Italy Sends ‘Dogman’ Into Oscars Brutally Tough Foreign Language Race

“Dogman” will join a race that is already filled with formidable contenders, including “Roma,” “Cold War,” “Sunset,” “Never Look Away,” “Birds of Passage,” “Shoplifters” and “Burning”

Italy has selected Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” to represent the country in the race for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Oscars – and with that announcement, which was made on Tuesday, most of the major pieces are in place for one of the most competitive races ever in the category.

“Dogman” premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The story of a small-town dog groomer and part-time drug dealer who has violent encounters with a local thug, the film is the latest from a director best known for the acclaimed 2008 gang saga “Gomorrah,” which caused a minor furor when it did not make the Oscar foreign-language shortlist.

Italy has won 11 competitive Oscars in the category plus three honorary ones, more than any other country. It selected the film from a list of 21 contenders, including Alice Rohrwacher’s “Happy as Lazzaro,” which won the screenplay prize in Cannes.

France, which has been nominated for more Oscars than any other country, entered the race last week by selecting Emmanuel Finkiel’s “Memoir of War,” a drama adapted from the Marguerite Duras novel about a young woman whose husband is arrested by the Germans in occupied France during World War II.

Italy’s announcement makes it one of the last major countries to announce its Oscar contender this year – and even with Argentina, China and Australia among the countries who have yet to announce their submissions, it’s clear that this year’s category contains a huge number of very strong competitors.

Among the 70-plus films that have been announced so far, the default frontrunner has to be the Mexican entry, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which is not only competing in the foreign category, but is one of the strongest contenders in the Best Picture category as well. Still, Oscar foreign-language voters have pulled off lots of surprises in the past – and even if “Roma” has all but locked in one of the nine spots on the shortlist and one of the five nominations, the battle for other spots looks to be fierce.

The contenders include three directors whose films recently won in the category: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck,” whose “The Lives of Others” won in 2007 and whose “Never Look Away” is this year’s German entry; Laszlo Nemes, whose “Son of Saul” won in 2016 and who is representing Hungary with “Sunset”; and Pawel Pawlikowski, who brought Poland the Oscar for “Ida” in 2015 and is back with “Cold War.”

Two other countries are represented by directors who’ve scored nominations in the category recently, Cambodia with Rithy Panh’s “Graves Without a Name” and Colombia with Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s “Birds of Passage.” Panh and Guerra were in the race with “The Missing Picture” and “Embrace of the Serpent,” respectively.

Then you can throw in half a dozen films that made an impact in Cannes, including the Palme d’Or winner, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” (Japan) along with Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” (South Korea), Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” (Lebanon), Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “The Wild Pear Tree” (Turkey), Lukas Dhont’s “Girl” (Belgium), Sergei Loznitsa’s “Donbass” (Ukraine), Abu Bakr Shawky’s “Yomeddine” (Egypt) and Ali Abbasi’s “troll sex” movie, “Border” (Sweden).

Other entries include Israel’s “The Cakemaker,” from Ofir Raul Grazier; Denmark’s “The Guilty,” from Gustav Moller; and the United Kingdom’s “I Am Not a Witch,” from Rungano Nyoni.

TheWrap has compiled and will continue to update a complete list of the announced entries, with links to trailers when available.

The films that have been announced so far are not guaranteed to be in the race; an Academy committee needs to examine eligibility before they are accepted. The deadline for submissions is Monday, October 1, with the full list of qualifying films announced by the Academy later in the week.