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9 Oscar Foreign Language Contenders: Snubs and Surprises

9 Oscar Foreign Language Contenders: Snubs and Surprises

The Academy foreign branch have selected nine features out of 80 eligible submissions to compete for the final five slots announced on nominations morning January 14th.

The Phase I committee consists of a few hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members from different branches, who signed in for screenings between mid-October and December 14. The group’s top six choices were augmented by three selections voted on by producer’s branch member and veteran foreign film czar Mark Johnson’s hand-picked Executive Committee. He believes strongly that it’s necessary to make sure that worthy films are not left out of consideration.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

     Belgium, “The Brand New Testament,” Jaco Van Dormael, director;

     Colombia, “Embrace of the Serpent,” Ciro Guerra, director;

     Denmark, “A War,” Tobias Lindholm, director;

     Finland, “The Fencer,” Klaus Härö, director;

     France, “Mustang,” Deniz Gamze Ergüven, director;

     Germany, “Labyrinth of Lies,” Giulio Ricciarelli, director;

     Hungary, “Son of Saul,” László Nemes, director;

     Ireland, “Viva,” Paddy Breathnach, director;

     Jordan, “Theeb,” Naji Abu Nowar, director.

The shortlist will be cut down to the category’s five nominees by Johnson’s invited committees in New York, Los Angeles and London. They will spend Friday, January 8, through Sunday, January 10, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

Per my Oscar Predictions chart, the frontrunners in this race are “Viva” (Magnolia), “A War” (Magnolia), “Mustang” (Cohen Media Group) and “Son of Saul” (Sony Pictures Classics). The last two were also nominated for Golden Globes along with crowdpleasers “The Fencer” and “The Brand New Testament.” I’m surprised that Brazilian Anna Muylaert’s feminist portrait of a housekeeper and her daughter, “The Second Mother,” did not make the cut. Other omissions include critics’ faves “The Assassin” (Taiwan), “Baba Joon” (Israel), “The Clan” (Argentina), “The Club” (Chile), “Ixcanul” (Guatemala)—which was likely superseded by similar “Embrace of the Serpent,” the most likely to have been added by the executive committee— “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” (Sweden), and “Rams” (Iceland).

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