more talked about entries.
14. Pieta – South Korea – I hate the films of Kim Ki-Duk, which I mainly find vile or shallow – and in many cases both. Still, he won the top prize at Venice (sure, on a technicality, but he won it) although any movie that apparently features a scene of a man reaching inside his mother’s vagina and screaming “Is this where I came from?” has no shot at a nomination.
15. The Hypnotist – Sweden – I hated this novel by Lars Kelper, who was billed as the next Steig Larsen, but is nowhere near as good as even James Patterson. Regardless, it has been directed by Lasse Hallstrom, once an Oscar mainstay – and is the Academy’s favorite type of foreign film – that is one that feels like an American film in another language - so who knows?
The Complete List
1. The Patience Stone – Afghanistan
2. Pharmakon – Albania
3. Zabana – Algeria
4. Clandestine Childhood – Argentina
5. If Only Everyone – Armenia
6. Lore – Australia
7. Amour – Austria
8. Buta – Azerbaijan
9. Pleasure Boy Komola – Bangladesh
10. Our Children – Belgium
11. Children of Sarajevo – Bosnia & Herzegovina
12. The Clown – Brazil
13. Sneakers – Bulgaria
14. Lost Loves – Cambodia
15. Rebelle – Canada
16. No – Chile
17. Caught in the Web – China
18. El Cartel de Los Sapos – Columbia
19. Cannibal Vegetarian – Croatia
20. In the Shadow of the Horse – Czech Republic
21. A Royal Affair – Denmark
22. Check Mate – Dominican Republic
23. Mushrooming – Estonia
24. Purge – Finland
25. The Intouchables – France
26. Keep Smiling – Georgia
27. Barbara – Germany
28. Unfair World – Greece
29. Inuk – Greenland
30. Life Without Principle – Hong Kong
31. Just the Wind – Hungary
32. The Deep – Iceland
33. Barfi! – India
34. The Dancer – Indonesia
35. Fill the Void –Israel
36. Caesar Must Die – Italy
37. Our Homeland – Japan
38. Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe – Kazakhstan
39. Nairobi Half Life – Kenya
40. The Empty Home – Kyrgyzstan
41. Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg – Latvia
42. Ramin – Lithuania
43. The Third Half – Macedonia
44. Bunohan – Malaysia
45. After Lucia – Mexico
46. Death for Sale – Morroco
47. Kauwboy – The Netherlands
48. Kon Tiki – Norway
49. When I Saw You – Palestinian Territories
50. The Bad Intentions – Peru
51. Bwakaw – The Philippines
52. 80 Million – Poland
53. Blood of My Blood – Portugal
54. Beyond the Hills – Romania
55. White Tiger – Russia
56. When Day Breaks – Serbia
57. Already Famous – Singapore
58. Made in Ashes – Slovakia
59. A Trip – Slovenia
60. Little One – South Africa
61. Pieta – South Korea
62. Blancanieves – Spain
63. The Hypnotist – Sweden
64. Sister – Switzerland
65. Touch the Light – Taiwan
66. Headshot – Thailand
67. Where the Fire Burns – Turkey
68. Firecrosser – Ukraine
69. The Delay – Uruguay
70. Rock, Paper, Scissors – Venezuela
71. The Scent of Burning Grass - Vietnam