For the 2019 Oscars, 87 countries submitted eligible entries, down from 92 last year. Always debuting foreign-language Oscar contenders, Cannes supplied Best Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to Oscar-winner “Ida,” the bittersweet period Polish romance “Cold War” (Amazon Studios), starring incandescent breakout Joanna Kulig, and Kazakhstan’s “Ayka,” which won an acting award for Samal Yesyamova, as well as two poverty-row melodramas, Hirozaku Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” — which won the Palme d’Or and a Magnolia deal— and Lebanese Nadine Labaki’s heart-tugging crowdpleaser “Capernaum” (Sony Pictures Classics), which scored the Jury Prize.
South Korea has not had much luck with the Oscars: since 1962 they have not scored one foreign-language nomination, but the country submitted critical hit “Burning,” (winner of the Cannes FIPRESCI critics’ prize) from Lee Chang-dong.
Other films made a mark, including Colombia’s drug-cartel adventure “Birds of Passage” (The Orchard), from co-directors (and ex-spouses) Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, whose “Embrace of the Serpent” landed a surprise Oscar nomination.
The Danish entry, Gustav Möller’s “The Guilty” took home the Sundance World Cinema Audience Award; its distributor Magnolia Pictures often handles Scandinavian Oscar nominees (see “A Royal Affair,” “The Hunt” and “The Square”).
For its part, Germany submitted “The Lives of Others” Oscar-winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s three-hour fall festival film “Never Look Away” (SPC). The fall festivals broke out new titles, most notably Mexican entry Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical black-and-white 70s family drama “Roma,” which he shot himself on an Alexa 6K 65 camera in his old hometown, Mexico City.
Here’s the shortlisted of nine. No film can be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it. Lists are alphabetical.
“Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki, Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany)
“Roma” (Alfonso Cuaron, Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)
“Burning” (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)
“The Guilty” (Gustav Möller, Denmark)
“Ayka” (Sergei Devortsevoy, Kazakhstan)
“Birds of Passage” (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, Colombia)