3 Must-Watch Foreign Language Films for Oscar Nominations

Near-certain Oscar nominees include offerings from Iran, Lebanon and Finland.
Cannes Film Festival

This story originally appeared in the The Hollywood Reporter.

The Academy’s foreign language branch is another one that has a long history of making strange and surprising selections, but unless they go way off the beaten path this year, their five slots will almost certainly include these three films:

The Iranian entry A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s critically acclaimed look at domestic strife in Tehran, already has been named best foreign language film by the New York Film Critics Online. It also placed second in that category with the Boston Society of Film Critics, was nominated in that category for a Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award and won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s award for best original screenplay, making it the first foreign language film to win that prize.

Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now? is a Lebanese drama about a village where Christian and Muslim men clash but the women get along. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, won the audience award over much higher-profile competition at the Toronto International Film Festival and has now been nominated for the best doc Critics’ Choice Award.

Finland’s Le Havre, Aki Kaurismaki’s dramedy about a kindly shoe shiner and an African immigrant boy, has been a crowd-pleaser on this year’s festival circuit. It was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize for best film at Cannes and is also contending for the best doc Critics’ Choice Award.

It’s likely that the remaining slots will be filled by two of the following: the Critics’ Choice Award best doc nominee In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland’s Polish film about one man’s efforts to save Jewish refugees from a Nazi-occupied city (it’s good, plus the Academy loves Holocaust films); Footnote, an Israeli film from Joseph Cedar, who guided Beaufort to a nom in this category four years ago; the moving French film Declaration of War, in which Valerie Donzelli focuses on a young couple whose child is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor; Philippe Falardeau’s Canadian dramedy Monsieur Lazhar, which deals with heavy subjects like mortality and immigration; China’s Golden Globe nominee The Flowers of War, an epic drama directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Christian Bale (although it may be penalized for the presence of Bale, who speaks English in the film); and from Germany, Wim WendersPina, which could make history by scoring best doc and best foreign film Oscar noms in the same year.