Oscars: Germany Selects 'Toni Erdmann' for Foreign-Language Category

Toni Erdmann Still - H
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Maren Ade's comedy about the relationship between a career woman and her jokester father, has been a critical smash on the festival circuit this year.

Germany has gone for funny this year, picking Maren Ade's dark comedy Toni Erdmann to represent the country at the 2017 Oscars in the foreign-language category.

The decision, announced by an independent jury on Thursday, is a bold move for Germany, which tends to select period dramas for the Oscars, most of them dealing with the country's Nazi past.

With Toni Erdmann, Germany is going for something completely different. Ade's feature premiered to critical acclaim in Cannes this year. The film stars Sandra Huller as an ambitious, if somewhat cold, career woman whose upward trajectory is thrown off course when her estranged father, a tireless practical joker, turns up unexpected and starts actively disrupting her life in a bid to both shake her up and reconnect.

Critics were bowled over by the movie, which was one of the best-reviewed out of Cannes. Earlier this week, Toni Erdmann received the film-of-the-year honor from the international federation of film critics.

But picking a modern-day movie, much less a comedy, is a risk for Germany. The vast majority of German foreign-language nominees have been period dramas, as have the three German films to win the Oscar in the category: Volker Schlondorff's The Tin Drum in 1979, Nowhere in Africa by Caroline Link in 2002 and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others in 2006.

The last time the country picked a non-period drama to represent them at the Oscars, it was Wim Wender's 3D dance documentary Pina in 2012. Pina did not receive a nomination in the foreign-language category, though it was nominated for best documentary.

But it has been several years since Germany received an Oscar nomination — the last time was for Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon in 2009. Toni Erdmann, at least, enters this year's foreign-language race with substantial hype and critical acclaim behind it.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce its 2017 shortlist of foreign-language nominees January 17, 2017. The final five nominees will be announced Jan. 24, 2017. The 2017 Oscars will be held Feb. 26.