On Friday, the academy announced the nine semi-finalists in the Foreign-Language Film race. As expected, “Ida” from Poland, “Force Majeure” from Sweden, “Leivanthan” from Russia and “Wild Tales” from Argentina all made the cut.
Also in contention are: “Accused” (Netherlands), “Corn Island” (Georgia), “The Liberator” (Venezuela), “Tangerines” (Estonia) and “Timbuktu” (Mauritania).
Among the high-profile pictures snubbed were two Cannes champ — Turkey’s “Winter Sleep,” which won the Palme d’Or and Hungary’s “White God” which picked up the Un Certain Regard prize — as well as Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night,” which has won several awards for Marion Cotillard, and Canada’s “Mommy.”
The nine semi-finalists will be screened three per day beginning on Jan. 9 by select committee members in Gotham, Hollywood and, for the first time, London. They will then vote for the final five which will be revealed, along with the other Oscar nominations, on Jan. 15. The entire academy membership will get screeners of the five nominated films and can vote for the winner.
These nine semi-finalists were arrived at by a two-step process. Several hundred academy members who volunteered to serve on the Foreign Language Film screening committee were divided into groups and required to watch at least 19 of the record 83 submissions over a two-month period that ended Monday (Dec. 15). They scored them from 6 to 10 and their top six vote getters made it to the next round. On Thursday, the 20 members of the executive committee met and added three more films to the mix.
Which three of the nine might those have been? Two of our top Oscarologists track this race closely.
Writes Steve Pond (The Wrap), “While the Academy never reveals which films are chosen by the general committee and which are saved by the executive committee, conversations with voters suggests that ‘Ida,’ ‘Wild Tales,’ ‘Force Majeure,’ ‘Tangerines’ and ‘The Liberator’ were most likely general committee choices.”
And Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood) says, “I would guess that ‘Leviathan’ might have needed a boost. I had heard that ‘Tangerines’ and ‘The Liberator’ were playing well, so ‘Corn Island’ and ‘Accused’ might have been committee adds. “
Below, a description of each of the nine semi-finalists.
Director: Paula van der Oest
A real-life story of a nurse, Lucia de Berk, falsely accused of mercy killings.
Van Oest directed 2002 nominee “Zus & Zo.”
“Corn Island” (Georgia)
Director: Giorgi Ovashvili
Set against the backdrop of the Georgian/Abkhazian conflict, this almost silent film follows a farmer and his granddaughter as they struggle to survive.
This is a co-production with France, Germany, Hungary and Kazakhstan.
“Force Majeure” (Sweden)
Director: Ruben Ostlund
This seriocomic film focuses on a family left shaken by the father’s actions during a controlled avalanche at a ski resort.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Shot in black-and-white and set in the 1960s, the film traces the journey of a young woman about to become a nun as she searches for the truth about her parents who died in World War II.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
A stirring drama about one man’s fight to keep his land that is about to be seized by a corrupt local government official.
Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes.
“The Liberator” (Venezuela
Director: Alberto Arvelo
A sprawling historical epic about the 19th century South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar (Edgar Ramirez).
Director: Zaza Urushadze
A stark tale of two old men abandoned in their village when it becomes a battleground between Georgian and Abkhazian forces during a 1992 border dispute. They give aid to two wounded soldiers.
This is a co-production with Georgia.
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
A gripping drama about a group of Islamic militants who take over a village in this west African nation.
This marks the first-ever entry from Mauritania.
“Wild Tales” (Argentina)
Director: Damian Szifron
A raucous anthology of six short films that share a common theme of violence and vengeance.
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