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Oscars 2019 Foreign-Language Feature Shortlist: Winners and Losers

The top contenders, as expected, include Mexico's "Roma" and Lebanon's "Capernaum;" snubbed were entries from Belgium, Italy and France.

“Cold War”

Amazon Studios

For the 2019 Oscars, 87 countries submitted eligible entries, down from 92 last year. The shortlist of nine came from the foreign-language committee: six from the general committee drawn from participating voters from all Academy branches, and three from the executive committee appointed by this year’s new foreign-language czars, screenwriter Larry Karaszewski and Participant’s Diane Weyermann.

On the shortlist are Cannes Best Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to Oscar-winner “Ida,” the bittersweet period romance “Cold War” (Amazon Studios), starring incandescent breakout Joanna Kulig and two poverty-row melodramas, Hirozaku Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” — which won Cannes’ Palme d’Or and a Magnolia deal — and Lebanese Nadine Labaki’s heart-tugging crowdpleaser “Capernaum” (Sony Pictures Classics), which scored the Jury Prize in Cannes.

Kazakhstan’s “Ayka” won an acting award for Samal Yesyamova, and returning to possible contention is 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.

South Korea has not had much luck with the Oscars: Since 1962, they have not scored one foreign-language nomination, but landed a shortlist slot with critical hit “Burning,” (winner of the Cannes FIPRESCI critics’ prize) from Lee Chang-dong.

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”).

From the fall festivals were Mexican filmmaker 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; and Germany’s entry from “The Lives of Others” Oscar-winner Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, three-hour fall festival film “Never Look Away” (SPC).

(L to R) Marco Graf as Pepe, Daniela Demesa as Sofi, Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marina De Tavira as Sofia, Diego Cortina Autrey as Toño, Carlos Peralta Jacobson as Paco in Roma, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Photo by Carlos Somonte


Photo by Carlos Somonte

Here are the shortlist contenders:

Colombia, “Birds of Passage”
Denmark, “The Guilty”
Germany, “Never Look Away”
Japan, “Shoplifters”
Kazakhstan, “Ayka”
Lebanon, “Capernaum”
Mexico, “Roma”
Poland, “Cold War”
South Korea, “Burning”

Left out by the Academy was “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” which won Marcello Fonte Best Actor at Cannes, as well as Un Certain Regard prize-winner “Border” (Neon), the gender-bending official Swedish entry directed by Iran-born Ali Abbasi and the Belgian submission from rookie Lukas Dhont, the transgender ballerina drama “Girl” (Netflix), which won the Un Certain Regard performance award and the Camera d’Or.

Israel’s entry, as always the winner of the Ophir Award, “The Cakemaker” (Strand), did not make the cut. And France also did not score with Emmanuel Finkiel’s World War II drama “Memoir of War,” starring Melanie Thierry and Benjamin Biolay. Also overlooked was “Sunset” (SPC), Hungarian László Nemes’ follow-up to Oscar-winner “Son of Saul.”


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