The Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) recently unveiled a list of 9 films shortlisted for nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category of this year's Oscars. You may not know this, but the Foreign Language Film category works a little differently to the other categories. They are not chosen "from scratch" by the members of the Academy. Instead, each country is invited to submit what it considers its single best film to the Academy. The submission must be made by an organisation, jury or committee composed of people from the film industry, whose members' names must be sent to the Academy. Then begins the process to pick the nominees. After the jump, read about the rest of the process and take a look at the 9 films shortlisted for the prestigious award this year. Who will be nominated? Which are your favourites? This is one of the strangest categories in the Oscars, but which always delivers some of the best films.
So, after each country designates its official entry, the following happens (mostly via Wikipedia):
- Copies of the submitted films are shipped to the Academy, where they are screened by the Foreign Language Film Award Committee, whose members select by secret ballot the five official nominations.
- Voting is restricted to active of lifetime Academy members, and only those members who actually attended all of the above screenings are allowed to vote. This ensures that people have actually seen the movies before voting. Because of trickier distribution, the time between a film's premier (in its home country) and when it hits the big screen can be extremely long.
- A nine-film shortlist is published one week before the official nominations announcement (this is the list referred to above).
- A smaller committee then sits for 3 days to choose the final five nominees.
That's all though. Instead of the Oscar going to the producers (like the Best Picture category), it officially goes to the country that submitted the film. The director of the film goes up during the ceremony to accept the award on behalf of the country. Weird.
Because it is the country of origin that needs to submit the film to the Academy, I'm sure you can imagine the controversy it can cause. Often the very best films may be overlooked due to corruption, or because they haven't been favoured in their own countries. Personally, I think it's a load of crap that a country has to submit the film. On the other hand though, imagine how difficult it would be to narrow down that list if this wasn't the case?
Back to this year's shortlist. See the trailers below. I think that A Separation is hands down the favourite. It is probably the best reviewed of any film in 2011, scoring a massive 8.6 on IMDB, 100% on Rottentomatoes and 94% on Metacritic. I am obsessed with those websites, and have never seen a movie do better. It just arrived in my mailbox on DVD, so I have not even seen the trailer. With those reviews one would think it has to win, right? However, when it comes to the Foreign Language Film Oscar one can never be sure. It is the hardest of the lot to predict.
From the trailers I have seen (i.e. all the others), Bullhead looks unbelievably awesome; Pina, Footnote and Monsieur Lazhar look great; and all the others look good too. I've had Pina (actually a documentary) on my Amazon wishlist for ages, and am now furious that I haven't ordered it. My nominee predictions are therefore (in no particular order):
- A Separation (for the win)
- Monsieur Lazhar
Belgium, Bullhead, Michael R. Roskam, director
Canada, Monsieur Lazhar, Philippe Falardeau, director
Denmark, Superclasico, Ole Christian Madsen, director
Germany, Pina, Wim Wenders, director
Iran, A Separation, Asghar Farhadi, director
Israel, Footnote, Joseph Cedar, director
Morocco, Omar Killed Me, Roschdy Zem, director
Poland, In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland, director
Taiwan, Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale, Wei Te-sheng, director