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In a Surprise Move, France Chooses ‘Mustang’ Over ‘Dheepan’ for Foreign Oscar

In a Surprise Move, France Chooses 'Mustang' Over 'Dheepan' for Foreign Oscar

Submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar are arriving fast as the deadline of October 1 looms.

In what was undoubtedly a tough call for France’s selection committee — including Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, filmmakers Michel Hazanavicius and Melanie Laurent, actress Nathalie Baye, French Cinematheque director Serge Toubiana and more — “Mustang” is France’s pick this year.

The debut feature from Turkish actress-turned-writer-director Deniz Gamze Erguven, which won a Directors’ Fortnight Europa Cinemas prize as well as dual prizes in Sarajevo, tells the story of a family of five school girls who are caught frolicking innocently with boys in the surf one day and are subsequently clapped in prison inside their home, subjected to virginity tests, until they can be married off. Each time one manages to escape, the family adds higher barriers and window bars to keep them enclosed. Cohen Media Group bought North American rights at Cannes, and has shown the film at fall fests including Toronto. An awards release date is set for this Turkish-language French co-production on November 20. (Read David Ansen’s take on the film here.)

READ MORE: Cannes Awards: Directors Fortnight, Un Certain Regard, Critics Week

A surefire crowdpleaser likely to play well for Academy voters, “Mustang” bested a buzzy pack of hopefuls from Cannes and elsewhere, including Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan,” Stephane Brize’s Cannes Best Actor winner “The Measure of a Man,” Catherine Corsini’s TIFF entry “Summertime” and Xavier Giannoli’s touted Venice premiere “Marguerite.” France’s last foreign Oscar nomination was for Audiard’s “A Prophet,” in 2010. 

Meanwhile, a foreign entry from another French-speaking country also landed today, Belgium’s “The Brand New Testament.” Jaco Van Dormael’s surreal comedy premiered in Directors’ Fortnight as well. The Belgian director has been winning prizes since his 1980 debut short “Maedeli La Brèche,” which won a Student Academy Award. “Brand New Testament” goes to Fantastic Fest in Austin later this month.

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