Academy's Foreign-Language Oscar Shortlist Stirs Up Controversy Yet Again (Analysis)

Where Do We Go Now? - TIFF- Image -2011

In what has become something of a tradition, this year's best foreign language film Oscar shortlist -- which was announced this morning by the Academy -- is prompting outrage in some circles, and I can understand why. Despite the existence of a 20-person executive committee that was created in 2008 with the sole purpose of rectifying glaring omissions made by the general committee who screen and score all of the submissions -- the latter group picks six films and then the former group adds three more -- we still have wound up with a list this year that snubs several of the most popular and respected films eligible for the category.

The Academy, to its credit, did include on their list of nine Asghar Farhadi's Critics' Choice and Golden Globe-winning domestic drama A Separation (Iran), Agnieszka Holland’s Holocaust drama In Darkness (Poland), Joseph Cedar's Talmudic exploration Footnote (Israel), Philippe Falardeau’s dramedy Monsieur Lazhar (Canada), and Wim Wenders’ 3D dance doc Pina (Germany).

STORY: Academy Announces Foreign-Language Films Shortlist

But what happened to Aki Kaurismaki’s Cannes FIPRESCI Prize-winning dramedy Le Havre (Finland), Nadine Labaki’s Toronto International Film Festival Audience Award winner Where Do We Go Now? (Lebanon), Zhang Yimou's epic war film The Flowers of War (China), Bela Tarr's critically acclaimed The Turin Horse (Hungary), Valerie Donzelli's moving domestic drama Declaration of War (France), Nuri Bilge Ceylan's murder mystery Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey) and/or Gerardo Naranjo's based-on-a-true-dark-story Miss Bala (Mexico)?

They were bounced by Michael R. Roskam's crime-drama Bullhead (Belgium), Ole Christian Madsen's light comedy SuperClasico (Denmark), Roschdy Zem's social conscience flick Omar Killed Me (Morocco) and Wei Te-sheng's two-part epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Taiwan).

Incidentally, Belgium must be happy that it managed to snag a nod despite passing on the brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's excellent Cannes Grand Prix winner The Kid With a Bike in favor of Bullhead. Spain was not so lucky, opting to submit Agusti Villaronga's Black Bread over Pedro Almodovar's critically acclaimed The Skin I Live In, and winding up with nothing.

Next weekend, Academy committees on each coast will screen all nine of the short-listed films and then determine the five nominees, which will be announced with all of the other Oscar nominations on Tuesday.