As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to debate the best way to reform the foreign language branch, from new president Cheryl Boone-Isaacs to producer Mark Johnson, who is restored to running the various voting committees who check out the movies submitted by countries all over the world. That number has been steadily increasing: This year a record 76 films were officially submitted, up from 71 last year.
Moldova and Saudi Arabia are first-time entrants; Montenegro is submitting for the first time as an independent country. China, Japan and India chose to select films that seem to have less going for them that others that have succeeded on the fest circuit. China went with politically correct “Back to 1942,” over controversial “A Touch of Sin,” Japan chose “The Great Passage” instead of “Like Father, Like Son," while India picked “The Good Road” over popular festival hit "The Lunchbox." And the Academy disqualified Poland's first choice, "Burning Bush," from veteran Oscar nominee Agnieszka Holland ("Europa, Europa"). France's "Blue is the Warmest Color," which won the Palme d'Or, was not eligible because its distributor chose to open it after October 1. And Hong Kong chose Wong kar-wai's "The Grandmaster," which has not been warmly received by western critics. Yet again, the countries often, for their own political or cultural reasons, do not always submit the film that is most likely to play for Oscar voters.
So far the strongest entries for the foreign film Oscar, based on festival and audience reception are:
Belgium, "The Broken Circle Breakdown," Felix van Groeningen, director, which won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as Best Actress and Best Screenplay awards at Tribeca.
Cambodia, "The Missing Picture," Rithy Panh, director, our interview with Panh here.
Chile, "Gloria," Sebastián Lelio, director; featuring a searing performance by actress Paulina Garcia. (Review here.)
Iran, "The Past," Asghar Farhadi, director, shot in France in French, starring Cannes Best Actress winner Berenice Bejo.
Israel, "Bethlehem," Yuval Adler, director, which won the Ophir for Best Picture.
Saudi Arabia, "Wadjda," Haifaa Al Mansour, director; the first film shot by a woman in Saudi Arabia, who booked the movie herself to make it eligible from her home country. (Interview here.)
The 2013 submissions are listed with their directors below: