Oscars: Australia Gets First Foreign-Language Nomination

Philippe Penel

'Tanna,' a Nauvhal-language film, was shot by co-directors Bentley Dean and Martin Butler on the island of Vanuatu.

Australia on Tuesday nabbed its first-ever nomination in the best foreign-language film race at the Oscars.

The Academy announced that the country’s submission, Tanna, a Nauvhal-language film shot by co-directors Bentley Dean and Martin Butler on the island of Vanuatu, was one of the five final nominees in the foreign-language category, which was narrowed down from a field of nine. The overall nominations were led by La La Land with 14.  

Based on a true story, the Australian film looks at the Tanna people in Vanuatu and tells the story of two young lovers who challenge the island’s customs. The cast comprises non-actors, drawn from people living in the village of Yakel.

"One couldn't ask for a more tender or memorable pair of star-crossed screen lovers than Wawa and Dain," THR said in its review.

The story and dialogue were developed over the course of a six-month shoot through workshopping, improvisation on location and close consultation with J.J. Nako, a translator, cultural interpreter, guide and adviser.

Australia had made the January shortlist in the foreign-language category once before with 2009's Samson and Delilah, directed by Warwick Thornton and starring Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, two young first-time actors. The film is about two indigenous Australian 14-year-olds living in a remote Aboriginal community who steal a car and escape their difficult lives by going to Alice Springs.

As a majority English-speaking country, Australia has only infrequently submitted foreign-language movies to the Oscars, starting with 1996's Floating Life