Oscars: Nine Films Advance in Foreign-Language Race

Courtesy of Komplizen Film/Sony Pictures Classics
'Toni Erdmann'

Germany's 'Toni Erdmann' made the cut, but Frances' 'Elle' failed to secure a slot.

Nine foreign-language films have made the cut and will now compete for a nomination for the best foreign-language film Oscar, the Academy announced Thursday.

The shortlist of nine films includes some of the expected frontrunners in the category, such as Germany's Toni Erdmann, director Maren Ade's 162-minute comedy about a free-wheeling dad out to shake up the life of his more corporate-minded daughter, which was greeted as a critical favorite when it debuted at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and Iran's The Salesman, a psychological thriller about a strained marriage from director Asghar Farhadi, who received a previous Oscar nomination for writing 2011's A Separation, which also won the foreign-language Oscar.

But there are also are a number of omissions that are sure to prove controversial, such as France's Elle, Paul Verhoeven's drama about a woman who confronts her rapist in unexpected ways; Chile's Neruda, a portrait of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda directed by Pablo Larrain, who also is represented onscreen this season by the English-language Jackie; and Spain's Julieta, directed by master filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.

Among the films that did win a place on the shortlist, Switzerland scored with an animated feature, Claude Barras' My Life as a Zucchini, which follows a young boy who discovers a sense of family in an orphanage. While it's unusual for an animated feature to be a contender in the category, it's not unprecedented — in 2008, Waltz With Bashir, an animated documentary from Israel, secured a nomination.

There are two films from countries where English is spoken — under current rules, a foreign-language film does not have to be in a country's dominant language. Australia is represented by Tanna, Bentley Dean and Martin Butler's film set on a remote South Pacific island where the tribespeople who participated in the film speak Nauvhal; and Canada is repped by the French-speaking It's Only the End of the World, a drama about a young man facing death from bad-boy director Xavier Dolan.

World War II figures in three of the films: Russia's Paradise, Andrei Konchalovsky's drama about a noblewoman who sheltered Jewish children, which won Konchalovsky best directing honors at this year's Venice Film Festival; Denmark's Land of Mine, directed by Martin Zandvliet, about German prisoners forced to clear the Danish coastline of mines; and Norway's The King's Choice, Erik Poppe's film set during the German invasion of Norway.

In addition to Toni Erdmann, another comedy made the list, Sweden's A Man Called Ove, Hannes Holm's movie about a curmudgeon dealing with a Persian family who has moved in next door.

The nine films were chosen from 85 that were submitted by their respective countries. 

A committee, composed of several hundred Los Angeles-based academy members, screened the submissions, voting for their favorites. That resulted in a list of six films, and then the Academy's foreign-language film award executive committee added three more titles. 

The nine films on the shortlist will now screen for committees in New York, Los Angeles and London, who will cast the ballots for the film nominees in the category, to be announced Jan. 24.

The films on the shortlist, and their country of origin, are:  

Australia, Tanna, Bentley Dean, Martin Butler, directors;
Canada, It’s Only the End of the World, Xavier Dolan, director;
Denmark, Land of Mine, Martin Zandvliet, director;
Germany, Toni Erdmann, Maren Ade, director;
Iran, The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, director;
Norway, The King’s Choice, Erik Poppe, director;
Russia, Paradise, Andrei Konchalovsky, director;
Sweden, A Man Called Ove, Hannes Holm, director;
Switzerland, My Life as a Zucchini, Claude Barras, director.

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