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Everything You Wanted To Know About the Foreign Film Race*... (*but were afraid to ask Pt.1)

Tonight The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released the official list of Best Foreign Language Film Submissions that have qualified for the big show. There are 83 competitors this year, breaking the record by 7 films and in January 11% of those (aka 9 films... I think it really should be 12 each year) will move on to the "finals" from which 5 nominees will be chosen. In a long overdue adjustment to the category the names of the winning film's director will be placed on the statue alongside the country. Previously it was just the country which is silly because nobody would claim that Pedro Almodovar, Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini didn't win this category, you know?

The Film Experience's Official Submission Charts, the most comprehensive collection of the nominees on the web, are fully updated with posters, official charts, running times and more.

Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 25 submissions
Pt. 2 Finland through Nepal -30 submissions
Pt. 3 Peru through Venezuela -28 submissions

Let's break those 83 films down further and see what we're really looking at this year. Which countries are submitting for the first time? Which popular countries are STILL waiting for their first win? Are there familiar stars in the mix? Read on to find out... 

Marion Cotillard mopes about her Oscar chances - ice cream always soothes the pain

Recognizable Stars
Obviously fame differs incredibly from country to country so this is not meant as a diss on lauded stars of other countries. This is just a list of actors who are either internationally recognized or familiar to the English speaking world.

Sam Riley headlines German speaking DARK VALLEYJavier Camara (from a few Almodovar movies) stars in Spain's entry Living is Easy with Eyes Closed
Brady Corbet and Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones) are in Sweden's great entry Force Majeure
Marion Cotillard (who needs no introduction) leads Belgium's Dardenne Brothers submission Two Days One Night and as per usual she does so brilliantly, subsuming her star glamour to play a desperate woman who's just been fired
David Gulpili (Baz Luhrmann's Australia) leads Australia's Charlie's Country (reviewed)
Sam Riley is the lead of Austria's submission Dark Valley as a stranger who rides into a small village in the Alps (The British star lives in Berlin with his German-speaking actress wife, Alexander Maria Lara)
Gaspard Uliel, Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrell star in Saint Laurent for France (reviewed)
Edgar Ramirez (Carlos, Zero Dark Thirty) headlines Venezuela's The Liberator (Reviewed
Rena Owen (Once Were Warriors, the recent Star Wars movies) is in New Zealand's The Dead Lands
Tang Wei (Lust Caution) headline's Hong Kong's The Golden Era 

Still Waiting To Be Nominated
Will Portugal, Romania, Egypt, The Phillipines, South Korea, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Croatia, Columbia Turkey or Thailand ever get nominations? They're the 11 most regular submittees (31,30,30, 26,26, 25, 23,23, 22, 21 and 21 respectively) that Oscar hasn't honored. Despite continual brush offs they won't give up! Good on them. Endearing Trivia: The Phillipines (26 submissions) actually started started submitting in the very first year of this competition back in 1956 (Italy's La Strada won that year). Of these eleven countries none look particularly likely this year, except for maybe Venezuela's The Liberator if they go old school historical epic in the category though Turkey can brag about it's Palme D'Or for Winter Sleep even if its passed over again.

Can Poland get its first win with the popular IDA?

Still Waiting To Win
Israel, Poland, Mexico, and Belgium are the four clear winners in the Most Losing Derby. All of these countries have been up to bat plenty of times (10,9,8,7 nominations respectively) but haven't yet captured the gold. (Greece and Norway don't quite make this list with 5 nominations and 0 wins each). Watch out for POLAND this year. Ida could well be their first winner. It's high profile. It was a major success in its US release. And it's not particular divisive either. On the other hand it could well feel like old news by the time the Oscars roll around having first premiered on the festival circuit in 2013. Can Music Box Pictures really push it to the win?

Will Oscar voters go for France's glossy stylish (but very gay) biopic?

France vs. Italy
They've been neck and neck as long as this category has existed. Though Italian cinema is currently far less lauded (as a general, not film-specific rule) than French cinema, Italy has more total wins including last year's favorite The Great Beauty. But France has walloped Italy in nominations so its basically a draw as Oscar's favorite foreign country. Will their artistic competition continue this year? France has the jaw-droppingly stylish fashion designer biopic Saint Laurent (reviewed) and Italy has Human Capital a drama about a hit-and-run accident which actually beat The Great Beauty at Italy's own Oscar-like awards. 

Xavier Dolan's MOMMY. Is it too young and raw for Oscar?

Nathaniel's Favorite Competitors
With the understanding that it's hard to see all the submissions (I've yet to accomplish it in a given year) I've already seen quite a few and if I had to choose five nominees right now, this would be my ballot.

Argentina Wild Tales (Review)  - opening February 2015
Belgium Two Days One Night (Review) - opening December 2014
Cuba Behavior (Review) - no US distribution
Canada Mommy (Review) - opening January 2015
Poland Ida (Capsule) - currently available on DVD
Sweden Force Majeure (Capsule) - opening this month from Magnolia Pictures

OH WAIT, THAT'S SIX. I need more time to decide since they're all special movies in their own ways. If some combo of that six were nominated let me just say that it would, as a group, put whatever ends up in Best Picture to shame. Just sayin'. Of the submissions I have yet to see I am most curious about Hungary's White God, Russia's Leviathan and Switzerland's The Circle.

Latvia's "Rocks in My Pockets" is an imaginative investigation of family and depression

Oscar has only ever nominated one animated movie and two documentaries in this category and of those three detours from the norm, two are the same film (Israel's Waltz With Bashir) and the third was just last year (Cambodia's amazing The Missing Picture. Sadly they didn't submit this year). This year only  Latvia submitted an animated film (Rocks in My Pocket -reviewed) but there are a few more documentaries or semi-documentaries in the mix from Switzerland (The Circle), Luxembourg (Never Die Young) and Portugal (What Now? Remind Me).  

Can Timbuktu be a rare African film to be nominated?

There are four countries submitting for the first time:  Kosovo, Malta, Mauritania, and Panama. Of those submissions, the one to watch is probably Mauritania's Timbuktu (reviewed) which critics are absolutely wild about and tends to reduce moviegoers to copious tears. That is not a turn off for Oscar. African films very very very rarely win Oscar love but this might be one that does. 

...of LGBT Interest, Best Posters, Best Trailers, and More.
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Current Predictions
Pt. 1 Afghanistan through Ethiopia - 25 submissions
Pt. 2 Finland through Nepal -30 submissions
Pt. 3 Peru through Venezuela -28 submissions

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Reader Comments (21)

No way in hell, but It would be awesome seeing Philipinnes' Norte nominated, amazing movie, waaaay better than virtual nominees like Ida (wich I love, but not that much) or Wild Tales (this one is OK as a movie, but it would be a pathetic nominee,, it would have been so great if Argentina had sent Jauja...). And even better is Winter Sleep. Before watching the movie, I thought that it hadn't any options of being nominated, but the moment it ended (after applauding like a lunatic), I thought it wouldn't be difficult for Ceylan even winning, if the Academy reconnected with their love to Bergmanesque movies. Maybe it's a big if...

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeivith

I think the Philippines has a SLIGHTLY better chance this year. "Norte" has an American distributor (Cinema Guild, it's no Sony Pictures Classics or The Weinstein Company but it's still SOMETHING). It has been released to wide-acclaim in the UK and is available on Blu-ray/DVD over there.It has a shot at a BAFTA nomination. Lav Diaz is pretty famous among the high-brow film circles/festival circuit. The film has been getting enough of an acclaim that at least a few Academy members may have heard of it. I'm hoping the committee will make it their annual "weirdo" pick for the Top 9, at least.

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

Would love to see a brief coverage of cross-country, cross-cultural nominees, e.g. China's submission is directed by a French director.

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

hello, Indonesian here!
actually I just know that Indonesia submitted Soekarno from this web, as they don't make such a big fuss over The Oscars here.

just letting you know, SOEKARNO is about the story of the first Indonesia's president, Ir. Soekarno, as her struggles with the colonization and the eventual Indonesia's declaration of independence.

hope this could help you..

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil


But will there be any disqualifications between now and the date the nominees are announced.

Its happened before and it might happen again.

And yes I agree that the finalists should be increased from 9 to 12.

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

If you're going to do 12, you might as well do 15 like the Documentary category. However, either of these plans would be difficult logistically since the super committee that narrows from the longlist to the nominees watches the films together over the course of a weekend.

I'd be curious to hear what you think the FL general committee will pick as its six and which three will need to be saved. Like in most years, I think we're in dangerous waters as I could see Mommy, White God, Winter Sleep requiring a save, not to mention any standard fare that falls just outside of the top six.

As for Ida, I view this in the same vein as The Hunt last year-- it will go far but lose out in the end to something that's showier and, as you say, newer.

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

"11% of those (aka 9 films... I think it really should be 12 each year) will move on to the "finals" from which 5 nominees will be chosen. "

I'd go further. There are NO where near 83 American films with any realistic shot at getting a Best Picture nomination, yet they can nominate up to 10 films. Why is the Foreign Language category still still stuck at 5 nominees?

To previous poster Evan ^: The problem with THE HUNT wasn't that it wasn't "showy" enough, but, that the story was stacked and so one-sided that any real doubt or mystery was obliterated. IDA is sublime, mysterious and even-handed.

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoeS

This is a really great post! You are without a doubt the biggest authority in the foreign picture Oscar category in the whole world, probably. It's always been one of my favorite categories. I made a list of the foreign directors whose movies were most nominated and just wanted to share:

* represents number of wins

5 Nominations
De Sica ****

4 Nominations
Istvan Szabó*
José Luis Garci*
Mario Monicelli
Etore Scola
Andrzej Wajda

3 Nominations
Rene Clement**
Moshe Mizhari*
Ang Lee*
Denys Arcand*
Nikita Mikhalkov*
Jan Troell
Bo Widerberg
Carlos Saura
Zhang Yimou
Rachid Bouchareb

2 Nominations
Claude Lelouch*
Giuseppe Tornatore*
Pedro Almodovar*
Regis Wargnier*
Jan Sverák*
Caroline Link*
Juan Jose Campanella*
Susanne Bier*
Michael Heneke*
Vasilis Georgiades
Ephraim Kishon
Aleksandar Petrovic
Milos Forman
Francisco Rovira Beleta
Michael Cacoyannis
Noboru Nakamura
Miguel Littíin
Zoltan Fábri
Gillo Pontecorvo
Maximilian Schell
Dino Risi
Stanislav Rostosky
Louis Malle
Sergei Bodrov
Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu
Joseph Cedar
Agnieszka Holland

October 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Goodbar

Joe -- i wasnt suggesting that there be more than 5 nominees -- i hate the expansion of BP --- just that the finalist list out to be wider so it didn't feel so punitive with more winners than losers (like haha.psyche. you almost made it but no)

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

JoeS- I agree with you on all your complaints about The Hunt. It required you to think that an entire town lost all sense of logic.

That said, I'm not sure the Academy particularly cares. Your description of The Hunt, IMO, applies almost perfectly to Gone Girl and we see the fanaticism going on with regards to it. I do think that The Great Beauty's glitzy style helped it stand out among the nominees and inflame passions that its more mellow competition couldn't.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm so thrilled Azerbaijan submitted "Nabat." I will be rooting for that film as well as Israel's "Gett."

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I'd really love if critics groups will appreciate the 4-hour Norte, End of History. Film critics are just crazy over the meditative epic. It will add boost to the best Oscar submission of the Philippines. But then, can the Academy members sit through the film? If only Nat can champion it like the way he did with Bwakaw in 2012.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBimboy

Ida and Force Majeure. Both excellent movies.

Looking forward to Levithian, Mommy, Wild Tales, 1001 Gram

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

You're really good at this subject.

It was about time! I always thought that the director's name should be on the plaque. For instance, Spain did not nothing for Almodóvar as a filmmaker. He had to fund his own production company to finance Law of Desire and the rest of his filmography so there's no doubt his name should always have been on the plaque.

It's surprising how Portugal never managed to get a nod considering the prestige of Manuel de Oliveira.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'd like to second Irvin in backing Norte, or at least I hope it has a decent shot. I caught this at last year's London Film Festival and it really is extraordinary. It sort of has the feel of a TV miniseries, in part because of its length (over four hours), but also its domestic concerns and scope, although it certainly *looks* cinematic. There's one long shot of the female protagonist getting ready to go to work at dawn that's just spectacular. I was initially put off by the length, and there were definitely some references to Filipino politics that went over my head, but once it's hit its stride, it really is glorious filmmaking.

Agreed that Ida probably has the best shot, although I was slightly cooler on it that some critics. Still waiting to see Mommy. I don't understand how an internationally recognised director like Dolan, who's making accessible arthouse cinema, seems to have such trouble getting distribution anywhere.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Not to quibble, but haven't Bulgaria, Romania, Egypt, Colombia, Venezuela, and Croatia all submitted more than Turkey and Thailand without a nomination?

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Bulgaria -25 times
Romania -30 times
Egypt -30 times
Colombia -22 times
Venezuela - 23 times
Croatia - 23 times

(not counting disqualifications as I'm talking about actual competition)

i shall correct

October 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I've seen only 5 submitted movies (so far) and I'd say that Poland > Philippines > Russia > Brazil > Estonia.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSomeone

Bette - maybe but technically they were supposed to have been disqualified in the week between the deadline and this announcement if they were going to be. But I'm a bit surprised that Ireland's entry made it because I think it's a tv miniseries condensed.

October 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

NATHANIEL R - No, it was ME that was suggesting more than 5 nominees! I wasn't implying that you were suggesting that expansion.

What I am saying is that there are just as many, if not more worthy contenders from the Foreign Film submissions than the pool of realistic Best Picture nominees. And, if you want to go even further and include Foreign Films that were released in the USA during the calendar year, and not submitted by their country, the pool of contenders would swell to well over 100 movies. And, I would argue, that in a good year, those 100 movies would be of generally better quality than all but the top 25 or so American movies in real contention.

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoeS

When will they come calling for Portugal? I always compare this to our Eurovision performances... We never go anywhere.

We never get a global hit and when we do (like Miguel Gomes's Tabu) is a long shot that we know won't appeal to the commitee. Portugal has a tendency towards difficult dramas with a very close-to-home feel (as in, you'd understand the subject better if you were Portuguese) or artsy neorealist stuff. I always assumed some day they'd go for one of the de Oliveira ones, but they never bite! (not that de Oliveira is an easy auteur to digest, that is also a problem...)

Do you have any suggestions, Nathaniel? I can't see how we can get a nomination. We even tried two documentaries (José and Pilar and this one)! :P

October 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

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