Film Bitch History
Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.


Powered by Squarespace
Don't Miss This!
Comment Fun

What will & should win Best Comedy at the Emmys?

"If Veep wins I won’t complain. Really smart series that ended on a perfect note." - Lucky

"Russian Doll is probably the most affecting show I watched over the last year. It's brilliant and I love it - but as you say, its format and its tone is not at all friendly to it winning this. I" - ScottC

"Fleabag: Exhilarating, high wire stuff. Any episode is a masterclass of writing." -Arkaan

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience



Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

What'cha Looking For?
« Christmas at TFE: "While You Were Sleeping" | Main | Review: If Beale Street Could Talk »

Oscar's Foreign Race Pt 7 - Famous Auteurs / Frequent Oscar-Seekers

by Nathaniel R

On Monday the 87 movie wide official list of Academy Award Foreign Film submissions will be whittled down to 9 titles. It's a merciless cull  -- why aren't their 15 finalists as in Documentary?  -- and even more ignominious is the knowledge that less that 50% of those that are deemed finalists will be discarded at the last second before they can taste victory. At least with a 10 wide list, just one more title, it would be kinder, giving you a 50/50 chance. That would feel like a toss of the die and thus more whimsical than unkind in the long run. 

But nevertheless, until that fateful cull on Monday, all the competitors in the huge foreign film category can feel excited about their prospects. Here's a last look behind the scenes at the field.  We've previously watched the trailers, broke the list down by genre, and discussed the female directorsfirst time filmmakers, and international hunks

Today we conclude the general field coverage with the 12 directors who ought to be familiar with the game at this point...

Just as in Hollywood where some directors are routinely favored by their hometown industry, each country tends to have its own darlings. NOTE: Due to several misunderstanding on Twitter and here in the comments, a reminder that this is NOT an all time list. This is a statistic lists solely based on directors who happen to be in play THIS year. Any foreign film regulars throughout history do not appear if they are not in play this year.

Carlos Diegues (sometimes referred to as Cacá Diegues) is the all-time leader in Brazilian Oscar submissions and an influential figure in his country's cinema. He's been entered into the Oscar race for the following films: Xica (1976), Bye Bye Brazil (1979), Subway to the Stars (1987), Better Days Ahead (1989), Tieta of Agreste (1996), and Orfeu (1999). His submission this year is the decades spanning circus drama The Great Mystical Circus (2018). None of his films have been nominated yet but he's still working at 78 years of age!

Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey), is a Cannes and cinephile favorite, who has been submitted five times beginning with his international breakthrough Distant (2002). Distant was his third film and all of his features since then have been submitted by Turkey except Climates (2006). The three hour long Wild Pear Tree (2018) is his current submission. Turkey has never been nominated for the foreign language Oscar category. Three Monkeys (2008), also by Ceylan, was the closest they came within the current system of Oscar voting since it made the January finalist list in its year. 

Markus Imhoof (Switzerland) has been submitted four times. More on him in the "previously nominated" section below. 


Mohamed Al-Daradji (Iraq) has been submitted quite a lot when you consider that Iraq has only submitted 9 films to date. His filmography accounts for 33% of their entries! His three submissions were Dreams (2006), Son of Babylon (2010), and now The Journey (2018). Iraq has yet to be nominated for the Oscar.

Alvaro Brechner of Uruguay
Alvaro Brechner has been submitted by Uruguay every time he's made a feature: Bad Day to Go Fishing (2009, his debut), Mr Kaplan (2014), and now the prison drama  A Twelve Year Night (2018). A Twelve Year Night stars the rising actor Chino Darín who also co-stars in Argentinia's submission this year El Angel

Silvia Caiozzi has been submitted by Chile three times for The Moon in the Mirror (1990, the country's very first Oscar submission), Coronation (2000), and now And Suddenly the Dawn (2018) which is the longest film from the 87-wild field clocking in at over 3 hours and fifteen minutes. It's his return to features after a 13 year absence. The 74 year old director made his debut as a director back in 1974 after a few years serving as cinematographer on other people's movies.

Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (the one in the boxing gloves) of Bangladesh
Mostofa Sarwar Farooki has been submitted by Bangladesh more times than any of his peers. Previously submitted for Third Person Singular Number (2010) and Television (2013) his latest is No Bed of Roses (2018)


Nadine Labaki is one of world's cinema's most successful female directors. She's three-for-three at home since every feature she's directed Lebanon has submitted: Caramel (2007), Where Do We Go Now? (2011) and now Capernaum (2018). No other Lebanese director has been submitted more than twice. What's more, all three of her films have been successful outside of Lebanon. Caramel broke the million dollar mark at the US box office (which is hard to do for foreign titles) and made $14 million globally and Where Do We Go Now? a musical, was also an international success, making over a ½ million in the States and winning a Critics Choice nomination for Best Foreign Film. Her new feature Capernaum, which we just barely discussed on the podcast, just opened in select cities. It won the Jury prize at Cannes this summer and is now nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film. GO SEE IT

Lee Chang-dong is one of the greatest South Korean filmmakers, a country with no small shortage of truly gifted filmmakers so that's saying a lot. Strangely South Korea has yet to be nominated. Lee was submitted previously for Oasis (2002), Secret Sunshine (2007), and now Burning (2018) which recently tied with Shoplifters as the best foreign film of 2018 at the LAFCA awards. Despite his reknown in South Korea they did not submit what we personally consider his best film, Poetry (2010). Burning is now in theaters in select cities so GO SEE IT.

Pietra Brettkelly (New Zealand) submitted for two documentaries A Flickering Truth and now the fashion doc Yellow is Forbidden 
Sergei Dvortsevoy (Kazakhstan) submitted for both of his narrative features, Tulpan and Ayka  (his submission this year which won Best Actress at Cannes in the summer).  He also makes documentaries.
Benedikt Erlingsson  (Iceland)  this actor turned director (who we're personally huge fans of) has been submitted for both of his movies to date, Of Horses and Men and this year's Woman at War  (which Jodie Foster has just optioned for a remake vehicle for herself).
Matteo Garrone  (Italy) submitted for Gomorrah and now Dogman
Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan) submitted for Nobody Knows and now Shoplifters, this year's Palme D'or winner. Read our interview with the master filmmaker here
Nour Eddine Lakhmari (Morocco) submitted for Casanegra and now Burnout
Dante Lam
(Hong Kong) This prolific action director has been submitted for To the Fore and now the war drama Operation Red Sea
Jamshid Mahmoudi
(Afghanistan) submitted for both of his movies to date, A Few Cubic Meters of Love and Rona Azim's Mother. He also produced and wrote Parting, another Afghan submission though he didn't direct that one.

And these three, who are discussed in the next section below.
László Nemes (Hungary), Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck  (Germany)


These directors are more familiar with Academy members having been on the circuit before promoting their films, or sometimes working in Hollywood. That does not, however, mean that their films will be favored though it does give them a slight advantage in that filmmakers who are more well-known always get more attention in any category. The Foreign race has a complicated nomination process which helps make the nominations more defendable given that the movies are actually being watched to a larger degree than in the more high profile categories where all AMPAS members in that branch are free to vote whether or not they've actually seen anything.

Alfonso Cuarón directed Mexico's hopeful Roma (reviewed) a year in the life narrative about a housemaid to a wealthy family in the Mexico City of 1970. It's his first Spanish language film since Y Tu Mama Tambien, an international hit that was not submitted by Mexico for foreign film. After that Mexican classic, Cuarón went on to make only English language films (until now) and won two Oscars, both for Gravity (2013) in the categories of Directing and Film Editing.

Imhoof promoting "El Dorado" at Berlinale

Markus Imhoof directed Switzerland's entry Eldorado, a documentary about the current refugee crisis. He's been submitted four times but the first time he was submitted in 1981 with The Boat is Full, Switzerland received a nomination. That '81 film was also about a refugee crisis but an earlier crisis, as it took place in World War II.

Géza Röhrig and László Nemes. Credit: Jose Solis


László Nemes is up for Hungary's Oscar submission Sunset, a pre-World War I drama about a woman taking over her family's millinery business. It's his second feature. His debut was the Holocaust drama Son of Saul, which won the Oscar in this category.

Pawlikowski won the Oscar for "Ida"

Pawel Pawlikowski directed Poland's tragic romance Cold War, about a singer and musical director having a passionate affair that stretches all over Europe during the 1950s and 1960s. Pawlikowski previously directed Poland's only Oscar win in this category, Ida (2013) the black and white drama about a novitiate nun. Ida was also nominated for Best Cinematography and since Pawlikowski has the same cinematographer again for Cold War and the film is even more breathtaking to look at, we hope that this one repeats that *extra* nomination. While many directors featured in the foreign-language film category go on to make English language films after breaking through in their home countries, Pawlikowski went in the opposite direction. He started his career with well reviewed English language films. He made the beautifully sad Last Resort and the sapphic romantic drama My Summer of Love (which introduced the world to Emily Blunt) before he started making acclaimed Polish dramas.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck directed Germany's three hour drama Never Look Away about two university students and a disapproving father. Von Donnersmarck's last submission The Lives of Others (2006), his debut, won the Oscar in this category in a hotly competitive year where it faced off with Mexico's Pan's Labyrinth. Never Look Away is only his third film. Inbetween his two German submissions, he faceplanted with his only English language picture, The Tourist (2010) starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie.

(because lolz and wtf?)

Teemu Nikki has the honor of being Finland's submitted directed this year with Euthanizer. It's only his third feature though he makes a ton of short films. Curiously Euthanizer lost Best Picture at Finland's own Oscars (called the Jussi Awards) but the film it lost to, The Eternal Road, would have only been eligible for submission by Finland in last year's Oscar race due to release dates, but they went with Tom of Finland instead for reasons we cannot fathom still. Name recognition doesn't mean much once people are actually watching the movies and that movie was not good. 


That's it for general field coverage. From now on we'll be concentrating on individual films, including those which make the finals of course. See the prediction chart here.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (22)

It should be 15 films. It'll allow for all the top contenders to make the shortlist, and yet still allow the smaller, not as popular, yet still brilliant films to make the list.

I've watched 33 of the foreign films right now and I'm always disappointed when the 9 are announced.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Rod -- oooh. do share your rankings of the 33.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Rod, 33 films! that´s awesome. What 9 films would you pick?

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRafael

Oh yessss tell us!! Please!

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

The Spanish director was nominated in the short fil category a few years ago

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterh

You left off Burning's Lee Chang-dong. His magnificent Secret Sunshine was South Korea's submission in 2007.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Also, so obvious that I, too, overlooked it - Cambodia's Rithy Panh, whose Graves Without a Name is a sequel to his Oscar-nominated Missing Picture.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

It's a shame that The Great Mystical Circus is an awful submission, does not represent at all the greatness of Brazilian movies this year. Loveling or Araby has should be picked instead.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterElton Telles

Promise this is the last one. Hirokazu Koreeda' Nobody Knows was Japan's submission in 2004.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.


please, share your rank!

I honestly hope that

ROMA* | Shoplifters* | Burning* | Capernaum | The Wild Pear Tree* | Birds of Passage | Border | Sunset |

Be on the final nine. And the *be nominated.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

I’ve seen 29 of the submissions and would go with the following list:

Burning, South Korea
Roma, Mexico
Birds of Passage, Colombia
Shoplifters, Japan
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Indonesia (available on iTunes!)
Capernaum, Lebanon
Girl, Belgium (I feel like I must preface: I’d love it except for the horrible ending)
El Ángel, Argentina
Woman at War, Iceland

Honorable Mention: Never Look Away, Germany; The Guilty, Denmark; I Am Not a Witch, the United Kingdom

Come to think of it, if they come up with their standard, majority European shortlist this year, that will be a real shame with all the great films out of Asia and Latin America.

Dishonorable Mention: Euthanizer, Finland (that photo above makes so much sense given the horrible worldview of that film... it is brutal and angry); Cocote, Dominican Republic (pretentious directorial choices, long ethnographic scenes of death rituals that bore you to tears); Operation Red Sea, Hong Kong (all action, no characterization or plot... one of the worst films I’ve ever seen)

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Funny thing is that I haven't watched Roma yet. It's in theatres now where I live so I'm watching it tomorrow.

Family First - Canada
Birds of Passage - Colombia
The Guilty - Denmark
Woman at War - Iceland
The Cakemaker - Israel
Dogman - Italy
Shoplifters - Japan
Capernaum - Lebanon
What Will People Say - Norway
Burning - South Korea
Border - Sweden
The Family - Venezuela

I wasn't a fan of Cold War.

I haven't watched Girl, Never Look Away ...

Worst one by far - Operation Red Sea, although Gutland was terrible too.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

I don't have a list of all Argentine submissions through the years (those who made it to the shortlist / nomitation or not), but Juan Jose Campanella was submitted twice, for Son of the Bride and Secret in Their Eyes. Additionally, I am practically sure he was submttied with either Luna de Avellaneda o El mismo amor, la misma lluvia.
Same thing with Pablo Trapero. Submitted for The Clan and Lion's Den. And (not 100% sure) for White Elephant.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos


Thanks for the list. I don't liked Cold War too. 🙃


Nathaniel consider only the submit movies and directors of this year.

But, yes: if we consider all the time, Campanella would be on the list. Like Almodóvar, Fellini, Bergman, De Sica, etc

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

I wish I could see Brazilian movies more often. I usually love them: Central do Brasil, O Quatrilho, Tieta do Agreste, Aquarius...

Rooting hard for Dogman because I got the feeling that it won't make the cut. Such an unequal fight this year.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue


December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

The list is missing the Panamanian director Abner Benaim who has directed two documentaries that have represented Panama at the Oscars.
"Invasion" which was the first time that Panama participated in the Oscars.
"Ruben Blades Is Not My Name" which participates this year.

Abner Benaim also directed "Chance" which was a great blockbuster in Panama but did not participate in the Oscars.

December 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

Oh dear! I forgot Cold War, which is literally my favorite movie of the year. I'd replace Woman at War with it.

Can't believe I did that!

December 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

"Signal Rock" is the second time Chito S. Roño was submitted by the Philippines. His previous submission was "Dekada '70" which had a similar-ish theme to "Roma" (but from the point of view of the matriarch rather than the maid).

Our most submitted directors however is a tie between Gil Portes and Marilou Diaz-Abaya who were submitted three times each.

December 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

peggy sue --- i would so love to do blog histories or even "smackdowns" of this category but in my research over the years I've found very few years (if any) where all five nominees are available 😢

December 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Deny Arcand (CANADA) was submitted 5 times, getting 3 nominations (Jesus of Montreal, Decline of the American Empire) and one win (Barbarian Invasions) Xavier Dolan was submitted twice; I Killed My Mother, and Mommy (which was a finalist).

December 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIshmael

I hate ROMA!!!! so pretentious empty and boring....BORING!!!!!

December 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStjeans

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>