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by Peter Knegt
October 8, 2013 12:40 PM
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For Your Consideration: 10 Things You Should Know About the 2013 Foreign Language Oscar Contenders

"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

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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  • Marian | October 8, 2013 11:17 PMReply

    Re the women: The number seemed high to me too at first. But they (we) are only at just over 21.5%, which corresponds almost exactly to women directors' participation in feature filmmaking in France, globally the highest I know of.

  • Carlos | October 8, 2013 7:45 PMReply

    Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!!! Chile, Chile, Chile!!!

  • Christine | October 8, 2013 3:59 PMReply

    Thanks for the insight. I'm pleased to notice a very nascent filmmaking activity from the D.R. This is the third year in a row a Dominican film is seeking Academy consideration for best foreign-language feature only 2 other times has it submitted. Although Quien Manda, their entry is a commercial romantic comedy, there are a handful of independent filmmakers emerging - something to watch!

  • Dirty Howard | October 8, 2013 3:23 PMReply

    "Academy rules maintain that films much be released in their home country before September 30th" - this rule, i guess, is for every country exept Russia. for three consecutive years we send again and again bad movies about WWII, this time - "Stalingrad", an expensive patriotic piece of cheesy 3D crap opens this thursday 10 oct. big budgets and money still rule here

  • Michael Jones | October 8, 2013 3:02 PMReply

    Una noche, the Cuban movie, is missing. I can't believe it... Such, such, such an incredible movie.