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‘Son of Saul,’ ‘Mustang,’ ‘Brand New Testament’ Make Oscars Foreign Language Shortlist

Colombia, Denmark, Finland and Germany are also included on a shortlist with few surprises


Hungary’s “Son of Saul,” France’s “Mustang,” Ireland’s “Viva” and Belgium’s “The Brand New Testament” are among the nine films that have advanced to the shortlist in the Oscars race for Best Foreign Language Film.

Also on the list: Colombia’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” Denmark’s “A War,” Finland’s “The Fencer,” Germany’s “Labyrinth of Lies” and Jordan’s “Theeb.”

There are few surprises on the list, six of whose entries were chosen by the votes of volunteers from all branches of the Academy who attended foreign-language screenings over the past two months and scored each film.

An additional three films were chosen by a Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee.

The films were chosen from 80 entries that qualified for this year’s race.

The Academy does not reveal which of the shortlisted films were selected by the general committee and which were added by the executive committee. But it is no secret that “Mustang,” “Labyrinth of Lies,” “The Brand New Testament,” “Viva” and “The Fencer” played very well to that committee, and were likely to be among their choices.

“Embrace of the Serpent” is likely an executive committee save — and while “Son of Saul” was the presumed frontrunner from the time it debuted in Cannes, it’s conceivable that the tough holocaust film was too divisive for that committee. If so, it certainly would have received a save from the executive committee.

Well-received films that failed to make the shortlist include Brazil’s “The Second Mother,” Iceland’s “Rams” and Guatemala’s “Ixcanul.”

The nine shortlisted films will be screened over three days for members of three “phase-two committees,” which will convene in Los Angeles, New York and London and pick the five nominees.

Worth keeping in mind: apart from 10 randomly-chosen members from the general committee, the 40 members of the phase-two committees are typically closer in makeup to the executive committee than the general committee.

Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 14, 2016.

The list:

Belgium, “The Brand New Testament,” Jaco Van Dormael, director;
Colombia, “Embrace of the Serpent,” Ciro Guerra, director;
Denmark, “A War,” Tobias Lindholm, director;
Finland, “The Fencer,” Klaus Härö, director;
France, “Mustang,” Deniz Gamze Ergüven, director;
Germany, “Labyrinth of Lies,” Giulio Ricciarelli, director;
Hungary, “Son of Saul,” László Nemes, director;
Ireland, “Viva,” Paddy Breathnach, director;
Jordan, “Theeb,” Naji Abu Nowar, director.