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For Your Consideration: 10 Things You Should Know About the 2013 Foreign Language Oscar Contenders

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 8, 2013 at 12:40PM

It's pretty much an assured equation: Oscars + Foreign Language Film Category = Outrage. Sometimes, the fault lies with Academy voters (as it did when "Departures" won the Oscar in 2008 over what most viewed as two greatly superior nominees - "Waltz With Bashir" and "The Class;" or when "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," "Persepolis" and "Volver" were all left off the ballot in 2007). Sometimes, the national submission committees are at fault (like when Spain chose "Mondays in the Sun" over "Talk To Her" back in 2002, only to see the former get nada and the latter win the Oscar for best original screenplay -- a category Spain had no control over). And sometimes it's just those pesky Academy rules (some very interesting thoughts on said rules here care of Cameron Bailey, though clearly for this year there's no changing anything).
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"The Hunt."
"The Hunt."

6. You can already see a lot of these films in Stateside theaters. "Blue" is coming out in the US in just a few weeks (October 25th), Oscar qualified or not, while "Renoir" already had its run this past Spring (making a potent $2.3 million at the box office). And they're just two of a ton of submitted films that have already or are just about to be released.  Denmark’s “The Hunt,” China's "Back to 1942," Hong Kong’s “The Grandmaster,” and Saudi Arabia’s aforementioned “Wadjda" are all in US theaters right now (or already out of them).  Last year, none of the 5 nominees -- "Amour," "No," "A Royal Affair," "Kon-Tiki" and "War Witch" -- were released before November, with 3 of them waiting until the new year to capitalize on their nomination.

7. Iran submits after all, and goes with "The Past." Waiting until Christmas to hit US theaters, recent winner in this category Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" is a surprise (and major) contender here, if only because few expected its country to submit it (or potentially submit at all). Iran -- which boycotted the Academy last year, a year after winning this Oscar for Farhadi's "A Separation" -- seemed unlikely to submit a film largely set in Paris. They did anyway, angering a lot of folks in the country. “Unlike 'A Separation,' there is nothing Iranian in this film apart from a character who could have come from any other country,"  Iran's Fars news agency said. "It would have been preferable to select a purely Iranian film like Dar-Band, which would have presented a more realistic image of Iran.” Whether this hurts the film's chances remains to be seen, but with its Cannes award for best actress (recent Oscar nominee Berenice Bejo), its definitely one of the most high profile possibilities here.

Back to 1942
Back to 1942

8. China brings star power to race with "Back to 1942." Speaking of high-profile, China has given this category and uncharacteristic mix of American stars by submitting Feng Xiaogang's "Back to 1942." The film -- which  was released in the US back in 2012 -- features Oscar-winning actors Adrien Brody and Tim Robbins alongside an otherwise mostly Chinese cast. Will the tactic pay off? It didn't 3 years ago when China submitted Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War" (another war epic), which starred another Oscar winner -- Christian Bale -- in the leading role. The film didn't make the cut.

9. It's "Bush" out, "Don" in for Czech Republic. Agnieszka Holland was the choice for the Czech Republic for "Burning Bush," which could have made her the first filmmaker to score nods in this category for three different countries (she got noms for Poland and West Germany in the past). But not so. The four-hour film was disqualified because it had already aired as a miniseries on HBO Europe. In her place came Jiri Menzel (who won an Oscar for "Closely Watched Trains" 46 years ago, and was nominated again in 1986 for "My Sweet Little Village.") His comedic "The Don Juans" will represent the Czechs.

10. The women. While Agnieszka Holland isn't one of them, female-helmed films were still impressively present in the submission list. Beyond aforementioned examples in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there's Argentina (Lucía Puenzo's "Wakolda), Canada (Louise Archambault's "Gabrielle"), Finland (Ulrika Bengts's "Disciple"), Georgia (Nana Ekvtimishvili, co-directing "In Bloom" with Simon Groß), Lebabon ( Lara Saba's "Blind Intersections"), New Zealand (Dana Rotberg's "White Lies"), Phillippines (Hannah Espia's "Transit"), Portugal (Valeria Sarmiento's "Lines of Wellington"), Slovakia (Mira Fornay's "My Dog Killer"), Sweden (Gabriela Pichler's "Eat Sleep Die"), and Ukraine (Olena Fetisova, co-directing "Paradjanov" with Serge Avedikian).  Not exactly a fair ratio, but sadly progressive when it comes to women working behind the camera. And if you think that if America was submitting their best picture winners to some fictional foreign language showdown in another country, only once in 86 years would it have been directed by a woman.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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This article is related to: Academy Awards, Best Foreign-Language Film, Wadjda, The Hunt , Renoir , Blue is the Warmest Color , Back to 1942, The Past , For Your Consideration







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