'Broken Circle Breakdown' Uses Music to Win Attention in Foreign Film Oscar Race (Exclusive Video)

Many Oscar contenders courted support from the many Academy members who live near Santa Barbara and attended the Santa Barbara International Film Festival earlier this month, but few made a better impression at the fest than those representing the best foreign language film Oscar nominee from Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown.

The film is a deeply moving drama that features elements of two earlier beloved films, Once (2006) and Blue Valentine (2010), while remaining its own beast entirely: it cuts between the present (as a married couple struggles to stay together after the heartbreaking death of their young daughter from cancer) and the past (as they fell in love over a shared affection for American culture and bluegrass music, which they perform together with a band).

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At the fest, director Felix Van Groeningen, who also co-adapted the film's script (with Carl Joos) from a play that was co-written by the film's leading man Johan Heldenbergh (with Mieke Dobbels), was a standout on the 90-minute Directors Panel, which I had the privilege of moderating this year. And stars Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens, both big attractions in Belgium, appeared following both screenings of the film -- receiving standing ovations upon being introduced -- and gave terrific live performances of some of the songs that they sing in the film, including its hallmark single, "If I Needed You."

(The Hollywood Reporter is exclusively premiering footage of those live performances at the top of this post.)

Interestingly, The Broken Circle Breakdown, which was released in Belgium in October 2012, and its soundtrack is now the best-selling film soundtrack in the nation's history -- yes, ahead of even Titanic's.

In an extremely competitive best foreign language film Oscar race -- the race also includes Italy's The Great Beauty, a visually-beautiful, sweeping and mystical paean to Rome, Denmark's The Hunt, a brilliantly acted and deeply disturbing look at a man whose life crumbles after he is accused of child molestation, Palestine's dark drama Omar and Cambodia's claymation doc The Missing Picture -- could wonderful music put The Broken Circle Breakdown over the top?

We'll find out in just over two weeks.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg