For this year’s international race, the Academy instituted some rule changes that meant that there were no surprises among the 15 shortlisted films, a group that consisted almost exclusively of the highest-profile films in contention. Still, the best-known director in the running, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, found his “Bardo” slipping out in favor of another daring auteur, 84-year-old Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski.

ARGENTINA: Argentina, 1985

Based on a real event in which prosecutors made an unprecedented case against the leaders of the military junta that had ruled Argentina, this courtroom drama won the Golden Globe for international film. The questions he tried to ask, director Santiago Mitre said, were important ones: “What is justice for? What is memory for? Why is it so important that societies at least try to bring justice for the future generation?”


Two 13-year-old boys forge a close friendship that turns tragic in Lukas Dhont’s gentle Cannes Grand Prix winner, which the director said was focused on the words fragility and brutality. “I wanted to make a film about a strong connection between young men, where we allow the space to be tender and intimate and sensual, even (and) then show what the loss of connection means to us as human beings,” Dhont said.

GERMANY: All Quiet on the Western Front

German author Erich Maria Remarque’s classic 1929 anti-war novel was turned into an English-language film that won Best Picture in 1930, but director Edward Berger’s harrowing adaptation is the first to be made in German. This perspective was important, Berger said, because of his country’s “sense of guilt, shame, terror, horror. A war film made in Germany will feel very, very different from an American film.”

IRELAND: The Quiet Girl

The first-ever Irish nominee in this category is an understated story of a young girl sent to spend the summer on a remote farm in an Irish-speaking town. “There are many different types of silence in the film,” director Colm Bairéad said. “You have the silence of fear and shame, the silence of grief and, in a strange way, the silence of love, where language fails us.”


In many ways the most daring of the nominees is this work from Jerzy Skolimowski, who shot much of the film from the perspective of a donkey roaming across Europe. Inspired by (but very different from) Robert Bresson’s austere 1966 classic “Au Hasard Balthazar,” the film found the director developing new techniques to work with his donkey actors. “I had my greatest weapon: carrots,” Skolimowski said. “In difficult moments, the carrots work miracles.”.

Steve’s Perspective

Three times in the last four years, one of the films in this category has also been nominated for Best Picture, and it has won the international Oscar all three times. That should give “All Quiet on the Western Front,” with its nine noms including Best Picture, a decided edge in the category. But the Academy’s membership is increasingly international and unpredictable, and the lackluster showing of “All Quiet” at the European Film Awards should cast some doubt on its appeal to those voters. (On the other hand, it did very well with BAFTA, and the U.K. has more non-American Oscar voters than any other country.) If the favorite falters, the polished “Argentina, 1985” and the moving “Close” could be the beneficiaries.