‘The Zone of Interest,’ ‘The Taste of Things’ Give Oscars International Race a Pair of Favorites

With more than 50 countries in the running already, the French and British submissions immediately become frontrunners

The Pot au Feu Cannes movie still
"The Pot au Feu" (Courtesy Cannes)

The Oscars Best International Feature Film race landed two major frontrunners on the same day on Thursday, with the United Kingdom submitting Jonathan Glazer’s chilling World War II drama “The Zone of Interest” and France following with Tran Anh Hung’s rapturous “The Taste of Things” in the one-film-per-country competition.

“The Zone of Interest,” set among German families who live on the outskirts of Auschwitz, won the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and won raves as one of the most original and unnerving films to deal with the Holocaust since “Son of Saul,” which won the Oscar in this category eight years ago. It was considered the obvious choice for the U.K. to submit.

France, on the other hand, had an extremely difficult choice between Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall,” starring Sandra Huller as a woman on trial for murdering her husband, and its fellow Cannes entry, “The Taste of Things,” a period drama starring Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel as a restaurateur and chef in 19th century France.

The French selection committee met Thursday after narrowing the choice down to “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Taste of Things” (previously titled “The Pot-au-Feu” and, in France, “La Passion de Dodin Bouffant”), Thomas Cailey’s “The Animal Kingdom,” Denis Imbert’s “On the Wandering Paths” and Clement Cogitore’s “Sons of Ramses (Coutte d’Or).”

The French and British selections are now among the top contenders in this year’s race, in which more than 50 countries have now made their selections. Last year, 92 films qualified in the category, one shy of the record; this year’s pace of submissions is running very close to 2022.  

Other notable films submitted so far include Spain’s “Society of the Snow,” a survival tale from J.A. Bayona; Finland’s “Fallen Leaves,” a deadpan romantic comedy from celebrated auteur Aki Kaurismaki; and Italy’s “Io Capitano,” a drama about immigration from “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone. Japan made one of the most unusual high-profile choices, bypassing Japanese directors Hayao Miyazaki and Hirokazu Kore-eda to submit “Perfect Days,” a gentle drama from German director Wim Wenders about an elderly man who cleans public toilets in Tokyo. Wenders, who has represented Germany three times in the Oscars international race, is the first non-Asian director to represent Japan in the race.

Also in the running: Australia’s “Shayda,” which won raves at Sundance; Bhutan’s “The Monk and the Gun,” director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s followup to his surprise 2021 nominee “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”; Bulgaria’s “Blaga’s Lessons,” which won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival; and a number of films that played in Cannes this year, including Belgium’s “Omen,” Brazil’s “Pictures of Ghosts,” Chile’s “The Settlers” and Turkey’s “About Dry Grasses.”

Defending champion Germany has submitted “The Teacher’s Lounge,” about an idealistic teacher at a school plagued by thefts, while Iceland has gone with the period drama “Godland,” which began making the rounds of festivals at Cannes in 2022. Romania, which often submits uncompromising films from its formidable crop of directors but has only been nominated for the documentary “Collective,” has gone back to Radu Jude for the fourth time with the black comedy “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World.”

Documentaries in the running include Canada’s “Rojek,” Tunisia’s “Four Daughters,” Brazil’s “Pictures of Ghosts,” Estonia’s “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” and Ukraine’s “20 Days in Mariupol.”

Argentina, Denmark and Mexico re among the countries that have yet to announce their submissions.

Here is the list of submissions so far. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee that a film will qualify, because the Academy still needs to vet each film to make sure it meets eligibility requirements ranging from the amount of non-English dialogue to the creative control exercised by the country of origin.

Armenia: “Amerikatsi,” Michael A. Goorjian
Australia: “Shayda,” Noora Niasari
Belgium: “Omen (Agure),” Baloji
Bhutan: “The Monk and the Gun,” Pawo Choyning Dorji
Bolivia: “The Visitor,” Martin Boulocq
Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Excursion,” Una Gunjak
Brazil: “Pictures of Ghosts,” Kleber Mendonca Filho
Bulgaria: “Blaga’s Lessons,” Stephan Komandarev
Canada: “Rojek,” Zayne Akyoi                                                    
Chile: “The Settlers,” Felipe Galvez Haberle                                
Colombia: “A Male,” Fabian Hernandez Alvarado
Croatia: “Traces,” Dubravka Turic
Czech Republic: “Brothers,” Tomas Masin
Egypt: “Voy! Voy! Voy!” Omar Hilal
Estonia: “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood,” Anna Hints             
Finland: “Fallen Leaves,” Aki Kaurismaki
France: “The Taste of Things” (“La Passion de Dodin Bouffant”), Tran Anh Hung
Georgia: “Citizen Saint,” Tinatin Kajrishvili
Germany: “The Teacher’s Lounge,” Ilker Catak               
Greece: “Behind the Haystacks,” Asimina Proedrou
Hungary: “Four Souls of Coyote,” Aron Gauder
Iceland: “Godland,” Hiynur Palmason
Indonesia: “Autobiography,” Makbul Mubarak
Iran: “The Night Guardian,” Reza Mikarimi
Iraq: “Hanging Gardens,” Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji
Israel: “Seven Blessings,” Ayelet Mehahemi
Italy: “Io Capitano,” Matteo Garrone
Japan: “Perfect Days,” Wim Wenders                                         
Kyrgyzstan: “This Is What I Remember,” Aktan Abdykalykov
Latvia: “My Freedom,” Ilze Kunga-Melgaile
Lithuania: “Slow,” Marija Kavtaradze
Luxembourg: “The Last Ashes,” Loic Tanson
Montenegro: “Sirin,” Senad Sahmanovic
Morocco: “The Mother of All Lies,” Asmae El Moudir
Nepal: “Halkara,” Bikram Sapkota
Netherlands: “Sweet Dreams,” Ena Sendijarevic
North Macedonia: “Housekeeping for Beginners,” Goran Stolevski
Panama: “Tito, Margot & Me,” Mercedes Arias, Delfina Vidal
Paraguay: “The Last Runway 2, Commando Yaguarete,” Armando Aquino, Mauricio Rial
Peru: “The Erection of Toribio Bardelli,” Adrian Saba
Portugal: “Bad Living,” Joao Canijo
Romania: “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World,” Radu Jude
Slovakia: “Photophobia,” Ivan Ostrochovsky, Pavol Pakarcik
Slovenia: “Riders,” Dominik Mencej
South Korea: “Concrete Utopia,” Um Tae-hwa                
Spain: “Society of the Snow,” J.A. Bayona
Sweden: “Opponent,” Milad Alami
Switzerland: “Thunder,” Carmen Jaquier                        
Taiwan: “Marry My Dead Body,“ Cheng Wei-hao
Tajikistan: “Melody,” Behrouz Sebt Rasoul         
Tunisia: “Four Daughters,“ Kaother Ben Hania                
Turkey: “About Dry Grasses,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Ukraine: “20 Days in Mariupol,” Mstyslav Chernov
United Kingdom: “The Zone of Interest,” Jonathan Glazer
Uruguay: “Family Album,” Guillermo Rocamora
Yemen: “The Burdened,” Amr Gamal