By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood October 18, 2013 at 12:06PM
Canada picked Louise Archambault's "Gabrielle," which centers on a mentally disabled young woman in the throes of first love, while also dealing with her beloved sister's departure to go live with her fiance abroad.
The Czech Republic selected Agnieszka Holland's epic "Burning Bush," which premiered last month at Telluride and tells the story of Czech student Jan Palach's self-sacrifice in the name of freedom in 1969.
Iceland has opted for "Of Horses and Men" for its Oscar bid. The film, helmed by Benedikt Erlingsson, premiered at San Sebastian this week. Its unusual topic makes it all the more intriguing: Set in a small Icelandic town, it centers on the town's horse breeders and horses themselves and, per THR, "the animals perform roles in dramatic turns almost equivalent to the human cast."
Hong Kong has chosen Wong Kar Wai's gorgeously stylistic kung fu epic "The Grandmaster," starring international superstars Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, as its official bid in the upcoming Oscar race. The film had an August stateside release via the Weinstein Company, and has so far nabbed $6.29 million at the domestic box office. The Oscar version is one that opened back in January in Asia, not the subsequent Berlin and July Weinstein domestic release cut.
Meanwhile, Norway's official candidate is "I Am Yours," which recently played TIFF (TOH review here). A debut feature by writer-director Iram Haq, the film centers on a young single mother who, after dating a number of men with little success, falls for a Swedish man who may not be ready for family life. It stars Amrita Acharia of "Game of Thrones."
EARLIER: Belgium has named Felix van Groeningen's romantic drama "The Broken Circle Breakdown," which hits theaters stateside November 1, as its bid for the Oscar race.
The film, a box-office hit in several European territories, centers on the love affair between a tattoo artist and a bluegrass musician. It played Tribeca earlier this year and won the People's Choice honor at the European Film Awards (to be presented in December).
Russia has picked Fedor Bondarchuk's WWII drama "Stalingrad," as its Foreign-Language Oscar entry. The film, with a $30 million production budget, is the first from Russia to be made completely in 3-D. It comes from an original script by Ilya Tilkin.
Brazil has selected Kleber Mendonca Filho's "Neighboring Sounds." The film, which centers on a neighborhood unsettled by the sudden implementation of a security firm, won a Fipresci Prize at Rotterdam in 2012, as well as nabbing the Best Film awards at both the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo film festivals. NY Times critic A.O. Scott put the film on his Top 10 of 2012 last year.
The UK has selected Sean Ellis' thriller "Metro Manila," which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and centers on a destitute countryman in the Philippines who is sucked into a dangerous crime ring when he moves to the country's bustling capital, Manila.
Meanwhile, Mexico has picked Cannes winner "Heli" for its bid in the Oscar race. The film is, per our TOH! Cannes coverage and interview with director Amat Escalante, "unsparing evocation of Mexico’s drug-war violence, including torture. A compelling story of one simple family who, through no real fault of their own, stumble into a nightmare."
Poland has selected veteran auteur and four-time Oscar nominee Andrzej Wajda's historic biopic "Walesa: Man of Hope" for its bid in the Foreign-Language Oscar race.
The film, which premiered at Venice and played TIFF, centers on legendary organizer Lech Walesa (played by Robert Wieckiewicz), who moved through the ranks as an electrician to being the leader of the Solidarity movement and finally Poland's president and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
87-year-old Wajda's 1975 film "The Promised Land," 1979's "The Maids of Wilko," 1986's "Man of Iron" and 2007's "Katyn" have all nabbed Academy Award nominations. In 2000 he won an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar.
The five Foreign-Language nominations will be announced January 16, with the Oscars taking place March 2. Check out other countries' selected films, including Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, France and Taiwan.
A running list of all countries' selections thus far is here.