Poland’s “Ida,” Sweden’s “Force Majeure” and Russia’s “Leviathan” are among the films that have made the Oscar shortlist in the Best Foreign Language Film category, the Academy announced on Friday.
The other shortlisted films were Argentina’s “Wild Tales,” Estonia’s “Tangerines,” Georgia’s “Corn Island,” Mauritania’s “Timbuktu,” the Netherlands’ “Accused” and Venezuela’s “The Liberator.”
In a highly competitive year with at least 15 films that could easily have made the list, a number of notable films were left off.
Among them are Turkey’s “Winter Sleep,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year; Hungary’s ”White God,” which won acclaim in that festival’s Un Certain Regard section; Canada’s “Mommy,” from celebrated young director Xavier Dolan; Israel’s “Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe; and Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night,” from the Dardenne brothers.
While “Wild Tales,” “Timbuktu,” “Ida,” “Leviathan” and “Force Majeure” came into the Oscar race favorites for a spot on the shortlist, some of the other films were sleepers.
“Tangerines” and “Corn Island,” for instance, are both quiet, stark films, while “The Liberator” is one of the most old-fashioned films on the list, a lavish biopic of South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar. (It was no doubt helped by the presence of revered L.A. Philharmonic musical director Gustavo Dudamel, who wrote the film score and campaigned for the film.)
Six of the nine films were voted in by volunteers from all branches of the Academy, who viewed and scored all 83 of the eligible films over the past two months. Those six choices were revealed to a special executive committee on Thursday night, and that committee then added three additional films to complete the shortlist.
While the Academy never reveals which films are chosen by the general committee and which are saved by the executive committee, conversations with voters suggests that “Ida,” “Wild Tales,” “Force Majeure,” “Tangerines” and “The Liberator” were most likely general committee choices.
The nine shortlisted films will be viewed by phase-two committees in Los Angeles, New York and London over the weekend prior to Oscar nominations. Their votes will determine the five nominees.
The shortlisted films, followed by descriptions and trailer links from TheWrap’s complete list of eligible films:
Argentina, “Wild Tales,” Damián Szifrón, director;
Estonia, “Tangerines,” Zaza Urushadze, director;
Georgia, “Corn Island,” George Ovashvili, director;
Mauritania, “Timbuktu,” Abderrahmane Sissako, director;
Netherlands, “Accused,” Paula van der Oest, director;
Poland, “Ida,” Paweł Pawlikowski, director;
Russia, “Leviathan,” Andrey Zvyagintsev, director;
Sweden, “Force Majeure,” Ruben Östlund, director;
Venezuela, “The Liberator,” Alberto Arvelo, director.
Director: Damian Szifron
A sensation at Cannes, Szifron’s spirited black comedy consists of six different stories linked only by violence, revenge and a very twisted sense of humor. The film is uneven, with some of its stories working far better than others, but it builds to the kind of uproarious climax that makes it a real crowd-pleaser – in Cannes, in Argentinian theaters where it was a big hit, and quite possibly at Academy screenings as well (though it may be a bit too gleefully tasteless for more timid voters).
Director: Zaza Urushadze
A co-production with Georgia, this lyrical film deals with two elderly men — one of them builds crates, the other picks and fills the crates with tangerines — who are all that remain when everyone else in their village has fled to Estonia to escape the 1992 Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. When a battle on one man’s front porch leaves them to care for two wounded soldiers, one from each side, the men are sucked into a war both would prefer to ignore. Though it’s a strongly anti-war film, “Tangerines” is also a lyrical character study that makes its points quietly — a graceful and affecting human story all the more potent for its understatement, and a potential sleeper in the race.
Director: Giorgi Ovashvili
A Georgian, German, French, Hungarian and Kazakhstani co-production, “Corn Island” won the top prize at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival for its depiction of a remote region of Georgia where an elderly farmer and his granddaughter fight the elements and the aftereffects of a 20-year-old civil war.
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
The first-ever entry from Mauritania is a quiet, restrained and in the end devastating indictment of religion run amuck in a small African village under the control of Islamic militants. Director Sissako, whose film debuted in the main competition at Cannes this year, has a knack for composing images as striking as they are deeply unsettling. An upcoming U.S. release from Cohen Media Group, the film is timely, disturbing and most likely a real contender for the shortlist.
Trailer (no English subtitles).
Director: Paula van der Oest
“Accused” is known in its home country as “Lucia de B.” — a name derived from Lucia de Berk, a real-life nurse who was unjustly sentenced to life in prison for multiple murders. Director van der Oest was also responsible for “Zus & Zo,” which was nominated in the foreign-language category in 2002.
Trailer (no English subtitles).
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
“Ida” has probably been more widely seen in the United States than any other contender so far this year, with a lengthy and successful arthouse run that grossed $3.6 million. Gorgeously composed and shot in stunning black-and-white, the film quietly and slowly sketches the story of a novitiate nun who attempts to uncover details about her parents’ deaths in World War II, only to uncover facts that cause her to question her own identity. Stark, spare, subtle and spiritual, the film is a successor to the work of the French master Robert Bresson; the spell it casts may be too minimalist for some, but its almost universally positive reviews, its strong festival and boxoffice showings and its singular beauty easily make it one of the year’s strongest contenders.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Breaking Russia’s recent streak of submitting brawny period pieces with little or no chance of being nominated, Zvyagintsev’s slow, majestic and searing drama is one of the race’s strongest contenders. Adapting the Book of Job to paint a compelling and damning portrait of modern Russia, the film focuses on a man who must fight the corrupt local government that wants to steal his land. While it didn’t win the Palme d’Or that many Cannes-goers thought it deserved, it did take that festival’s award for best screenplay.
Director: Ruben Ostlund
Ostlund’s film, which won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at Cannes this year, is set in a remote ski resort, where a family has gone on vacation. When a controlled avalanche seems to be on the verge of wiping out the restaurant where the family is dining, the father’s impulsive reaction creates rifts that widen over the course of the next few days. The film is a subtle character study that leavens serious examinations of human behavior with humor.
Director: Alberto Arvelo
This big-budget historical drama had a U.S. release from Cohen Media Group, a cast that includes “Carlos” star Edgar Ramirez as South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar and a local connection: L.A. Philharmonic music director Gustavo Dudamel composed his first film score for the movie. It is a broad, sweeping historical epic that covers Bolivar’s campaigns for independence in South America, shot partly on that continent and partly in Spain.