Oscars: Weighing the Odds in the Foreign-Language Film Race

11:30 AM 11/9/2018

by Scott Feinberg

Early frontrunners that found acclaim at festivals worldwide could make history for Mexico and South Korea, while Kenya's submission has divisive pedigree.

From left: 'Capernaum,' 'Burning' and 'Roma'
From left: 'Capernaum,' 'Burning' and 'Roma'
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics; Courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment; Courtesy of Netflix

  • 'Burning'

    South Korea

    Courtesy of Finecut

    With this dark drama, based on a Haruki Murakami short story and winner of Cannes' FIPRESCI Prize, Lee Chang-dong becomes only the second South Korean filmmaker to have three films submitted and could become the first to land a nomination.

  • 'Capernaum'

    Lebanon

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Sony Classics is distributing the entries of several countries, but this kid-centric social drama from Nadine Labaki (director of Lebanon's 2007 and 2011 entries), which won Cannes' Jury Prize, appears, from screening reactions, to be Sony's strongest contender.

  • 'Roma'

    Mexico

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Alfonso Cuaron's portrait of his childhood could become only the 11th non-English — and second Mexican, after Babel — best picture Oscar nominee; could deliver him a record-breaking five personal noms; and seems like a slam dunk to win in this category.

  • 'Shoplifters'

    Japan

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Written, directed and edited by master Hirokazu Kore-eda, this family drama was awarded Cannes' Palme d'Or in May and, many months and reviews later, maintains a 100 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is being heavily screened in L.A.

  • 'Supa Modo'

    Kenya

    Courtesy of Rushlake Media GMBH

    This Swahili-language drama about a terminally ill child's last days may be overshadowed by Kenya's snub of lesbian love story Rafiki, which charmed at Cannes but was banned from playing in its home country for all but one week due to its subject matter.

    This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.