As defending champ Iran says it won't participate in the Oscars because of "Innocence of Muslims," Austria's "Amour" and France's "The Intouchables" look like sure-fire nominees
Michael Haneke's Cannes winner "Amour," the French hit "The Intouchables" and the Danish costume drama "A Royal Affair" are among the movies that have been submitted to the Academy for this year's Best Foreign-Language Film category at the Oscars.
With an Oct. 1 deadline approaching for submissions, more than 50 countries have announced their selections so far. The Academy invites countries to submit, and each country can only submit one film — meaning that critically-applauded films like Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" and Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" are out of the running, because their home countries, France and Portugal, opted for something else.
Defending champion Iran, meanwhile, chose Reza Mirkarimi's "A Cube of Sugar," then announced that it was instead boycotting the Oscars because of the YouTube video "Innocence of Muslims."
That trailer for a perhaps-nonexistent film is not eligible for Oscars and entirely unconnected with the Academy, but Iran's boycott means that the country will not participate in a competition in which history suggests it had very little chance of advancing.
Iran has been nominated twice in the category's 65-year existence, including last year's winner, "A Separation."
The Academy still has to determine that each country's selection meets the category's eligibility requirements; typically, one or two submissions are disqualified after being announced, for reasons that have ranged from too much English-language dialogue to not enough creative input from the country of origin.
(Last year's initial Albanian entry, for instance, was disqualified largely because its director was American.)
In October, the Academy will begin four months of screenings of the qualifying films – which usually number around 65 – for volunteer voters who make up the "general committee." The six films that score highest with those voters will make it to a shortlist, along with three additional films chosen by a hand-picked executive committee.
In AMPAS circles, these three additional films are called the "saves," and their identities are closely guarded but widely speculated upon.
In phase two, a 20-person committee in Los Angeles and a 10-person panel in New York will screen the nine shortlisted films and vote to select the five nominees.
Of particular note among this year's submissions is the Romanian entry, Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills." Mungiu's "4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days" wasn't nominated in 2007 – and outrage over that oversight, and with a couple of others, led to the creation of the current system, in which the general committee's choices can be augmented by more daring and unconventional selections. ("Dogtooth," anyone?)
Among the submissions that have been announced so far, the crowd-pleasing French film "The Intouchables," about the relationship between a wheelchair-bound man and his caregiver, seems all but certain to be a favorite of general committee.
The more austere and quietly powerful "Amour," which deals with an elderly couple as one of them begins to slip away, is likely to appeal to the general committee as well — and in the off-chance that it doesn't, it's hard to imagine that the executive committee wouldn't use one of its saves on this year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner.
Other strong submissions include Chile's "No," which won the Directors Fortnight award at the Cannes Film Festival; Germany's acclaimed "Barbara," from director Christian Petzold; and Canada's "War Witch," a winner at Tribeca.
In some cases, confusion still reigns: One group in Bangladesh, for instance, has announced that the country's submission will be "Ghetuputra Kamola," from the late director/novelist/playwright Humayun Ahmed, but a competing group claims it has the right to select the country's submission instead.
We will update the list as new submissions are announced and as the Academy rules on eligibility.