Austria and France Are Early Frontrunners for Foreign Language Oscar (Analysis)
This year's presumptive frontrunners are the festival-circuit favorite "Amour" and the international blockbuster "The Intouchables."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has just released the official list of entries that have qualified for consideration in the best foreign language film Oscar category. Each country had the opportunity to choose one film that was released within its borders during the year leading up to Oct. 1; the language of the film need not be the official language of the country, but the principal creative talent -- writer, director, producer -- had to hail from the submitting nation. This year, a record 71 entries were accepted.
This year's two highest-profile contenders for the best foreign language film Oscar, the submission deadline for which passed last week, are from Austria (Michael Haneke's heartbreaking drama Amour, which premiered at Cannes, where it won the Palme d'Or, and then went to Telluride and Toronto, and is now playing in New York) and France (Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's heartwarming dramedy The Intouchables, which has grossed record amounts for a French film in France and around the world).
Among the other titles with a lot of buzz are those from Israel (Rama Burshtein's Fill the Void, the first film made by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish female director, which premiered at Venice, where it won the best actress prize, and then played at Toronto, and is now playing in New York); Switzerland (Ursula Meier’s Sister, which premiered at Berlin, where it won the Silver Bear Award, and also played at the Los Angeles Film Festival); Denmark (Nikolaj Arcel's A Royal Affair, which premiered at Berlin, where it won several major prizes, and then went to Telluride and Toronto, the precise course that was followed by last year's eventual winner of the best foreign language film Oscar, Iran's A Separation); Romania (Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, winner of Cannes' best actress and best screenplay prizes, which played in Toronto and is now playing in New York); Chile (Pablo Larraín's No, starring international star Gael García Bernal, which premiered at Cannes, where it won the Art Cinema Award, and then went to Telluride and Toronto, and and is now playing in New York); and South Korea (Ki-duk Kim's Pieta, which premiered at Venice, where it was controversially awarded the Golden Lion Award over The Master, and then played at Toronto).
Among the others countries that are worth keeping an eye on: Australia (Cate Shortland's Lore, which played at Toronto); Belgium (Joachim Lafosse's Our Children, which premiered at Cannes and is now playing in New York); Canada (Kim Nguyen's War Witch, which premiered at Berlin and then played at Tribeca, winning the best actress prize at both fests; it also won the best narrative feature award at Tribeca); Germany (Christian Petzold's Barbara, which premiered at Berlin, went to Telluride, and is now playing in New York); Hungary (Benedek Fliegauf's Just the Wind, which premiered at Berlin, where it won several prizes, including a Silver Bear Award); Netherlands (Boudewijn Koole's Kauwboy, which premiered at Berlin, where it won best first feature and best youth film); Norway (Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg's Kon-Tiki, which played in Toronto); and Sweden (internationally-known director Lasse Hallström's The Hypnotist, which will premiere at San Sebastian).
All submissions will be screened by the Academy's foreign language film selection committee, which is composed of members of a standing executive committee, as well as Los Angeles-based volunteers from across the branches of the Academy. Members must prove that they have seen a minimum percentage of the submissions in order to vote. The committee will select six films for a short-list; then the executive committee will add three more, addressing any glaring oversights; and finally two committees, one on each coast, will view the nine short-listed films and vote to determine the five best, which will then be announced as the Academy's five nominees for the best foreign language film Oscar.