Weighing in on the Foreign Language Film contenders has become a sort of tradition for me at AD. Of course my commendable efforts to try and watch as many of the films as possible pales in comparison to Nathaniel Rogers’ current project/obsession over at The Film Experience, where he’s literally trying to watch all 81 submissions. When I bump into him at TIFF every year, he’s almost guaranteed to tell me that he’s off to see some random country’s Oscar submission. I of course haven’t seen all of them, but I have seen most of the buzz-worthy titles and I do want to thank the people who have helped me with screeners along the way. Such a project would not be possible without all the film festivals. Just recently, Montreal’s Le Festival Du Nouveau Cinema — which ended this past Sunday — helped me find the missing pieces of the puzzle, with screenings of their impeccably well organized program.
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The race for Best Foreign Language Film is as heated as it’s ever been this year. Movies from countries like Ukraine, Sweden, Canada, Turkey, France and Italy are in a heated race for the gold, but only a single film will emerge as the winner. Having covered more than 5 major film festivals this year I’ve had the chance to see most of the big contenders vying for the top prize. The quality this year has been unprecedented, so has the fact that now, more than ever, there are more ways than one to catch up with these fantastic films.

I’ve narrowed it down to eight films that have made their mark on the festival circuit and in theatres that stand a big chance for a nomination. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these had their debuts at Cannes and kept the momentum throughout the year. Of course, like any other year, there is a chance that some dark horses will emerge and trump the big boys, but for now this is how the race is looking. Take not that this is one of the most unpredictable categories and that in years best it was very difficult to correctly predict all five of the nominees.

Of note, I’m still dumbfounded by Ukraine’s decision to submit “The Guide” instead of Myroslav Slaboshpytski’s harrowing “The Tribe”, a film in total sign language and without subtitles that hits you like nothing else that’s come before it. It’s a brilliant film that is already a contender for my 2015 ten best list.

Wild Tales

“Wild Tales” is one hell of an original vision, which is not surprising considering it has been compared to early Tarantino because of its inventive narrative. This is a film that hits you hard, and then even harder, and then even harder, until you are left gasping for air when its final frame hits the screen. I guess you can tell I liked it. In fact, director Damian Szifron’s film has been sneaking into every single major film festival with very little word of mouth to go along with it, but the buzz is finally building and people are finally noticing what an incredible film it really is. You’ll be hearing a lot of comparisons to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and those comparisons wouldn’t be far off, as the film is composed of six standalone short stories that have a common theme of violence and vengeance.


Xavier Dolan’s “Mommy” is already breaking box office records in Quebec and will most certainly become Dolan’s highest grossing movie in the U.S. when it finally gets released early next year. It is then no surprise that his next movie will be his first shot in English and will star the incomparably talented Jessica Chastain. “Mommy” is a terrific movie that features mother and son constantly, maddeningly talking over each other, verbal fireworks that bring a rawness to a breathtakingly original movie shot in an absurdly squared 1:1 aspect ratio; there’s a scene midway that brilliantly explains why he decided to shoot his film that way. Dolan’s film might be overlong but his
ambitious vision more than makes up for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins it all come Oscar night.

Winter’s Sleep

Two Cannes favorites will also be duking it out for the top prize: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’or winner “Winter Sleep” and Andrei Zviaguintsev’s “Leviathan”. “Winter Sleep” stands no chance to win, but has enough fans to maybe, just maybe, squeak in as one of the five nominees. It’s a frustrating but rewarding film that is also the talkiest film I’ve ever seen, even more so than Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage”. It’s a mediation on violence, friendship, and family among other things, but more importantly is a film filled with beautiful landscapes and moments of sheer brilliance contrasted with a few moments of sheer boredom. I was a big fan of “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, so much so that it made my ten best list in 2012, but “Winter’s Sleep” doesn’t reach those heights nor does it really want to.


“Leviathan” is an incredible moviegoing experience that was – surprisingly! – chosen by Russia as its Foreign Language submission, despite the fact that the film is a downright critique of the scorned society the Putin regime has molded over the past decade in the motherland. A Russian man recruits his lawyer friend to sue a corrupt mayor who’s attempting to seize his house for demolishment. This corrupt mayor is the quintessential portrait of a Russia that its director Zviaguintsev isn’t proud of being part of, and it’s is no surprise the 50 year-old director now resides in Toronto, far away from his native country’s harsh realities. Many thought “Leviathan” deserved the big prize at Cannes this past May, which would only be fitting if it beats out “Winter’s Sleep” for a nomination.


If you haven’t heard of Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida”, you better get used to the name. It will most likely be on a ton of year end top ten lists and is a sure-bet for a Foreign Language nomination. Its subtle, holocaust themed narrative is a definite draw, but so is the brilliant black and white photography by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal and the impeccable performances by Agata Kulesza and Agata Trebuchowska. The harrowingly quiet narrative draws you into its story filled with dark secrets and even darker truths, as an orphan brought up in a nun covenant meets a long lost aunt who tells her the story of her Jewish heritage and the dark past nobody wanted her to know about.

Two Days, One Night

My next write-up for AD will most likely be my fascinating interview with the Dardennes brothers back in September at the Toronto Film Festival. I had just seen what I thought was the best movie of their career and one of the very best movies I’ve seen about the economy crisis. It was a blast talking to them about the film, Cotillard and what they thought was the best film of 2014. Here’s a hint: It’s a Linklater. Marion Cotillard is mesmerizing in her role as Sandra, a young Belgian mother who discovers her co-workers were pressured to choose between getting a significant pay bonus and having her keep her job. The way Cotillard approaches each and every co-worker, pleading — sometimes even begging — for them to change their vote is heartbreaking. It’s a movie that once again places the talented directing duo as one of the very best filmmakers in the world. A nomination for this movie seems a no-brainer at this point and I call Cotillard as a dark horse for a nomination in the Best Actress category.

Force Majeure

Just released this past Friday was Ruben Ostlund’s sometimes frustrating but immersively brilliant “Force Majeure”, a film that would play tremendously well in a double bill with “Gone Girl”. Both films tackle a “modern-day marriage” in fresh and inventive ways. Where Fincher’s film is a sly, devilish portrait of the modern day “cool girl”, Ostlund’s film is about the male ego and manhood in general.

A husband, his wife and their two kids vacation in the French Alps. On the first day they ski, dine, take “happy” pictures and nap together in bed. The scenery is picturesque and so is this – it seems – wealthy family. Everything changes on the second day. A moment happens that triggers the family’s trust towards the patriarchal figure. The husband is caught in a “fight or flight” moment and in a quick flash his role in the family is questioned.

The questions “Force Majeure” asks are tough and not easy to answer. What exactly is “manhood”? Are we a society caught up in gender stereotypes? Are our illusions of security and responsibility skewed, flawed? It’s a movie that sparks conversation but also asks us to look in the mirror and question everything we thought we knew about ourselves. In a brilliant third act, Ostlund pulls the rug under us and shows us the hypocrisy and lunacy of it all. This is a major contender.


I’ve sadly not seen Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” but it seems to have had a real impact on festival audiences since its showing at Cannes last summer. I’ve only heard positive things about it and look forward to finally catching up with it. It’s a film that looks at the impact and consequences that happen after Timbuktu gets briefly occupied by Islamic militants.

So there you have it, eight films that were some of the hottest tickets of 2014 at film fests. As I mentioned before, there were tons of films that were sadly not submitted by their country that really deserved a shot at the gold. The already mentioned “The Tribe”, Lukas Moodysson’s “We Are the Best” (Sweden) , Mia Hansen-Love’s “Eden” (France), Asia Argento’s “Incompresa” (Italy) and Canada’s “Felix et Meira” among others.

The Academy has vetted the list of submissions for Best Foreign Language Film and found a couple of titles that it deems ineligible. Variety reports:

The most notable rejection was director Agnieszka Holland’s “Burning Bush,” which was submitted by the Czech Republic but disallowed because it was made for and premiered on HBO Europe.

The Czech Republic was allowed to submit a replacement film, “The Don Juans.”

A bit behind the curve on this news, I posted the trailer for Fedor Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad a few days ago without knowing it had been announced last week as Russia’s official Oscar candidate.

Russian film director Fyodor Bondarchuk on Wednesday presented the Moscow premiere of his World War II drama Stalingrad, an epic about one of the bloodiest battles in history, and which Russia has picked as its Oscar entry.

Made with a budget of US$30 million (S$37.4 million) including financing from the government, Bondarchuk’s new film is the first Russian film to be shot entirely in 3D.

The film focuses on the battlefield friendship between five Soviet soldiers who are desperately defending a strategically vital apartment building against far-better armed Nazi occupiers. (straitstimes)

Bondarchuk’s father, Sergei, won the Oscar in 1968 with “War and Peace.”

thanks to @Pokernatic



Deadline is reporting that Palme d’Or winner Blue is the the Warmest Color will miss the window of opportunity to be eligible as France’s Oscar submission.

The Oscar rep selection committee at French film body the CNC requires that a film go out nationally in France before September 30 and Wild Bunch has set an October release. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval calls the rule “stupid” but tells me they believe October is best for the picture. Sundance Selects will release Blue unrated later this year in the U.S. Blue is expected to get a French rating that bars only kids under 12 because, Maraval says, “There are only positive values and love in the film, no violence or drugs.” When I asked him if he thought drugs were regarded more damaging than sex by the ratings board at the CNC, he said “Well, I hope sex is less serious than drugs, no?”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Nine films will advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 85th Academy Awards®.  Seventy-one films had originally qualified in the category.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

  • Austria, “Amour,” Michael Haneke, director
  • Canada, “War Witch,” Kim Nguyen, director
  • Chile, “No,” Pablo Larraín, director
  • Denmark, “A Royal Affair,” Nikolaj Arcel, director
  • France, “The Intouchables,” Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors
  • Iceland, “The Deep,” Baltasar Kormákur, director
  • Norway, “Kon-Tiki,” Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, directors
  • Romania, “Beyond the Hills,” Cristian Mungiu, director
  • Switzerland, “Sister,” Ursula Meier, director

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In the past year, Omar Sy has gone from being a French comedy writer and actor, to a star known internationally for his dramatic performance in The Intouchables. In February of this year Sy won the Cesar Award (France’s Oscar) for Best Actor, beating out a group of actors including his co-star, legendary French actor Francois Cluzet, and Jean Dujardin for The Artist. Since then, The Intouchables has since spent the year playing all over the world, and has become the highest-grossing French film of all time. The Intouchables, from writing and directing team Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, is the story of an unlikely friendship between Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic (Cluzet), and Driss (Sy), the young man from the projects hired to be his caretaker. While The Intouchables could have easily felt like an after-school special, the filmmakers and cast infuse every scene with so much humanity and humor that The Intouchables is one of the most genuinely heartfelt and uplifting movies of the year. I recently had the chance to correspond with Sy, and talk about crafting such a moving film. Here’s what Sy shared with me about working with an acclaimed French actor (Cluzet), how his own experience in the projects informed the character, and how he found the comedy in tragedy to help create The Intouchables.

Jackson Truax: The Intouchables is one of the highest-grossing films worldwide not in the English language. Why do you think the film resonates so deeply with audiences all over the world?

Omar Sy: I think it is at its core a very simple, human story that transcends culture and politics. Each of us has advantages and disadvantages in our lives, and to see these unlikely people helping one another through it, with warmth and humor, it strikes a chord. In a time when life has become difficult for a lot of people, when they have become very isolated, it’s nice to see a story about triumph and friendship.

JT: This is your third film with co-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. How has your collaboration with them evolved over the course of making several films?

Sy: When we first worked together many years ago, none of us had done anything. When they asked me if I wanted to act in their first film, I said “I’m not really an actor,” and they said “That’s okay, we’re not really directors.” Now they are amazing directors, and since we have done a few films together, there’s a lot of trust between us.

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA – A record 71 countries, including first-time entrant Kenya, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 85th Academy Awards®.

The 2012 submissions are:

  • Afghanistan, “The Patience Stone,” Atiq Rahimi, director;
  • Albania, “Pharmakon,” Joni Shanaj, director;
  • Algeria, “Zabana!” Said Ould Khelifa, director;
  • Argentina, “Clandestine Childhood,” Benjamín Ávila, director;
  • Armenia, “If Only Everyone,” Natalia Belyauskene, director;
  • Australia, “Lore,” Cate Shortland, director;
  • Austria, “Amour,” Michael Haneke, director;
  • Azerbaijan, “Buta,” Ilgar Najaf, director;
  • Bangladesh, “Pleasure Boy Komola,” Humayun Ahmed, director;
  • Belgium, “Our Children,” Joachim Lafosse, director;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Children of Sarajevo,” Aida Begic, director;
  • Brazil, “The Clown,” Selton Mello, director;
  • Bulgaria, “Sneakers,” Valeri Yordanov and Ivan Vladimirov, directors;

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Ugh. In case you need a reminder what a government tangled up with religious fundamentalists would be like.

(Jakarta Globe) Iran said on Monday it would boycott the 2013 Oscars to protest against the making of a crude anti-Islam video in the United States that has caused outrage throughout the Muslim world.

Despite tough censorship and the repression of leading film makers, Iranian art cinema has earned international acclaim over the past 20 years.

Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” won the Oscar for best foreign language film in February, the first Iranian film to do so.

Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said Iran would boycott the next Academy Awards “to protest against the making of a film insulting the Prophet and because of the organizers’ failure to take an official position (against the film),” the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.

He also urged other Islamic countries to boycott the Oscars.

Who’s being punished? What filmmakers pay the price for the sustained idiocy? Iran’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film was to have been Reza Mirkarimi’s dramatic comedy “A Cube of Sugar.”

With three prestigious French language films in play this year, how did a crowd-pleasing international box-office phenomenon backed by Hervey Weinstein prevail? (That’s a rhetorical question). Scott Feinberg broke down the possibilities at THR shortly before France settled on The Intouchables earlier today.

(1) The Intouchables, an $11.5 million dramedy, based on a true story, that was co-written and co-directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano and has become the second highest-grossing French film of all-time in France and grossed more than $355 million internationally (more than any other French film and, for that matter, any non-English-language film, save for The Passion of the Christ); and (2) Rust and Bone, a fictional drama that was co-written and directed by Jacques Audiard, a best foreign language film Oscar nominee three years ago for France’s Un Prophet, and features tour-de-force performances from Marion Cotillard, the best actress Oscar winner five years ago, and Matthias Schonaerts, the star of last year’s Belgian nominee Bullhead.

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Germany’s official 2013 Foreign Language Film submission, directed by Christian Petzold, summarized by Alt Film Guide.

Starring Nina Hoss, the political/romantic drama Barbara earned Petzold the Silver Bear for Best Director at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Additionally, Barbara received seven nominations for the Lolas, the German Academy Awards, eventually winning the runner-up trophy for Best Film… Set in 1980s East Germany, Barbara tells the story of a doctor (Hoss) banished to a small countryside hospital after requesting an exit visa.

Believe the raves. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within lives up to these promo quotes.

Updated via press release.

Beverly Hills, CA – Sixty-three countries, including first-time entrant New Zealand, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards®.

The 2011 submissions are:

Albania, “Amnesty,” Bujar Alimani, director;
Argentina, “Aballay,” Fernando Spiner, director;
Austria, “Breathing,” Karl Markovics, director;
Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina,”Belvedere,” Ahmed Imamovic, director;
Brazil, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within,” José Padilha, director;
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Thanks to our pal iggy for tipping us to Spain’s official Oscar submission, Pa Negre (Black Bread) which he summarizes thusly:

a terrific (but not your typical) coming of age movie during Spanish Civil Post-War with an amazing female ensemble and dealing with sexual repression and homosexuality in times of oppression among other issues.

For our Spanish-speaking readers, here’s a 4.5-star review at ELPAIS.com.


Finland’s Oscar selection jury today announced Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre as the country’s official Oscar submission. After its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Le Havre won the Fipresci prize and the special mention of the Ecumenical Jury. It was awarded best international film at the Munich Film Festival as it continues to rack up international honors. If Le Havre advances to become one of the five nominees, this will be Finland’s second trip to the Academy Awards — Kaurismaki’s film The Man Without a Past was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002.

Awards Daily reader Tero Heikkinen told us 10 days ago that Le Havre was poised to be Finland’s pony in this year’s race — since Kaurismaki has relaxed his attitude about participating. Tero translated this article outlining the background drama from Helsinki’s largest newspaper:

Academic Aki Kaurismäki has ended his personal Oscar-boycott that lasted for years. Le Havre is the favorite to be submitted from among the 25 Finnish feature films that have been released domestically from October 2010 through September 2011.

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(thanks to William Best)

(Thanks to JF) Poster after the cut.

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From Oscar.org. Thanks to Kevin K.

65 countries vie for 2010 Foreign Language Film Oscar®

Beverly Hills, CA (October 13, 2010) — Sixty-five countries, including first-time entrants Ethiopia and Greenland, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.

The 2010 submissions are:

  • Albania, ‚ÄúEast, West, East,‚Äù Gjergj Xhuvani, director;
  • Algeria, ‚ÄúHors la Loi‚Äù (‚ÄúOutside the Law‚Äù), Rachid Bouchareb, director;
  • Argentina, ‚ÄúCarancho,‚Äù Pablo Trapero, director;
  • Austria, ‚ÄúLa Pivellina,‚Äù Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel, directors;
  • Azerbaijan, ‚ÄúThe Precinct,‚Äù Ilgar Safat, director;
  • Bangladesh, ‚ÄúThird Person Singular Number,‚Äù Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director;
  • Belgium, ‚ÄúIllegal,‚Äù Olivier Masset-Depasse, director; Continue reading…

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