The Academy has announced the foreign film short list of nine, culled from 65 submissions. The foreign branch voted for six of these, while three were added by the foreign branch executive committee led by producer Mark Johnson, just in case such films as the critically-hailed Cannes entries A Prophet or The White Ribbon (both released by Sony Pictures Classics) failed to make the Phase One selection. Another committee of 30 voters from New York and L.A. will whittle the nine down to five for nominations morning, February 2.
Word on the Argentinian film El Secreto de Sus Ojos has been outstanding–Sony Pictures Classics is also releasing this, which brings their total on the short list to three. Australia’s Samson & Delilah was well-reviewed at Cannes, but the intense look at a down-and-out Aborigine couple has failed to land a stateside distributor. I also expected Israeli/Palestinian cinema verite hit Ajami to make the list of nine, even though the complex narrative, performed by non-actors, is tough to follow. Kino International is releasing.
A plethora of World War II movies may account for why Norway’s Max Manus didn’t make the cut. The Netherlands’ Winter in Wartime seems to have landed the perennial holocaust slot. Denmark’s drolly dark film noir Terribly Happy was probably a tad too nasty for this group. So was Mexico’s The Backyard, a dark tale of abduction, rape and murder. Also omitted was Italy’s gorgeous but dull period epic, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Baaria. And Bong Joon-ho’s critics’ fave Mother, an Independent spirit Award nominee, was also snubbed. (Magnolia will release March 12.) And IFC isn’t happy that Romania’s Police, Adjective was passed over.
My best guess on the final five: A Prophet, The White Ribbon, El Secreto de Sus Ojos, The Milk of Sorrow and Ajami.
The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:
Argentina, “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” Juan Jose Campanella, director; Australia, “Samson & Delilah,” Warwick Thornton, director; Bulgaria, “The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner,” Stephan Komandarev, director; France, “Un Prophète,” Jacques Audiard, director; Germany, “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke, director; Israel, “Ajami,” Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, directors; Kazakhstan, “Kelin,” Ermek Tursunov, director; The Netherlands, “Winter in Wartime,” Martin Koolhoven, director; Peru, “The Milk of Sorrow,” Claudia Llosa, director.
The Film Experience has data on all the submissions.