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‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Pulls Ahead in Crowded Best International Feature Film Race

Big-budget contenders from Europe and Latin America are gaining momentum alongside a revered Korean auteur and rising festival circuit stars.

"All Quiet on the Western Front"

“All Quiet on the Western Front”

©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

This article contains IndieWire’s past Best International Feature predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Nominations voting is from January 12 to January 17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 24, 2023. The final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson are collaborating on predictions updates for this category. See Thompson’s preliminary thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here and earlier predictions for this category here.

The State of the Race

With 15 movies on the shortlist for the International Feature Film Oscar, virtually everything that has been gaining momentum in recent months made the cut. Awards season’s most global category finds relatively big-budget contenders jockeying for the five-slot category from Europe, Latin America, and Asia, but a few rising filmmaker stars from the festival circuit could snake into the mix as well.

In a year where Netflix has no obvious Best Picture frontrunner, it makes sense that as the platform continues to grow its international presence, it has a strong showing in this category with two of the higher-profile films on the shortlist. German entry “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the third adaptation of the 1929 novel and the first made from a German perspective, marks the only genuine war epic in Oscar contention this year, and in a show of strength, also landed slots for Makeup and Hairstyling, Music, Sound, and Visual Effects.

Director Edward Berger’s bleak, violent look at the trenches of WWI from the perspective of a reluctant recruit (Felix Kammerer) tracks the closing days of the battle from the frontlines with shocking realism and intense camerawork reminiscent of “1917,” another recent Academy-friendly contender. With actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch already campaigning for the movie, expect its profile to continue to rise as Netflix throws more resources behind it.

Meanwhile, the streamer has been pushing Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” since its divisive Venice premiere. Mexico’s two-time Best Director winner’s personal and eccentric autofiction about a famed documentarian (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) who returns to his homeland after finding success in the U.S. unfolds as a dreamlike descent into its character’s identity crisis. While critics have been mixed on the movie, which is 22 minutes shorter since Venice, good will for Iñarritu and his distinctive cinematic vision has been resonating with Academy members since its Telluride premiere, where everyone from Cate Blanchett to Barry Jenkins sang its praises. The movie may still be a touch too odd for more conservative tastes, but appreciation for Iñarritu (and, again, a generous Netflix campaign) will help keep it in the conversation.

Argentina 1985

“Argentina, 1985”

Amazon Studios

Another Latin American contender casts a wider historical net. Director Santiago Mitre’s “Argentina 1985” reconstructs the country’s famed “Trial of the Juntas” in which the military government from the dictatorship years was put on trial, with the famed Argentine actor Ricardo Darín (also a producer) playing righteous attorney Julio César Strassera. While the courtroom drama may be one of the more conventional works in contention for this category, that also makes it more accessible, and its rousing social justice theme resonates well beyond the country’s borders. Amazon Studios has been pushing the movie since its Venice premiere.

Meanwhile, Park Chan-wook has been in the conversation since he won Best Director at Cannes. The Korean auteur’s work is usually too violent and disturbing to gain traction in awards season, but he has dialed back those instincts for this elegant and moody film noir about a Busan-based detective (Park Hae-il) who falls in love with a Chinese woman (Tang Wei) even as he investigates her for possibly murdering her husband. The movie, which has been a modest theatrical success in the U.S. for MUBI, benefits from longstanding respect for Park’s complex, layered storytelling and the growing awareness that it has been under-appreciated in the West. In a year that has also included a well-received sequel to “Knives Out,” the whodunit is having a moment that could benefit Park as well; at the same time, the movie’s hefty running time and somewhat predictable mystery have left some audiences cold. It will take a lot of advocacy for Park’s technical skills to push past.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, there’s 30-year-old Belgian director Lukas Dhont. While his breakout trans drama “Girl” failed to make the shortlist in 2018 after it was criticized for the depiction of its protagonist, Dhont has course-corrected with a poignant look at prepubescent male friendship. The tragic story follows 13-year-old Léo (Eden Dambrine) who forges a close, quasi-romantic friendship with Rémi (Gustav de Waele) that turns sour when they’re bullied by homophobic classmates. A Grand Prix winner at Cannes, where it was acquired by A24, “Close” is the most intimate and sentimental entry in this category, exactly the sort of accessible tearjerker that could go far.

While these films may have the strongest shot at the category, anything on the short list could break through as more Academy members explore the entries. That includes “EO,” from octogenarian filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski, a wondrous visual odyssey about the life of a donkey, and IFC Films’ Austrian entry “Corsage,” a playful period piece starring a pitch-perfect Vicky Krieps as the Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

"Holy Spider," an official selection of Cannes 2022

“Holy Spider”

Utopia

The complicated world of the Middle East sits at the center of several contenders this year, including Danish entry “Holy Spider” (shot in Jordan and set in Iran, it follows a serial killer who targets sex workers) and Sweden’s university thriller “Cairo Conspiracy” (previously known as “Boy From Heaven”). Queer drama “Blue Caftan” is a hidden gem that could creep further into the conversation, as it follows a closeted gay man in a country where his desires are taboo; that plot is also the centerpiece of Pakistani entry “Joyland,” which remained the country’s Oscar submission even after it was briefly banned for its subject matter.

The movie, a rousing crowdpleaser about a man from a traditionalist family who falls for a trans dancer, won the Queer Palme at Cannes. Despite acclaim for first-time director Saim Sadiq and an upcoming slot at Sundance, the movie has yet to secure a U.S. distribution deal many months after its premiere — but its current status in the Oscar race could change that.

Finally, it’s worth acknowledging some of the snubs that were on the cusp of making the cut here. These include Berlinale winner “Alcarras,” the Spanish entry about a family fighting to save its peach farm from corporate takeover, the Brazilian Bolsonaro-era family drama “Mars One,” and the Norwegian war epic “War Sailor.” All of them are worth a watch.

The following list is alphabetical.

Frontrunners:
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Edward Berger, Germany)
“Argentina, 1985” (Santiago Mitre, Argentina)
“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico)
“Close” (Lukas Dhont, Belgium)
“Decision to Leave” (Park Chan-wook, Korea)

Contenders:
“The Blue Caftan” (Morocco)
“Cairo Conspiracy” (Sweden)
“Corsage” (Austria)
“EO” (Poland)
“Holy Spider” (Denmark)
“Joyland” (Pakistan)
“Last Film Show” (India)
“The Quiet Girl” (Ireland)
“Return to Seoul” (Cambodia)
“Saint Omer” (Saint Omer)

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