'9th,' 'Palms' are Oscar picks for foreign pic

By Nick Holdsworth

LONDON -- Russia chose "9th Company" and Hungary selected "White Palms" on Tuesday as their candidates for best foreign-language film for the 79th Annual Academy Awards.

The first feature from director Fedor Bondarchuk, "9th" is based on the story of a group of Soviet soldiers abandoned to their fate by negligent officers at the end of the Russian-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Bondarchuk's film beat a field of 14 to be the Russian choice, finishing only one vote ahead of Pavel Lungin's film "Ostrov" (Island), Vladimir Menshov, head of the Oscar committee of Russia's national film academy, told state news agency RIA Novosti.

Hungary's film body, Magyar Filmunio, selected Szabolcs Hadju's "Feher Tenyer" (White Palms), which had its international premiere in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar at May's Festival de Cannes.

The film, about a Hungarian gymnastic trainer in Canada struggling with inner demons as he coaches youngsters, picked up nods for best producer and editor as well as the audience prize at Hungary's national film festival in February.