The pandemic did not stop the world’s culture czars from selecting their candidates for the Best International Feature Oscar. The extended shortlist of 15 was culled from a record 93 contenders, and loaded onto the Academy portal (also available via AppleTV). That’s where some 9,000 eligible Academy voters were able to screen the films online. (No more wining and dining of the venerable Los Angeles committee regulars.) Any member could opt in to vote if they watched a minimum of 12 assigned titles. All Academy voters could pick the final five nominees out of one of the most extraordinary selections in recent memory — if they’d seen the entire shortlist.
Currently, the frontrunner for the Oscar is the Denmark entry “Another Round,” the well-reviewed Cannes, TIFF, and prize-winning San Sebastian selection, which scored four European Film Awards including European Film, Director Thomas Vinterberg, Screenwriter, Vinterberg & Tobias Lindholm, and Actor, Mads Mikkelsen. He plays a sober teacher in midlife crisis who joins his close chums in an experiment in heavy drinking. Goldwyn landed the high-profile movie at a time when many theatrical buyers, even foreign-friendly Sony Pictures Classics, were holding back during the pandemic. Vinterberg landed his first Oscar nomination for Best Director as well.
Willing to bet on the future is Neon, which acquired rights to top Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić’s Venice competition thriller “Quo Vadis, Aida” (March 15, 2021), which scored Directing and Film Not in the English Language nominations from BAFTA, and a Best International Film nomination for the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards. This harrowing masterwork revisits a horrific period that has been long buried, as women still search for over a thousand missing men murdered by the Serbian army in Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. The historic drama focuses on a Bosnian U.N. translator (courageous Serbian actress Jasna Djuricic) who fiercely tries to protect her family as the Serbs ramp up for the mass execution.
After Neon’s breakout 2019 Macedonian documentary “Honeyland,” more countries submitted documentaries, including Romania. Alexander Nanau’s European Film Award-winning health expose “Collective” also landed a nod for Best Documentary.
Here’s the list of Oscar contenders, in order of likelihood to win.
“Another Round” (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark)
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” (Jasmila Žbanić, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
“Collective” (Alexander Nanau, Romania)
“The Man Who Sold His Skin” (Kaouther Ben Hania, Tunisia)
“Better Days” (Derek Tsang, Hong Kong)