Everything you wanted to know about the foreign language film race ...but were afraid to ask*
Though Hollywood has an appaling track record when it comes to female representation behind the camera, other countries actually fare a lot better in this regard. Oh sure, it's still not as easy as it is for the men, but each and every year we see several female filmmakers from various countries around the Globe chosen as the best representative of their country's cinema. Now try to imagine how rarely that would happen if the USA had to export only one film to represent them annually. Hard to imagine isn't it? The only times it might conceivably have happened would have been Lost in Translation (2003) which lost best picture to a New Zealand production or The Hurt Locker (2009) which actually won best picture.
The 20 Oscar Nominated Foreign Language Films Directed By Women (and this year's hopefuls) after the jump. If you've ever wanted to do that 52 films by women viewing challenge some great ideas follow...
2015 Mustang (France) by Denis Gamze Erguven
2011 In Darkness (Poland) by Agnieska Holland*
2010 In a Better World (Denmark) by Susanne Bier - winner*
2009 The Milk of Sorrow (Peru) by Claudia Losa
2006 Water (Canada) by Deepa Mehta
After the Wedding (Denmark) by Susanne Bier
2005 Don't Tell (Italy) by Cristina Comencini
2002 Zus & Zo (The Netherlands) by Paula van der Oest
Nowhere in Africa (Germany) by Caroline Link - winner*
2000 The Taste of Others (France) Agnes Jaoui
1997 Beyond Silence (German) by Caroline Link
1996 A Chef in Love (Georgia) by Nana Dzhordzhadze
The Other Side of Sunday (Norway) by Berit Nesheim
1995 Antonia's Line (The Netherlands) by Marleen Gorris - winner
1988 Salaam Bombay! (India) by Mira Nair
1985 Angry Harvest (Germany) by Agnieska Holland
1984 Camilla (Argentina) by María Luisa Bemberg
1983 Entre Nous (France) by Diane Kurys
1976 Seven Beauties (Italy) by Lina Wertmuller**
1959 Paw (Denmark) by Astrid Henning-Jensen **
* Academy Darlings: Caroline Link (Germany), Susanne Bier (Denmark), and Agnieska Holland (German/Poland) are the only women who have had more than one film nominated in the foreign language film category though Paula van der Oest (The Netherlands) has another shot at joining them this year with her new film Tonio. Holland would surely be the leader with three had Germany submitted the very popular Europa Europa in its year, 1991 (she was nominated for its screenplay and it won the Globe for Best Foreign Film)
** Record Firsts: Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for Best Director at the Oscars (for this same film which curiously lost Best Foreign Film); Astrid Henning-Jensen (1914-2002) was the first woman to helm a film nominated in the foreign film category and she did it in the fourth year of the category's existence! (Notice that Scandinavia accounts for 20% of the female nominees in this category)
This year 85 films will compete for the nominations and 15 of those were made by women. So brava to the following 15 for making movies that were so well received in their home countries that they might be up for an Oscar in a few months.
THIS YEAR'S CONTENDERS...
Toni Erdmann for Germany
Everyone loves Toni Erdmann, her estranged and strange father/daughter comedy. Jason called it "astonishing" right here at TFE. This is Ade's third feature as a director. She also produces -- you'll see her name on some Miguel Gomes pictures like Tabu and the Arabian Nights trilogy.
I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced for Yemen
This year marks the first time Yemen has ever submitted a film for consideration in the Oscar Foreign Language Film race. Before Nojoom, this Yemeni writer/director/producer who resides in Paris had directed 3 documentaries and 1 narrative feature.
A Flickering Truth for New Zealand
We've already reviewed her documentary about film preservation in Afghanistan. This is her 5th documentary. Though at least one documentary film is submitted every year in the foreign film category only two have ever been nominated (Cambodia's The Missing Picture and Israel's Waltz With Bashir). But might we see her film also qualifying for the Documentary race?
Mother for Estonia
We reviewed her deadpan comic mystery film about a mother and her comatose son. Mother is the third feature for this 36 year old. Her debut Magnus (2007) previously played Cannes Un Certain Regard section
Hang in There, Kids! for Taiwan
She made one previous feature under her Chinese name but this time she went by her aboriginal name since the film is about Aboriginal children. [Thank you to John in the comments for clearing up the confusion about her filmography - Editor]
This 54 year old director is quite prolific having made dozens of shorts and seven features in her 25 years of filmmaking. This one about a young man in an Latvian collective farm is an homage to Eastern Bloc cinema. This is the first of her films to be submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.
Breadcrumbs for Uruguay
This 62 year old director has made a handful of South American and Spanish features as well as documentaries and television in her home country.
Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe for Austria
This German actress/director previously co-starred in the Golden Globe nominated foreign film Aimee & Jaguar (1999) and in the Oscar nominated In Darkness (2011). This biopic of a famous Jewish writer (the man who inspired Oscar favorite The Grand Budapest Hotel) is her third feature behind the camera.
Athina Rachel Tsangari
Chevalier for Greece
She first broke through with Attenberg in 2010. Chevalier (reviewed) is her third directorial feature and has won several prizes including Best Film at last year's London Film Festival. Tsangari also produces (see Dogtooth, Before Midnight, etcetera)
Paula van der Oest
Tonio for The Netherlands
Van der Oest is no stranger to the Oscars. The Netherlands have sent a film by this prolific woman three times to represent them. On both previous occasions her films fared well. Zus & Zo was nominated in 2002 and Accused made the finalist list for 2014. Will they like Tonio as much? The 51 year old director splits her time between directing movies for film and writing and directing TV in her home country.
Julia Vargas Weise
Sealed Cargo for Bolivia
This is her third feature.
Please Note: There are 4 additional female directors in the race
The other women helming Foreign Film contenders this year are all making their narrative feature debuts so we've already introduced them in the previous "debut directors" post: Russudan Glujidze (Georgia), Mai Masri (Jordan), Tunku Mona Riza (Malaysia), and Elite Zexer (Israel)