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Toronto has established itself as the market that picks Oscar winners. Not only the best-picture titles (Argo, The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire are just three examples of Toronto-to-Oscar glory) but also in the foreign language category. While international Oscar hopefuls often premiere at Berlin, Cannes or Venice, the crucial North American sale usually comes in Toronto.
For titles closing before Toronto, the fest is the platform to launch an Oscar campaign. Foreign selection committees seem to have noticed, with several announcing their foreign-language candidates just ahead of Toronto to give them the best chance of winning over buyers and Academy voters. Germany’s Beta Cinema is bringing two Oscar contenders to Toronto this year: the Romanian family drama Child’s Pose, which won the Golden Bear in Berlin and has become the most commercially successful Romanian film in 20 years, and German hopeful Two Lives, a true-life drama featuring two faces familiar to the Academy: Nowhere in Africa star Juliane Kohler and Sweden’s Liv Ullmann (Face to Face, Autumn Sonata).
Chile’s entry, Gloria, another Berlin title, secured a U.S. sale on the back of the Silver Bear-winning performance by Paulina Garcia as the title character, a 50-something woman trying to start over. Roadside Attractions will be using Gloria‘s North American premiere at Toronto to get the buzz machine humming.
It’s a similar story with Pioneer, an ’80s-set thriller from Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjaerg (Insomnia), which will have its international premiere here. Magnolia prebought Pioneer from TrustNordisk early this year, but its awards push officially starts now, even if Pioneer is one of three films on Norway’s foreign-language shortlist (the others are Arild Ostin Ommundsen‘s It’s Only Make Believe and I Am Yours from Iram Haq).
Finally, Swedish sales outfit The Yellow Affair will be looking to entice more buyers to Gabriela Pichler‘s immigrant drama Eat Sleep Die, which screened at Toronto last year and has sold to some 36 countries.
The big name missing this year — not from Toronto but from the foreign Oscar list — is Abdellatif Kechiche‘s Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color. The film’s French distributor released the lesbian love story in France after the deadline to qualify for the 2014 foreign-language race. But Sundance Selects, which picked up U.S. rights, says it will be pushing for Oscar noms in the best actress and supporting actress categories for leads Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, making Blue one of TIFF’s hottest Oscar contenders.
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