‘Drive My Car’ and ‘A Hero’ Make the Oscars International Shortlist, But ‘Titane’ Doesn’t

The French Palme d’Or winner is left off a list that is heavy on European (and especially Scandinavian) films

A Hero - Drive My Car
"A Hero": Amazon / "Drive My Car": Sideshow/Janus

Japan’s “Drive My Car,” Iran’s “A Hero,” Norway’s “The Worst Person in the World” and Italy’s “The Hand of God” are among the 15 films that will advance to the next round of voting in the Oscars Best International Feature Film race, the Academy announced on Tuesday.

The shortlist, one of 10 lists that were revealed by AMPAS after a first round of voting, contained relatively few surprises, also including high-profile films from Germany (I’m Your Man,” starring Dan Stevens), Spain (“The Good Boss,” with Javier Bardem), Denmark (the animated documentary “Flee,” which also made the doc shortlist), Finland (“Compartment No. 6”) and Iceland (“Lamb”).  

But it did not include France’s entry, Julia Ducournau’s transgressive drama “Titane,” which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The dark and bloody critics’ favorite was by far the highest-profile film not to advance, with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s dreamy “Memoria,” starring Tilda Swinton, also getting lots of attention from critics and cineastes but not clicking with Oscar voters.

Together, those two films showed the risk that comes when countries submit challenging films to the Oscar race, where first-round decisions are made by volunteers from all branches of the Academy who must watch a minimum number of films (12 this year) for their votes to count.

In the past, a hand-picked executive committee was able to add three films of its own choosing to the shortlist, a process that would likely have helped “Titane” and “Memoria,” and perhaps Romania’s “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.” But the exec committee “saves” were eliminated last year, putting all the decisions in the hands of more mainstream voters – although those voters did select “Lamb,” itself a strange and disturbing film.

Other films to make the shortlist were Mexico’s “Prayers for the Stolen,” Austria’s “Great Freedom,” Belgium’s “Playground,” Kosovo’s “Hive,” Bhutan’s “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” and Panama’s “Plaza Catedral.”

The films from Kosovo, Bhutan and Panama mark those countries’ first appearance on the Oscar shortlist.

The shortlist is heavily European, with 10 of the 15 films coming from that continent. Four of the European films are from Scandinavia, with Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland on the list. (Of the five Nordic countries that submitted films, only Sweden failed to advance.)

Two of the shortlisted films were from the Americas, and three from Asia.  

Four of the films are directed by women: Blerta Basholli with Kosovo’s “Hive,” Tatiana Huezo with Mexico’s “Prayers for the Stolen,” Maria Schrader with Germany’s “I’m Your Man” and Laura Wandel with Belgium’s “Playground.”

A record-tying 93 films qualified in the category, but Jordan later withdrew its entry, “Amira,” after the film was criticized by Palestinian families and prisoners-rights organizations.

All members of the Academy who have seen all 15 shortlisted films are eligible to cast ballots in a second round of voting from Jan. 27 through Feb. 1. That round will select the five nominees, which will be announced on Feb. 8.

The shortlist:

Austria, “Great Freedom”
Belgium, “Playground”
Bhutan, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”
Denmark, “Flee”
Finland, “Compartment No. 6”
Germany, “I’m Your Man”
Iceland, “Lamb”
Iran, “A Hero”
Italy, “The Hand of God”
Japan, “Drive My Car”
Kosovo, “Hive”
Mexico, “Prayers for the Stolen”
Norway, “The Worst Person in the World”
Panama, “Plaza Catedral”
Spain, “The Good Boss”