“Broken Circle Breakdown” and “The Grandmaster” also make the list; in a major surprise, Asghar Farhadi's film does not
Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” (pictured above), Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” and Felix van Groeningen’s “Broken Circle Breakdown” are among the nine films selected for the shortlist in the Best Foreign Language Film category, the Academy announced on Friday.
Shockingly, Asghar Farhadi's “The Past” did not make the list. Farhadi's last film, “A Separation,” won the Oscar two years ago, and his latest was expected to be a frontrunner in the category.
Other films that made the shortlist were a documentary from Cambodia, “The Missing Picture,” Wong Kar-wai's martial arts epic “The Grandmaster” from Hong Kong, Germany's “Two Lives,” Hungary's “The Notebook,” Bosnia and Herzegovina's “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker” and Palestine's “Omar” — one of two films about the relationship between an Israeli secret service agent and his Palestinian informant.
The other film with a similar theme, Israel's “Bethelehem” — which was made before “Omar” — did not make the list.
Among the other high-profile films that did not make the shortlist were Saudi Arabia's “Wadjda,” Chile's “Gloria,” Canada's “Gabrielle,” Russia's “Stalingrad” and Mexico's “Heli.”
With “Wadjda” and “The Past” out of the running, and with India opting to submit the non-shortlisted “The Good Road” over “The Lunchbox,” Sony Pictures Classics is surprisingly out of the running in the category. Films distributed by the company had won the last four years in a row.
In a race with no clear frontrunner the way “Amour” and “A Separation” have been in years past, “The Hunt” and “The Great Beauty” are perhaps the most visible and celebrated of the shortlisted films. But “Broken Circle Breakdown,” which mixes bluegrass music with a love story and a family tragedy, has been garnering tremendous buzz in recent weeks with a number of local screenings.
Danis Tanovic, the director of the Bosnian film, “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker,” also directed the 2002 foreign-language Oscar winner “No Man's Land.” “Paradise Now,” a previous film from “Omar” director Hany Abu-Assad, was nominated for the award in 2006.
The films were chosen in a two-step process from a record field of 76 films submitted by their home countries.
Volunteers from all Academy branches who made up the foreign-language “general committee” have viewed the films at AMPAS screenings over the last two months, scoring them on a scale of 7 to 10.
The six films with the highest average score from the general committee make up two-thirds of the shortlist – and then on Thursday night, a hand-picked 20-member “executive committee” met, learned the identity of those six films and chose three additional films to complete the list.
A pair of phase-two committees, one in Los Angeles and one in New York, will view the nine shortlisted films over a period of three days, and vote to select the five nominees.
The Academy does not release the breakdown of which films were chosen by the general committee and which were added by the executive committee, though it has at times been easy to surmise which group was likely responsible for shortlist entries.
Among this year's choices, “The Grandmaster,” “The Broken Circle Breakdown” and “Two Lives” seem likely to be general-committee picks, and possibly “The Hunt” and “Omar” as well.
“The Great Beauty” is known to have been a very divisive film among AMPAS viewers. While love-them-or-hate-them movies tend to fare well with the Academy's preferential process of vote-counting in major categories, the scoring system used in the foreign-language category does not favor that type of film, meaning it's possible that Sorrentino's film needed an exec-committee “save.”
But the three other films on the list — “The Missing Picture,” in which director Rithy Panh uses clay figurines to reenact the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge in his home country; “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker,” with non-professional actors and a documentary-style approach; and “The Notebook,” a dark story of two young boys living with their brutal grandmother during World War II — all have the hallmarks of executive-committee choices, also.
Last week, the Golden Globes nominated “The Past,” “The Hunt,” “The Great Beauty” and two films that were not eligible in the Oscar foreign-language race, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” and “The Wind Rises.”
Belgium, “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Felix van Groeningen, director
Bosnia and Herzegovina, “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker,” Danis Tanovic, director
Cambodia, “The Missing Picture,” Rithy Panh, director
Denmark, “The Hunt,” Thomas Vinterberg, director
Germany, “Two Lives,” Georg Maas, director
Hong Kong, “The Grandmaster,” Wong Kar-wai, director
Hungary, “The Notebook,” Janos Szasz, director
Italy, “The Great Beauty,” Paolo Sorrentino, director
Palestine, “Omar,” Hany Abu-Assad, director