As more countries select their official foreign language Oscar entries, many of which screened during the fall film festivals, several well-regarded titles are moving their way into top contention. The final submission deadline is October 2. As many as 90 films could wind up vying for the initial shortlist of 9, and final five nominations.
It’s no surprise that Sweden selected Ruben Östlund’s hilarious Palme d’Or-winner “The Square” (October 27, Magnolia Pictures), an art-world satire shot in majority Swedish with some English from stars Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, and Dominic West, thus giving Östlund another shot after “Force Majeure” was a surprise 2015 Oscar omission.
Also expected was Germany’s choice, Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade” (October 27), which won Best Actress for Diane Kruger At Cannes, which has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures.
Netflix backed director Angelina Jolie’s 70s Cambodian-language Khmer Rouge wartime drama “First They Killed My Father,” which played well at Telluride and is the Cambodian entry; Jolie is a citizen. Also playing well at Telluride was Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult,” which is Lebanon’s official entry.
As always, Sony Pictures Classics has an early bead on some of the best-reviewed movies at the festivals so far. Berlin debuted the Chilean entry, Sebastián Lelio’s transgender drama “A Fantastic Woman,” which won Best Screenplay and played well at Telluride and Toronto. Cannes critics raved over Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s moving, intense family drama “Loveless,” which did win a Cannes jury prize, if not the big one and played well at Telluride and Toronto; for the third time the Russian Oscar committee selected a film by independent-minded Zvyagintsev, despite the way he shows an unflattering mirror up to a society overrun by ministers demanding upbeat portraits of their culture.
As always, Israel submits for the Oscar the winner of the Ophir: Samuel Maoz’s “Foxtrot” (Sony Pictures Classics), a portrait of grief, fate and loss, which played well at Telluride and Toronto.
Austria has picked Cannes competition title “Happy End” (December 22) which reunites the Oscar-winning “Amour” father-daughter team of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert. Michael Haneke’s bourgeois family saga may be too dark to get shortlisted for the Oscar. Brilliant but brutal, “Happy End” is not as accessible and moving as “Amour,” despite strong performances.
The French Oscar candidate is Robin Campillo’s moving portrait of the ’80s AIDS epidemic in France, “BPM: Beats Per Minute,” which took home the Cannes Grand Prix and was acquired by The Orchard, which has been moving into international pickups of late. They are also releasing Joachim Trier’s Norway submission, the sci-fi thriller “Thelma,” about a woman falling in love who has fantastic powers, which debuted well at TIFF.
In case you were wondering, Oscar rules dictate that while countries around the world may submit a movie in any language other than English, even if it’s not the official language of that country, American filmmakers cannot submit a foreign-language film made stateside. Thus A24’s “Menashe,” filmed primarily in Yiddish, is not eligible.
Other official Oscar selections:
Albania with “Daybreak” from Gentian Koçi
Algeria with “Road to Istanbul” from Rachid Bouchareb
Azerbaijan with Ilgar Najaf’s “Pomegranate Orchard”
Belgium with Michael Roskam’s TIFF title “Racer and the Jailbird”
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Karlovy Vary special jury prize-winner “Men Don’t Cry,” directed by Alena Drljevića
Brazil with “Bingo the King of the Mornings,” from Daniel Rezende
Bulgaria with Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s “Glory”
Colombia with Iván Gaona’s “Guilty Men”
Croatia with “Quit Staring at My Plate,” from Hana Jušić
Czech Republic’s “Ice Mother” from Bohdan Sláma
Denmark with “You Disappear” from Peter Schønau Fog
Dominican Republic with “Woodpeckers” from José María Cabral
Egypt with “Sheikh Jackson” from Amr Salama
Estonia with “November” from Rainer Sarnet
Finland with “Tom of Finland” from Dome Karukoski
Georgia with “Scary Mother” from Ana Urushadze
Greece with “Amerika Square” from Yannis Sakardis
Hungary with “On Body and Soul” from Ildiko Enyedi
Indonesia with “Leftovers” from Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo
Iran with “Breath” from Narges Abyar
Iraq’s “The Dark Wind” directed by Hussein Hassan
Ireland with Pat Collins’ “Song of Granite”
Japan’s “Her Love Boils Bathwater,” from Ryota Nakano
Kosovo’s “Unwanted” from Edon Rizvanolli
Kyrgysztan’s “Centaur” from Aktan Abdykalykov
Laos’ “Dearest Sister” from Mattie Do
Latvia’s “The Chronicles of Melanie” from Viestur Kairish
Lebanon’s “The Insult” from Ziad Doueiri
Lithuania’s “Frost” from Šarūnas Bartas
Luxembourg’s “Barrage” from Laura Schroeder
Mexico’s “Tempestad” from Tatiana Huezo
Morocco’s “Razzia” from Nabil Ayouch
Nepal’s “White Sun,” directed by Deepak Rauniyar
Netherlands’ “Layla M.” from Mijke de Jong
Pakistan’s “Saawan,” from Farhan Alam
Palestine with Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib”
Peru with “Rosa Chumbe” from Jonatan Relayze
Poland with Agnieszka Holland’s “Spoor”
Portugal with “Saint George” from Marco Martins
Romania’s “The Fixer” from Adrian Sitaru
Serbia with “Requiem for Mrs. J” from Bojan Vuletic
Slovenia’s “The Miner” from Hanna Antonina Wojcik Slak
South Korea with “A Taxi Driver,” from Jan Hoon
Spain with “Summer 1993” from Carla Simón
Switzerland’s German-language “The Divine Order,” directed by Petra Biondina Volpe
Thailand’s “By the Time It Gets Dark” from Anocha Suwichakornpong
Turkey’s “Ayla: The Daughter of War,” directed by Can Ulkay
Ukraine’s “Black Level” from Valentyn Vasyanovych
United Kingdom with “My Pure Land” from Urdu-language filmmaker Sarmad Masud
Venezuela’s “El Inca” from Ignacio Castillo Cottin
Vietnam with “Father and Son” from Lương Đình Dũng.
See leading contenders listed below in alphabetical order; no movie will be deemed a frontrunner until I’ve seen it.
“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“First They Killed My Father” (Cambodia)
“In the Fade” (Germany)
“The Square” (Sweden)
“BPM: Beats Per Minute” (France)
“The Divine Order” (Switzerland)
“The Dark Wind” (Iraq)
“On Body and Soul” (Hungary)
“Happy End” (Austria)
“Racer and the Jailbird” (Belgium)
“A Taxi Driver” (South Korea)