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Oscar Watch: Foreign Branch Narrows Contenders to Nine, Cuts France’s Of Gods and Men

Oscar Watch: Foreign Branch Narrows Contenders to Nine, Cuts France's Of Gods and Men

Thompson on Hollywood

Sony Pictures Classics is happy that three of their four films vying for a foreign Oscar slot have landed in the Academy foreign branch’s short list of nine: Susanne Bier’s In a Better World (Denmark), Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (Canada) and Oliver Schmitz’s Life Above All (South Africa), fest favorites all. The film that shockingly did not make the cut has received raves around the world, France’s spiritual faith drama Of Gods and Men. SPC does well with its foreign picks, but they also offer filmmakers a Sony release in multiple territories, and over the years have demonstrated that, as one Oscar publicist says, “they’re good at this.”

The foreign executive committee added three to the top six that nabbed the most votes from the several hundred voters screening 66 entries. Now another committee (selected in New York and Los Angeles by branch chief Mark Johnson, who wields a lot of power in this process) will screen the nine films to winnow them to five for Oscar nominations morning January 25. It is unlikely that the larger voting group included critics’ fave Dogtooth, Greece’s controversial taboo-breaking entry that has sent sensitive festgoers around the world fleeing for the doors.

The nine films are listed below.

The exec committee changed the voting process after the foreign branch did not nominate Cannes Palme d’Or winner Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days. This year they did not add last year’s Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Thailand). Many countries whose films did screen well—such as Egypt, Germany, Italy, India, China, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Iraq—are probably wondering, then, “Why not me?”

Algeria, “Hors la Loi” (“Outside the Law”), Rachid Bouchareb, director;
Canada, “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve, director;                   
Denmark, “In a Better World,” Susanne Bier, director;
Greece, “Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos, director;
Japan, “Confessions,” Tetsuya Nakashima, director;
Mexico, “Biutiful,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director;                    
South Africa, “Life, above All,” Oliver Schmitz, director; 
Spain, “Tambien la Lluvia” (“Even the Rain”), Iciar Bollain, director; 
Sweden, “Simple Simon,” Andreas Ohman, director. 


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Having a hand-picked screening committee choose the top five nominations for Best Foreign Film is absurd! I have no idea how the Academy can afix its imprimature on a process that does not reflect the consenus of the Academy membership at large. Don’t care how it’s spun, it’s BS.


I was part of the screening committee and I screened Dogtooth. I have absolutely no idea how this film has made it this far! None.


what do you mean by Czechoslovakia? That country does not exist for almost 20 years…


@Cadavra MICMACS was a 2009 release in France which, I believe, makes it ineligable for selection this year. And I think we can all agree that A PROPHET was a pretty canny selection last year regardless of how we feel about the films.

(Also given the Chinese film’s abysmal reception by US critics I don’t think that the selectors will really be wondering “why not me?”)


It’s the executive “committee”, not the executive “branch.” And there’s nothing executive about it. It’s a group handpicked by Mark Johnson, not voted on by the members of the Foreign Language Film Committee to represent their interests.


Serves France right for not making MICMACS its official selection. That was probably the best movie of the year, regardless of origin.

Julia Chasman

Anne, did the committee announce which 6 films were selected by the group and which 3 were added? I’m wondering, because you say –“rest assured.” Does that mean they announced it, or it’s what you think? I really don’t know. But I think it’s important to clarify.


Gary Palmucci

Anne, you have been relentlessly trashing Dogtooth since its Cannes 2009 debut–Toronto, Palm Springs and beyond. Now the Oscar foreign film selection committee has spoken– give us a breather!

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