A version of this story about “Another Round” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
When the Oscar nominations were announced on March 15, Thomas Vinterberg was sitting with a small group of friends in Denmark. The 51-year-old director, a fixture in world cinema since his 1998 sensation “The Celebration,” raised a glass of champagne after his 2020 release “Another Round” was nominated for Best International Feature Film. A buoyant drama about midlife crisis and day-drinking starring Mads Mikkelsen, it marks Vinterberg’s second film to be honored in the category, after 2013’s thriller “The Hunt” (also with Mikkelsen).
Then came the category of Best Director, where Vinterberg scored a surprise nomination. A video of his joyous, football-fan-like reaction went viral the next day.
thomas vinterberg’s reaction to the best director nom 🥺 pic.twitter.com/vEliUQpil9
— annabel (@mouthofbIood) March 15, 2021
“We all started screaming,” he said. “As far as we were concerned, it had been a very successful day with the nomination for International Film. But this was overwhelming. It’s such a great category of directors, and I’m very honored to be a part of this bunch.” (Vinterberg was so overwhelmed, in fact, that he didn’t catch the names of his fellow nominees – until TheWrap told him later that same day.)
Vinterberg’s nomination was notable for a few reasons. Since the Best Picture nominee count was increased in 2009, he’s the third director to be nominated without a corresponding best-pic nom (after Bennett Miller for “Foxcatcher” and Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War”). That an indication of deep and passionate support among the Directors Branch, who passed over Directors Guild nominee Aaron Sorkin for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” in favor of Vinterberg.
Since the 1960s, the Oscars’ Directors Branch has always been more generous to foreign language films. Since Federico Fellini was nominated for 1961’s “La Dolce Vita,” Vinterberg is one of 29 directors nominated for a film predominantly not in English. This year, he’s joined by American Lee Isaac Chung, whose “Minari” is mostly in Korean.
Now, 29 directors over a span of 93 years is not a lot. It’s under six percent, actually. But given that the Oscars are broadcast to a world audience, Best Director was the category where many viewers might have first heard of names of arthouse filmmakers like Krzysztof Kieślowski (nominated for 1994’s “Red”), Pedro Almodóvar (2002’s “Talk to Her”) or Michael Haneke (2012’s “Amour”). The first woman ever nominated for Best Director, Lina Wertmüller for 1976’s “Seven Beauties,” was for an Italian language film.
Italy, in fact, is the country with the most non-English-language nominees in this category. It’s followed by Sweden, the land of Ingmar Bergman, who was nominated for Best Director three times.
Vinterberg, from Sweden’s next-door neighbor Denmark, made history this year as the first Dane ever nominated for Best Director. “In the humble kingdom of Denmark, this has caused a bit of a hubbub,” he told TheWrap. Vinterberg’s nod rides the crest of a Danish New Wave, which has been growing since the 1990s and in the last two decades such filmmakers as Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 co-founder Lars von Trier (“Dancer in the Dark,” “Melancholia”), Lone Scherfig (“An Education”), Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive,” “The Neon Demon”) and Susanne Bier (“In a Better World”).
Recent history is also encouraging. Only two directors of films not in English have ever won Best Director. But they are the prior two, Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma” and Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite.”
For Vinterberg, who made “Another Round” in the wake of the tragic auto accident death of his 19-year-old daughter, the surprise inclusion by his peers is its own reward. “In the directors’ branch, these are filmmakers who I’ve been inspired by and who I’ve looked up to as heroes all my life,” he said. “It’s extra special that this nomination comes from them.”