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Oscars 2015 : Best Foreign Language Film Contenders – The Americas

Oscars 2015 : Best Foreign Language Film Contenders - The Americas

Early predictions have emerged for most Academy Award categories. As
the studios reveal their hopeful offers to be released in the final
months of the
year, the speculation increases. But despite all the information
available on the centerpiece awards, other more obscure races remain a
complete mystery at
this point. Among these, the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is
almost certainly the most complex to prognosticate. The lengthy process
that precedes the
announcement of the final nominees makes for a competition that
begins months in advance in nations around the globe.

Having the opportunity to submit only one film, each country must
carry out its own selection process. Once these decisions have been
made, their chosen
works will compete to make it to the nine-film shortlist, and
eventually into the final five slots. Although this procedure allows for
a certain degree of
democracy, it also excludes all those other films that were left
behind in their homelands. This, in turn, gives us a narrow view of what
is being produced

Therefore, after lots of research and arduous educated guessing to
put it together, the list below offers a more insightful look at this
race before the
actual individual selections are announced. For the sake of time,
the amount of films is limited to five per country, but in some cases
the choices are
scarcer and less films are listed. While trying to speculate is
always an uncertain endeavor, the factors taken into account to
determine which are some of
this year’s most important films in each country and their prospects
of being chosen as their representative at the Academy Awards, were
varied. Festival
exposure, release date, the country’s previous submissions, and even
the thematic elements of a few of them were considered to create this

Clearly nothing is definitive at this point, but at the very least,
this compilation will provide a sense of what the film industries in
these territories
are putting out and sharing with the world.

It is important to note that several of the films mentioned below are being handled by Mundial, a joint venture between IM Gobal and Canana, including “Gueros,” “A Wolf at the Door,” and “The Liberator.”

Here is the first list dedicated to the Americas


With four films presented at Cannes and several others
receiving praise in festivals around the world, Argentina has several
interesting options this year. Unfortunately, Lisandro Alonso’s period
piece “Jauja” will almost certainly be ineligible due to its November release
date, unless a qualifying one-week run is scheduled. That scenario seems unlikely. Screening
in the Directors’ Forthnight, Diego Lerman’s “Refugee”  (Refugiado) will open on October 3rd,
also a few days after the deadline. That leaves the Almodovar-produced “Wild Tales” as
the undisputed favorite. Acclaimed films such as “Natural Sciences,” “The
Third Side of the River
”, “El Ardor“ (staring Gael Garcia Bernal), and “La Paz
are longer shots but still viable choices.

1. “Wild Tales” (Relatos Salvajes)

2. “Natural Sciences” (Ciencias Naturales)

3.”The Ardor” (El Ardor)

4.”The Third Side of the River” (La Tercera Orilla)

5.”La Paz


The last time the landlocked country submitted a film was
back in 2009. However, this year offers several possibilities for the Bolivian
film industry. Given its production value and historical theme, it is likely
that – if they choose to send a film – it will be Mexican director Carlos Bolado’s
Forgotten” (Olvidados), which deals with the 70s Operation Condor. Another likely
choice is “Yvy Maraey,” which highlights the mysticism of the country’s indigenous
people and is the latest work by Juan Carlos Valdivia, whose films have
represented Bolivia in 3 out of the 6 occasions they’ve participated. A long delayed
road trip flick (“Once Upon a Time in Bolivia”) and a unique documentary (“Apricot”)
round up the list of contenders. 

1. “Forgotten” (Olvidados)

2. “Yvy Maraey: Land Without Evil” (Yvy Maraey: Tierra Sin Mal)

3. “Once Upon a Time in Bolivia” (Erase una vez en Bolivia)

4. “Apricot” (Durazno)


Producing an impressive amount of films per year, the Brazilian film
industry is seeing incredible progress recently. Particularly this year,
the quality
of works was exceptional across the board. Having such an overflow
of great material could make it difficult to select just one. However,
there are a few
films that standout amongst the crowd. Fernando Coimbra’s debut
feature “A Wolf at the Door” is undoubtedly the one to beat after
receiving rave reviews
and touring some of the most important international festivals. Its
biggest competitors are the quiet character study “The Man of the Crowd
and the
adorable coming-of-age tale “The Way He Looks.” Rounding up the top
five are locally acclaimed “Runriver” and powerful LGBT drama “Futuro

1. “A Wolf at the Door” (O Lobo atrás da Porta)

2. “The Man of the Crowd” (O Homem das Multidões)

3. The Way He Looks(Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho)

4. Riverrun” (Riocorrente)

5. Futuro Beach(Praia do Futuro)


This definitely seems like Xavier Dolan’s year. After sharing an award with New
Wave patriarch Jean-Luc Godard in Cannes, the 25-year-old prodigy is
almost a safe
bet having two films that could represent his country. While “Mommy
is the clear favorite, it will have to go against “An Eye for Beauty, ”
the latest
film from Oscar-winner Denys Arcand. Both films will screen at TIFF in the upcoming weeks, just as time runs out for Canada to nominate a film by the end of September. Less probable but still great options are Dolan’s own “Tom at
the Farm
,” quirky black-and-white dramedy “Tu Dors Nicole,” and the well-received rural family drama “The Auction. ”

1. “Mommy

2. “An Eye for Beauty” (Le Règne de la Beauté)

3. “Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme)

4. “You’s Sleeping Nicole(Tu Dors Nicole)

5. “The Auction” (Le démantèlement)


Here is one of the few countries in the region with a very clear choice, but which sadly might decide to miss that opportunity. Alejandro Fernández Almendras ‘“To Kill a Man” won at Sundance, Rotterdam, Berlin, Cartagena amongst several other festivals and has received extremely positive reactions from critics and audiences. Yet, its opening date in its homeland (October 16th) might prevent it from being selected, which would be a regrettable mistake. A one-week run or an earlier release date would be a worthwhile investment. If they decide to leave it behind for next year, this great film would definitely miss its chance. If that is the case, the South American nation, which in recent years has garnered incredible success with films like “No” and “Gloria,” might decide to go with “The Dance of Reality,” the first film in over 20 years by veteran auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky. Other plausible candidates include “Illiterate” (starring Paulina Garcia), Marcela Said’s remarkable “The Summer of Flying Fish,” and historical biopic “Neruda.”

1. “To Kill a Man” (Matar a un Hombre)

2. “The Dance of Reality” (La Danza de la Realidad)

3. “Illiterate” (Las Analfabetas)

4. “The Summer of Flying Fish” (El Verano de los Peces Voladores)

5. “Neruda


Being forced to resort to mainstream cartel-themed fare in past
occasions, this year has fortunately seen a fantastic reemergence of
auteur-driven works in
the country. Cartagena winner “Dust on the Tongue” is by far the most promising Colombian offer of the year with a thought-provoking premise. Next in line
is “Mateo” about a young man struggling to pursue his passion
for theater while living in a crime-ridden community. Other films
include the touching
Catching Fireflies,” apocalyptic comedy “Chronicle of the End of the World,” and music-infused romance “Ciudad Delirio.” Franco Lolli’s award-winning “Gente de Bien” doesn’t have a release date yet, but will probably be
in the running next year.

1. “Dust on the Tongue” (Tierra en la Lengua)

2. “Mateo

3. “Chasing Fireflies” (Cazando Luciernagas)

4. “Chronicle of the End of the World” (Crónica del Fin del Mundo)

5. “Ciudad Delirio


Having three great films eligible for consideration, Costa Rica will
likely enter the Oscar race for what would be only the third time in its
Without a doubt, the country is spearheading Central America in
terms of increased film production. Lauded throughout multiple
festivals, “Red Princesses,”
about a girl growing up in the Sandinista-era, is the most notable work. “Port Father,” a coming-of-age drama set in a coastal town and the comedy “All
About the Feathers
” are the other two that could be picked.
Regardless of which one is selected, they all serve as an encouraging sign
of growth for the Costa Rican industry.

1. “Red Princesses” (Princesas Rojas)

2. “Port Father” (Puerto Padre)

3. “All About the Feathers” (Por las Plumas)


Hosting the Havana International Film Festival and its consistent investment in local
talent make Cuba a unique place for film in the Caribbean. In spite of
this, only a
few national productions have reached cinemas this year. The three
notable titles revolve around personal stories of survival and the
struggles associated
with living on the island. Winner of several international awards, “Behavior” is the clear favorite. “Melaza,” another local drama dealing with the economic
challenges Cubans face and the gay love story “The Last Match,” complete the trio.

1. “Behavior” (Conducta)


3. “The Last Match” (La Partida)


For its size, this island nation has an impressive working industry that
steadily produces films in diverse genres. The Dominican Republic will
certainly participate again with one of the works by its homegrown
talent. Screening in Toronto last year, crime romance “Cristo Rey” has
the highest probability of being chosen. In second place is the documentary “The Mountain,” which centers on a unique expedition to Mount
Everest by a Dominican team. Passionate road trip story “To the South of Innocence” and psychological thriller “Despertar
” conform the list of options.

1. “Cristo Rey

2. “The Mountain“(La Montaña)

3. “To the South of Innocence” (Al Sur de la Inocencia) 

4. “Despertar


Seemingly dormant for many decades, the Ecuadorian film industry has
recently exploded. Even though they have only submitted three times in
the past, it
appears they plan to make their presence more consistent moving
forward. What is even more surprising, are the numerous alternatives
they have to make
their selection. At the top of the list is “Holiday,” which premiered in Berlin and has received considerable praise. Two other art house offers, “Silence
in Dreamland
” and “Saudade,” could be serious contenders. “Girl Without Fear,” a gritty crime film and “The Facilitator,” a politically charged work,
have less chances but are still interesting offers.

1. “Holiday” (Feriado)

2. “Silence in Dreamland” (El Silencio en la Tierra de los Sueños)

3. “Saudade

4. “Girl With No Fear” (Ciudad Sin Sombra)

5. “The Facilitator” (El Facilitador)


Sporadically producing feature length works due to the lack of
initiatives that facilitate their funding, El Salvador has never entered
the race.
Nevertheless, there are three films that could potentially be submitted: Supernatural
horror film “The Supreme Book,” romantic comedy “The Re-Search,” and the more viable choice, ” The Four Cardinal Points,”
a documentary about the diverse lifestyles throughout the tiny country.
The latter was exhibited commercially
as part of Ambulante El Salvador for about a week, which could
possibly make it eligible. But in all honesty, it is hard to think
they’ll feel so inclined as
to participate.

1. “El Salvador: The Four Cardinal Points” (El Salvador: Cuatro Puntos Cardinales)

2. “The Re-Search” (La ReBusqueda)

3. “The Supreme Book” (El Libro Supremo)


With only one submission under their belt back in 1994 and several
missed opportunities in recent years, Guatemala might opt to remain out
of the spotlight
once again. If, however, they change their mind, there are three
films that qualify to be entered. Focusing on the indigenous Maya‘s beliefs
and legends,
Where the Sun is Born” is surely the most authentic and visually powerful of these films. Then there is “Pol,” a story about two teenage friends and their
mishaps. Lastly, there is “12 Seconds,” a sort of slasher flick set in the countryside. It’s been 20 years since their last try, it wouldn’t hurt to see
them make the effort once again.

1. “Where the Sun is Born” (Donde Nace el Sol)

2. Pol

3. “12 Seconds” (12 Segundos)


Although they have never submitted an entry, the Central American
country is showing signs of progress in terms of its film industry. With
only two local, low budget films released this year, it is highly unlikely they will
enter. Nevertheless, they do have an eligible film “11 Cipotes,” a sports comedy about
a soccer team in a small town. The other film, “The Zwickys,” is surprisingly ineligible because it is mostly in English.

1. “11 Kids” (11 Cipotes)


Now that the Mexican Academy has announced their shortlist – which
strangely and inexplicably includes titles that have no scheduled
release dates or that
will be released after AMPAS’ deadline (September 30th, 2014) – the landscape has dramatically changed. Three of the original selections
mentioned here (“The Empty Hours,” “Potosi,” and “ Club Sandwich”)
are not included among the finalists. It is
important to note that films need to be submitted by the filmmakers
in order to be considered by the Mexican Academy. One can assume that
these films,
though they qualify, decided not to participate. The 21 films listed
include several documentaries such as “Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border,” “Disrupted” (Quebranto), “Eufrosina’s Revolution” (La Revolución de los Alcatraces), and H2Omx” among others. But even if many of these are outstanding films, it is highly unlikely that the Academy will decide to go
with a documentary over a narrative given their track record and the other options available. Comedic offers like the charmingParaíso” by Mariana Chenillo, “Flying Low” (Volando Bajo), and “The Last Call” (Tercera Llamada) also made it in. Just like last year
with “Instructions
Not Included
,” most people could assume that the film with the most
commercial prospects would make for a good candidate for Oscar
consideration, in this
case that would be the biopic “Cantinflas,” which was also listed. Fortunately, however, the
selection committee often prefers to bet on films honored
internationally regardless of
their controversial content (“Heli,” “After Lucia,” “Silent Light,”
The Crime of Father Amaro”).

With the new additions, the possibilities have shifted. On the top spot is Alonso Ruiz Palacios
black and white debut “Güeros,” which won in Berlin and Tribeca, and screened at Karlovy Vary. The festival pedigree will definitely help
this unique road trip film set in Mexico City during the late 90s. The runner up is Luis Urquiza’s
Perfect Obedience,” though it did not have any
festival exposure or a highly profitable theatrical run, the local
critics praised the
compelling portrayal of a depraved Catholic priest with satirical
undertones. It would definitely make for a great contender if the
Academy were willing to
run the risk given its controversial subject matter. At number three
we have Christian Diaz Pardo’s
Gonzalez,” an intriguing drama about a man looking to change his destiny by joining a for profit evangelical church. Dark comedy “ Workers,” by Salvadoran filmmaker Jose Luis Valle, comes in at number four.
Lastly, there is Luis Estrada’s long awaited new film “The Perfect Dictatorship,
which made the cut despite having an October 16th release
date. The film could definitely come into play; however, voters should
consider the
fact that its premise and humor might be too specific to the Mexican
political idiosyncrasies to connect with foreign voters. Two other
films that might be
in the race next year are “Perpetual Sadness” (La Tirisia) and “ The Well” (Manto Acuifero)


2. “Perfect Obedience” (Obediencia Perfecta)

3. “Gonzalez

4. “Workers

5. “The Perfect Dictatorship” (La Dictadura Perfecta)


With three submissions in over 30 years (1982, 1988, 2010), Nicaragua is
the Central American nation with the most attempts at Oscar glory. More
astonishing perhaps, is the fact that their first ever entry, “Alsino and the Condor,” earned them a nomination. These days production is almost
non-existent. Still, the country’s most prolific filmmaker Florence Jaugey, responsible for their
last submission “La Yuma,” made a small documentary titled “Class Days.” It is just over 50 minutes long but actually had a theatrical run. Though eligible,
it’s probable they’ll decide to skip this year. On the other hand, Jaugey has just finished a new narrative new feature, “The Naked Screen” (La Pantalla Desnuda), which
will surely be part of the conversation next year.

1. “Class Days” (Dias de Clase)


An unprecedented amount of national productions were scheduled to
premier in Panama during 2014. All of those four films – which by the
country’s standards
is an exceptional number – are documentaries. However, only two of
them will be eligible given their set release dates. Out of those two,
the top choice
would certainly be Abner Benaim’s “Invasion” which uses
reenactments in lieu of archive footage to revisit the American military
intervention in the
Central American country in 1989. The runner-up, “Majesty,” deals
with the more lighthearted subject of carnival queens. In any case,
should Panama decide
to submit a film, this would be their first ever appearance.

1. “Invasion

2. “Majesty(Reinas)


Disappointed after missing the chance to submit last year’s surprise hit “7
”due to the lack of a selection committee, Paraguayan
authorities have
stressed their wish to send a film to compete this time around.
Unfortunately, it appears that their two best options might be scheduled
to open
theatrically past the Academy’s deadline. The documentary “Cloudy Times,” a Swiss co-production, has garnered positive reactions
internationally and would be their best shot. A second choice could be the crime flick “Filthy Luck,” which sports a decent production
value. But if neither of them manages to qualify, then the country’s only other option is yet another crime film “End of the Line.” In any
case, hopefully they follow through with their intentions and participate for the first time.

1. “Cloudy Times” (El Tiempo Nublado)

2. “Filthy Luck” (Luna de Cigarras)

3. “End of the Line” (Fin de Linea)


The eclectic collection of Peruvian films released this year speaks of
the great development the medium is experiencing in that country. The
five films
mentioned here represent the array of genres and stories coming out
of Peru today. Given its incredible reception abroad, dark comedy “The Mute” by Daniel Vega Vidal & Diego Vega Vidal is
undoubtedly the frontrunner. Behind it comes the intriguing thriller “Guard Dog” starring Peruvian star Carlos Alcántara, multi-narrative drama “The Gospel
of the Flesh
,” romantic tearjerker “Trip to Timbuktu,” and “Old Friends” about a group of elderly men on a mission. Definitely a though decision needs to
be made.

1. “The Mute” (El Mudo)

2. “Guard Dog” (Perro Guardian)

3. “The Gospel of the Flesh” (El Evangelio de la Carne)

4. “Trip to Timbuktu” (Viaje a Tombuctu)

5. “Old Friends” (Viejos Amigos)


Last year the country decided to take a chance and submit the adorable animated film “Anina,” which despite not getting a nomination has become a great
success. This time they have “The Militant,” a serious contender about a man retuning to his late father’s hometown. Empowered by a positive festival run,
this seems to be their most ideal option. “23 Seconds,” a drama about an unlikely connection between two people and “Mr. Kaplan,” a buddy comedy by Álvaro Brechner – whose
previous film “A Bad Day to Go Fishing” was selected a few years back – are the next best choices. The remaining film “At 60 km/h” is a documentary about a
unique journey around the world.

1. “The Militant” (EL Lugar del Hijo)

2. “23 Seconds” (23 Segundos)

3. “Mr. Kaplan

4. “At 60 Km/h” (A 60 Km/h)


Dubbed as “the most expensive film ever made in Latin America” and
focusing on the accomplishments of the country’s most important
historical figure,
selecting “The Liberator” is simply a no-brainer. Added to
those qualities, the film is actually an elegantly achieved period piece
that really showcases
the sizable budget and director Alberto Arvelo’s talent. Two of
his previous films have also represented his country in the past. On
the other hand,
this has been a monumental year for Venezuelan films. Festival
darling “Bad Hair” would be the perfect choice if it weren’t
going against the imposing
major production. Other important films that could figure in the mix
but have much less prospects are the emotional road-trip film “The Longest Distance,”
the women-centered drama “Liz in September,” and the acclaimed thriller “Solo.”

1. “The Liberator” (El Libertador)

2. “Bad Hair” (Pelo Malo)

3. “The Longest Distance” (La Distnacia Mas Larga)

4. “Liz in September” (Liz en Septiembre)

5. “Solo

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