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Oscar Watch: Foreign Language Race Frontrunners

by Anne Thompson
October 14, 2010 5:30 AM
5 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

The final list of 65 submissions for the foreign language Oscar is posted below. One of the reasons that the Academy will not be moving up the Oscar date for 2012 is this category, which requires that the members of the foreign language branch see 80% of the films on the big screen in their selection (among four groups: red, white, blue, green) to qualify to vote. The members sign in to each screening. If they don't see enough of the films, their vote doesn't count. Once they meet their quota, they can weigh in on films in the other groups as well. No screeners--they have to read subtitles. Which is why the notion of having this group look at streaming movies was absurd. (One critics' fave that did not qualify for submission for the Oscars was the five-hour Olivier Assayas film Carlos, which was made for television. IFC is seeking critics' groups and Golden Globes (TV or mini-series) consideration. Multi-lingual Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez deserves some year-end kudos for his sexy, dangerous, layered performance as Carlos the Jackal.) UPDATE: This week's Oscar Talk gang of four discuss the foreign race in depth, posted Friday at 9 AM PST.

Per usual, Sony Pictures Classics boasts four entries this year: Incendies, Of Gods and Men, In a Better World and Life, Above All, so many in fact that co-president Tom Bernard was hard-pressed to name them all. Most years, at least one SPC film winds up being nominated, so I'm putting all four on my lead contenders (having not yet seen most of the films) list, below:

-Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful (Roadside Attractions, Mexico), starring the incandescent Javier Bardem, who will be vying for a nomination for best actor as well, which won't hurt. Roadside Attractions knows how to work an Oscar campaign.

-Danis Tanovic Cirkus Columbia (Bosnia and Herzegovina); his 2001 United Artists Cannes entry No Man's Land won the Oscar.
-Iciar Bollain's Even The Rain (Vitagraph, Spain) stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a director shooting a film about Latin American identity.
-Susanne Bier's In a Better World (SPC, Denmark); the internationally acclaimed director was nominated for After the Wedding in 2007.
-Denis Villeneuve's Incendies (SPC, Canada)
played like gangbusters at Toronto.
-Oliver Schmitz's Life, Above All (SPC, South Africa) is an emotionally moving AIDS drama.
-Milcho Manchevski's Mothers (Macedonia); his film Before the Rain was nominated in 1995.
-Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men (SPC, France) played well at Cannes and deals with religious passion.
-Rachid Bouchareb's controversial Cannes entry Outside the Law (Cohen Media Group, Algeria) is a follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 2006 film Days of Glory.
-Amir Khan-produced Peepli Live (India), a socially conscious indie film, played well at Sundance and Toronto.
-Apichatpong Weerathesakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Strand, Thailand) won the Palme d'Or; it could be the sort of film the executive committee votes in.

And here's the full list (complete coverage at indieWIRE):

Albania - East, West, East, directed by Gjergj Xhuvani

Algeria - Outside the Law, directed by Rachid Bouchareb

Argentina - Carancho, Pablo Trapero

Austria - La Pivellina, directed by Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel

Azerbaijan - Precinct, directed by Ilgar Safat

Bangladesh - Third Person Singular Number, directed by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki

Belgium - Illegal, directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Cirkus Columbia, directed by Danis Tanovic

Brazil - Lula, o filho do Brasil, directed by Fábio Barreto

Bulgaria - Eastern Plays, directed by Kamen Kalev

Canada - Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve

Chile - The Life of Fish, directed by Matías Bize

China - Aftershock, directed by Feng Xiaogang

Colombia - Crab Trap, directed by Oscar Ruíz Navia

Costa Rica - Of Love and Other Demons, directed by Hilda Hidalgo

Croatia - The Blacks, directed by Goran Devic and Zvonimir Juric

Czech Republic - Kawasaki’s Rose, directed by Jan Hrebejk

Thompson on Hollywood


Denmark - In a Better World, directed by Susanne Bier [pictured]

Egypt - Messages From The Sea, directed by Daoud Abdel Sayed

Estonia - The Temptation of St. Tony, directed by Veiko Öunpuu

Ethiopia - The Athlete, directed by Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew

Finland - Steam of Life, directed by Joonas Berghail & Mika Hotakainen

France - Of Gods and Men, directed by Xavier Beauvois

Georgia - Street Days, directed Levan Koguashvili

Germany - When We Leave, directed by Feo Aladag

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Greece - Dogtooth, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos [pictured]

Greenland - Nuummioq, directed by Torben Bech and Otto Rosing

Hong Kong - Echoes of the Rainbow, directed by Alex Law

Hungary - Bibliteque Pascal, directed by Szabolcs Hajdu

Iceland - Mamma Gógó, directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson

India - Peepli Live, directed by Anusha Rizvi

Indonesia - How Funny (This Country Is), directed by Deddy Mizwar

Iran - Farewell Baghdad, directed by Mehdi Naderi

Iraq - Son of Babylon, directed by Mohamed Al-Daradji

Italy - The First Beautiful Thing, directed by Paolo Virzì

Israel - The Human Resources Manager, directed by Eran Riklis

Japan - Confessions, directed by Tetsuya Nakashima

Kazakhstan - Strayed, directed by Akan Satayev

Latvia - Hong Kong Confidential, directed by Maris Martinsons

Macedonia - Mothers, directed by Milcho Manchevski

Thompson on Hollywood


Mexico - Biutiful, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Netherlands - Tirza, directed by Rudolph van den Berg

Nicaragua - Le Yuma, directed by Florence Jaugey

Norway - Angel, directed by Margreth Olin

Peru - Undertow, directed by Javier Fuentes-León

Philippines - Noy, directed by Dondon Santos

Poland - All That I Love, directed by Jacek Borcuch

Portugal - To Die Like A Man, directed by João Pedro Rodrigues

Puerto Rico - Miente, directed by Rafi Mercado

Romania - If I Want to Whistle…I Whistle, directed by Florin Serban

Russia - The Edge, directed by Aleksei Uchitel

Serbia - Besa, directed by Srdjan Karanovic

Slovakia - The Border, directed by Jaroslav Vojtek

Slovenia - 9:06, directed by Igor Sterk

South Africa - Life, Above All, directed by Oliver Schmitz

South Korea - A Barefoot Dream, directed by Tae-gyun Kim

Spain - Even The Rain, directed by Iciar Bollain

Sweden - Simple Simon, directed by Andreas Ohman

Switzerland - La petite chambre, directed by Stéphanie Chaut & Véronique Reymond

Taiwan - Monga, directed by Doze Niu

Thailand - Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, directed by Apichatpong Weerathesakul

Turkey - Honey, directed by Semih Kaplanoglu

Venezuela - Hermano, directed by Marcel Rasquin

5 Comments

  • JH | November 9, 2010 7:08 AMReply

    Will these films screen in LA before the year is out? I really want to see Cirkus Columbia.

  • Jazz4111 | October 15, 2010 9:13 AMReply

    "Cirkus Columbia" was my favorite film in this year's Toronto Int'l Film Festival. The story arc and character arcs were so well executed and so much fun to watch. It was charming, insightful, entertaining and had a terrific ending.

  • Matthias | October 15, 2010 8:18 AMReply

    Thank you for the round-up and the insights into the voting process. I had the privilege of seeing 'Of Gods and Men', 'Biutiful', 'Uncle Boonmee' and 'Life, Above All' at Cannes. I personally harbor a predilection for Oliver Schmitz's poignant and atmospheric socio-cultural study. The slow and poetic pace of 'Of Gods and Men' equally struck a chord with me. 'Uncle Boonmee' is undoubtedly a masterful work but it requires scrupulous attention and insight. 'Biutiful' is primarily noteworthy for its lead performance. The film itself, in my view, was rather tonally and stylistically erratic.
    I am looking forward to hopefully see more films from the selection :-)

  • Anne Thompson | October 14, 2010 6:27 AMReply

    I remembered that it won and quickly looked up Danis Tanovic on imdb it doesn't have director wins. The movie is what you have to look. FIXED.

  • dado | October 14, 2010 6:20 AMReply

    Danis Tanovic Cirkus Columbia (Bosnia and Herzegovina); his 2001 United Artists Cannes entry No Man’s Land was well-received but he has never been nominated???
    He won the oscar in 2002!

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