By Carlos Aguilar | SydneysBuzz August 22, 2014 at 11:00AM
Early predictions have emerged for most Academy Award categories. As the studios reveal their hopeful offers to be released in the final months of the year, the speculation increases. But despite all the information available on the centerpiece awards, other more obscure races remain a complete mystery at this point. Among these, the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is almost certainly the most complex to prognosticate. The lengthy process that precedes the announcement of the final nominees makes for a competition that begins months in advance in nations around the globe.
Having the opportunity to submit only one film, each country must carry out its own selection process. Once these decisions have been made, their chosen works will compete to make it to the nine-film shortlist, and eventually into the final five slots. Although this procedure allows for a certain degree of democracy, it also excludes all those other films that were left behind in their homelands. This, in turn, gives us a narrow view of what is being produced abroad.
Therefore, after lots of research and arduous educated guessing to put it together, the list below offers a more insightful look at this race before the actual individual selections are announced. For the sake of time, the amount of films is limited to five per country, but in some cases the choices are scarcer and less films are listed. While trying to speculate is always an uncertain endeavor, the factors taken into account to determine which are some of this year’s most important films in each country and their prospects of being chosen as their representative at the Academy Awards, were varied. Festival exposure, release date, the country’s previous submissions, and even the thematic elements of a few of them were considered to create this piece.
Clearly nothing is definitive at this point, but at the very least, this compilation will provide a sense of what the film industries in these territories are putting out and sharing with the world.
It is important to note that several of the films mentioned below are being handled by Mundial, a joint venture between IM Gobal and Canana, including "Gueros," "A Wolf at the Door," and "The Liberator."
Here is the first list dedicated to the Americas
With four films presented at Cannes and several others receiving praise in festivals around the world, Argentina has several interesting options this year. Unfortunately, Lisandro Alonso’s period piece “Jauja” will almost certainly be ineligible due to its November release date, unless a qualifying one-week run is scheduled. That scenario seems unlikely. Screening in the Directors’ Forthnight, Diego Lerman’s “Refugee” (Refugiado) will open on October 3rd, also a few days after the deadline. That leaves the Almodovar-produced “Wild Tales” as the undisputed favorite. Acclaimed films such as “Natural Sciences," “The Third Side of the River”, “El Ardor“ (staring Gael Garcia Bernal), and “La Paz” are longer shots but still viable choices.
1. "Wild Tales" (Relatos Salvajes)
2. "Natural Sciences" (Ciencias Naturales)
3."The Ardor" (El Ardor)
4."The Third Side of the River" (La Tercera Orilla)
The last time the landlocked country submitted a film was back in 2009. However, this year offers several possibilities for the Bolivian film industry. Given its production value and historical theme, it is likely that - if they choose to send a film - it will be Mexican director Carlos Bolado’s “Forgotten” (Olvidados), which deals with the 70s Operation Condor. Another likely choice is “Yvy Maraey,” which highlights the mysticism of the country’s indigenous people and is the latest work by Juan Carlos Valdivia, whose films have represented Bolivia in 3 out of the 6 occasions they’ve participated. A long delayed road trip flick (“Once Upon a Time in Bolivia”) and a unique documentary (“Apricot”) round up the list of contenders.
1. "Forgotten" (Olvidados)
2. "Yvy Maraey: Land Without Evil" (Yvy Maraey: Tierra Sin Mal)
3. "Once Upon a Time in Bolivia" (Erase una vez en Bolivia)
4. "Apricot" (Durazno)
Producing an impressive amount of films per year, the Brazilian film industry is seeing incredible progress recently. Particularly this year, the quality of works was exceptional across the board. Having such an overflow of great material could make it difficult to select just one. However, there are a few films that standout amongst the crowd. Fernando Coimbra’s debut feature “A Wolf at the Door” is undoubtedly the one to beat after receiving rave reviews and touring some of the most important international festivals. Its biggest competitors are the quiet character study “The Man of the Crowd” and the adorable coming-of-age tale “The Way He Looks.” Rounding up the top five are locally acclaimed “Runriver” and powerful LGBT drama “Futuro Beach.”
1. "A Wolf at the Door" (O Lobo atrás da Porta)
2. "The Man of the Crowd" (O Homem das Multidões)
3. "The Way He Looks" (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho)
4. "Riverrun" (Riocorrente)
5. "Futuro Beach" (Praia do Futuro)
This definitely seems like Xavier Dolan’s year. After sharing an award with New Wave patriarch Jean-Luc Godard in Cannes, the 25-year-old prodigy is almost a safe bet having two films that could represent his country. While “Mommy” is the clear favorite, it will have to go against “An Eye for Beauty, ” the latest film from Oscar-winner Denys Arcand. Both films will screen at TIFF in the upcoming weeks, just as time runs out for Canada to nominate a film by the end of September. Less probable but still great options are Dolan’s own “Tom at the Farm,” quirky black-and-white dramedy “Tu Dors Nicole,” and the well-received rural family drama “The Auction. ”
2. "An Eye for Beauty" (Le Règne de la Beauté)
3. "Tom at the Farm" (Tom à la ferme)
4. "You's Sleeping Nicole" (Tu Dors Nicole)
5. "The Auction" (Le démantèlement)
Here is one of the few countries in the region with a very clear choice, but which sadly might decide to miss that opportunity. Alejandro Fernández Almendras ‘“To Kill a Man” won at Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin, Cartagena amongst several other festivals and has received extremely positive reactions from critics and audiences. Yet, its opening date in its homeland (October 16th) might prevent it from being selected, which would be a regrettable mistake. A one-week run or an earlier release date would be a worthwhile investment. If they decide to leave it behind for next year, this great film would definitely miss its chance. If that is the case, the South American nation, which in recent years has garnered incredible success with films like “No” and “Gloria,” might decide to go with “The Dance of Reality,” the first film in over 20 years by veteran auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky. Other plausible candidates include “Illiterate” (starring Paulina Garcia), Marcela Said’s remarkable “The Summer of Flying Fish,” and historical biopic “Neruda.”
1. "To Kill a Man" (Matar a un Hombre)
2. "The Dance of Reality" (La Danza de la Realidad)
3. "Illiterate" (Las Analfabetas)
4. "The Summer of Flying Fish" (El Verano de los Peces Voladores)
Being forced to resort to mainstream cartel-themed fare in past occasions, this year has fortunately seen a fantastic reemergence of auteur-driven works in the country. Cartagena winner “Dust on the Tongue” is by far the most promising Colombian offer of the year with a thought-provoking premise. Next in line is “Mateo” about a young man struggling to pursue his passion for theater while living in a crime-ridden community. Other films include the touching “Catching Fireflies,” apocalyptic comedy “Chronicle of the End of the World,” and music-infused romance “Ciudad Delirio.” Franco Lolli’s award-winning “Gente de Bien” doesn’t have a release date yet, but will probably be in the running next year.
1. "Dust on the Tongue" (Tierra en la Lengua)
3. "Chasing Fireflies" (Cazando Luciernagas)
4. "Chronicle of the End of the World" (Crónica del Fin del Mundo)
5. "Ciudad Delirio"
Having three great films eligible for consideration, Costa Rica will likely enter the Oscar race for what would be only the third time in its history. Without a doubt, the country is spearheading Central America in terms of increased film production. Lauded throughout multiple festivals, “Red Princesses,” about a girl growing up in the Sandinista-era, is the most notable work. “Port Father,” a coming-of-age drama set in a coastal town and the comedy “All About the Feathers” are the other two that could be picked. Regardless of which one is selected, they all serve as an encouraging sign of growth for the Costa Rican industry.
1. "Red Princesses" (Princesas Rojas)
2. "Port Father" (Puerto Padre)
3. "All About the Feathers" (Por las Plumas)
Hosting the Havana International Film Festival and its consistent investment in local talent make Cuba a unique place for film in the Caribbean. In spite of this, only a few national productions have reached cinemas this year. The three notable titles revolve around personal stories of survival and the struggles associated with living on the island. Winner of several international awards, “Behavior” is the clear favorite. “Melaza,” another local drama dealing with the economic challenges Cubans face and the gay love story “The Last Match,” complete the trio.
1. "Behavior" (Conducta)
3. "The Last Match" (La Partida)
For its size, this island nation has an impressive working industry that steadily produces films in diverse genres. The Dominican Republic will almost certainly participate again with one of the works by its homegrown talent. Screening in Toronto last year, crime romance “Cristo Rey” has the highest probability of being chosen. In second place is the documentary “The Mountain,” which centers on a unique expedition to Mount Everest by a Dominican team. Passionate road trip story “To the South of Innocence” and psychological thriller “Despertar ” conform the list of options.
1. "Cristo Rey"
2. "The Mountain"(La Montaña)
3. "To the South of Innocence" (Al Sur de la Inocencia)
Seemingly dormant for many decades, the Ecuadorian film industry has recently exploded. Even though they have only submitted three times in the past, it appears they plan to make their presence more consistent moving forward. What is even more surprising, are the numerous alternatives they have to make their selection. At the top of the list is “Holiday,” which premiered in Berlin and has received considerable praise. Two other art house offers, “Silence in Dreamland” and “Saudade,” could be serious contenders. “Girl Without Fear,” a gritty crime film and “The Facilitator,” a politically charged work, have less chances but are still interesting offers.
1. "Holiday" (Feriado)
2. "Silence in Dreamland" (El Silencio en la Tierra de los Sueños)
4. "Girl With No Fear" (Ciudad Sin Sombra)
5. "The Facilitator" (El Facilitador)
Sporadically producing feature length works due to the lack of initiatives that facilitate their funding, El Salvador has never entered the race. Nevertheless, there are three films that could potentially be submitted: Supernatural horror film "The Supreme Book," romantic comedy "The Re-Search," and the more viable choice, " The Four Cardinal Points," a documentary about the diverse lifestyles throughout the tiny country. The latter was exhibited commercially as part of Ambulante El Salvador for about a week, which could possibly make it eligible. But in all honesty, it is hard to think they’ll feel so inclined as to participate.
1. "El Salvador: The Four Cardinal Points" (El Salvador: Cuatro Puntos Cardinales)
2. "The Re-Search" (La ReBusqueda)
3. "The Supreme Book" (El Libro Supremo)
With only one submission under their belt back in 1994 and several missed opportunities in recent years, Guatemala might opt to remain out of the spotlight once again. If, however, they change their mind, there are three films that qualify to be entered. Focusing on the indigenous Maya‘s beliefs and legends, “Where the Sun is Born” is surely the most authentic and visually powerful of these films. Then there is “Pol,” a story about two teenage friends and their mishaps. Lastly, there is “12 Seconds,” a sort of slasher flick set in the countryside. It’s been 20 years since their last try, it wouldn’t hurt to see them make the effort once again.
1. "Where the Sun is Born" (Donde Nace el Sol)
3. "12 Seconds" (12 Segundos)
Although they have never submitted an entry, the Central American country is showing signs of progress in terms of its film industry. With only two local, low budget films released this year, it is highly unlikely they will enter. Nevertheless, they do have an eligible film “11 Cipotes,” a sports comedy about a soccer team in a small town. The other film, “The Zwickys,” is surprisingly ineligible because it is mostly in English.
1. "11 Kids" (11 Cipotes)
Now that the Mexican Academy has announced their shortlist - which strangely and inexplicably includes titles that have no scheduled release dates or that will be released after AMPAS' deadline (September 30th, 2014) - the landscape has dramatically changed. Three of the original selections mentioned here (“The Empty Hours,” “Potosi,” and “ Club Sandwich”) are not included among the finalists. It is important to note that films need to be submitted by the filmmakers in order to be considered by the Mexican Academy. One can assume that these films, though they qualify, decided not to participate. The 21 films listed include several documentaries such as “Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border,” “Disrupted” (Quebranto), “Eufrosina’s Revolution” (La Revolución de los Alcatraces), and “H2Omx" among others. But even if many of these are outstanding films, it is highly unlikely that the Academy will decide to go with a documentary over a narrative given their track record and the other options available. Comedic offers like the charming “Paraíso” by Mariana Chenillo, "Flying Low" (Volando Bajo), and "The Last Call" (Tercera Llamada) also made it in. Just like last year with “Instructions Not Included,” most people could assume that the film with the most commercial prospects would make for a good candidate for Oscar consideration, in this case that would be the biopic “Cantinflas," which was also listed. Fortunately, however, the selection committee often prefers to bet on films honored internationally regardless of their controversial content (“Heli,” “After Lucia,” “Silent Light,” “The Crime of Father Amaro”).
With the new additions, the possibilities have shifted. On the top spot is Alonso Ruiz Palacios’ black and white debut “Güeros,” which won in Berlin and Tribeca, and screened at Karlovy Vary. The festival pedigree will definitely help this unique road trip film set in Mexico City during the late 90s. The runner up is Luis Urquiza’s “Perfect Obedience,” though it did not have any festival exposure or a highly profitable theatrical run, the local critics praised the compelling portrayal of a depraved Catholic priest with satirical undertones. It would definitely make for a great contender if the Academy were willing to run the risk given its controversial subject matter. At number three we have Christian Diaz Pardo’s “Gonzalez,” an intriguing drama about a man looking to change his destiny by joining a for profit evangelical church. Dark comedy “ Workers,” by Salvadoran filmmaker Jose Luis Valle, comes in at number four. Lastly, there is Luis Estrada’s long awaited new film “The Perfect Dictatorship,” which made the cut despite having an October 16th release date. The film could definitely come into play; however, voters should consider the fact that its premise and humor might be too specific to the Mexican political idiosyncrasies to connect with foreign voters. Two other films that might be in the race next year are “Perpetual Sadness” (La Tirisia) and “ The Well” (Manto Acuifero)
2. "Perfect Obedience" (Obediencia Perfecta)
5. "The Perfect Dictatorship" (La Dictadura Perfecta)
1. "Class Days" (Dias de Clase)
With three submissions in over 30 years (1982, 1988, 2010), Nicaragua is the Central American nation with the most attempts at Oscar glory. More astonishing perhaps, is the fact that their first ever entry, “Alsino and the Condor,” earned them a nomination. These days production is almost non-existent. Still, the country’s most prolific filmmaker Florence Jaugey, responsible for their last submission “La Yuma,” made a small documentary titled “Class Days." It is just over 50 minutes long but actually had a theatrical run. Though eligible, it’s probable they’ll decide to skip this year. On the other hand, Jaugey has just finished a new narrative new feature, “The Naked Screen” (La Pantalla Desnuda), which will surely be part of the conversation next year.
An unprecedented amount of national productions were scheduled to
premier in Panama during 2014. All of those four films - which by the
is an exceptional number - are documentaries. However, only two of
them will be eligible given their set release dates. Out of those two,
the top choice
would certainly be Abner Benaim’s “Invasion” which uses
reenactments in lieu of archive footage to revisit the American military
intervention in the
Central American country in 1989. The runner-up, “Majesty,” deals
with the more lighthearted subject of carnival queens. In any case,
should Panama decide
to submit a film, this would be their first ever appearance.
Disappointed after missing the chance to submit last year's surprise hit “7 Boxes”due to the lack of a selection committee, Paraguayan authorities have stressed their wish to send a film to compete this time around. Unfortunately, it appears that their two best options might be scheduled to open theatrically past the Academy’s deadline. The documentary “Cloudy Times,” a Swiss co-production, has garnered positive reactions internationally and would be their best shot. A second choice could be the crime flick “Filthy Luck,” which sports a decent production value. But if neither of them manages to qualify, then the country’s only other option is yet another crime film “End of the Line.” In any case, hopefully they follow through with their intentions and participate for the first time.
1. "Cloudy Times" (El Tiempo Nublado)
2. "Filthy Luck" (Luna de Cigarras)
3. "End of the Line" (Fin de Linea)
The eclectic collection of Peruvian films released this year speaks of the great development the medium is experiencing in that country. The five films mentioned here represent the array of genres and stories coming out of Peru today. Given its incredible reception abroad, dark comedy “The Mute” by Daniel Vega Vidal & Diego Vega Vidal is undoubtedly the frontrunner. Behind it comes the intriguing thriller “Guard Dog” starring Peruvian star Carlos Alcántara, multi-narrative drama “The Gospel of the Flesh,” romantic tearjerker “Trip to Timbuktu,” and “Old Friends” about a group of elderly men on a mission. Definitely a though decision needs to be made.
1. "The Mute" (El Mudo)
2. "Guard Dog" (Perro Guardian)
3. "The Gospel of the Flesh" (El Evangelio de la Carne)
4. "Trip to Timbuktu" (Viaje a Tombuctu)
5. "Old Friends" (Viejos Amigos)
Last year the country decided to take a chance and submit the adorable animated film “Anina,” which despite not getting a nomination has become a great success. This time they have “The Militant,” a serious contender about a man retuning to his late father’s hometown. Empowered by a positive festival run, this seems to be their most ideal option. “23 Seconds,” a drama about an unlikely connection between two people and “Mr. Kaplan,” a buddy comedy by Álvaro Brechner - whose previous film “A Bad Day to Go Fishing” was selected a few years back - are the next best choices. The remaining film “At 60 km/h” is a documentary about a unique journey around the world.
1. "The Militant" (EL Lugar del Hijo)
2. "23 Seconds" (23 Segundos)
3. "Mr. Kaplan"
4. "At 60 Km/h" (A 60 Km/h)
Dubbed as “the most expensive film ever made in Latin America” and focusing on the accomplishments of the country’s most important historical figure, selecting “The Liberator” is simply a no-brainer. Added to those qualities, the film is actually an elegantly achieved period piece that really showcases the sizable budget and director Alberto Arvelo’s talent. Two of his previous films have also represented his country in the past. On the other hand, this has been a monumental year for Venezuelan films. Festival darling “Bad Hair” would be the perfect choice if it weren’t going against the imposing major production. Other important films that could figure in the mix but have much less prospects are the emotional road-trip film “The Longest Distance,” the women-centered drama “Liz in September,” and the acclaimed thriller “Solo.”
1. "The Liberator" (El Libertador)
2. "Bad Hair" (Pelo Malo)
3. "The Longest Distance" (La Distnacia Mas Larga)
4. "Liz in September" (Liz en Septiembre)