Last month the academy announced that 81 countries (down two from last year's record) have submitted entries in the Foreign-Language Film race. The nations represented range from A (Afghanistan) to V (Vietnam). Paraguay is the only first-time contender this time around.
Predicting the eventual five nominees is made more difficult by the two-step process. First, the several hundred academy members of the Foreign Language Film screening committee have been divided into groups and are watching a number of the submissions over a two-month period that ends in mid December. They will rate them from 6 to 10 and their top six vote getters make it to the next round, as will three films added by the 20 members of the executive committee. Those nine semi-finalists will be screened three per day beginning in early January by select committee members in both Gotham and Hollywood who will then vote for the final five which will be revealed, along with the other Oscar nominations, on Jan. 14.
Below, we detail the 10 films that we consider most likely to make the cut based on buzz, critical acclaim and the awards they've already won or for which they've contended.
1. “Son of Saul” (Hungary)
In a field this infamous for being unpredictable, it’s hard to ever call a hopeful a “lock for a nomination,” but most years don’t include a film like “Son of Saul.” There’s no way this isn’t nominated. Much has been said about how it’s a contender in other races like Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It would be a shock to not see it nominated.
Hungary has won the award only once, for “Mephisto” in 1981, out of eight nominations, The last of those bids was in 1988.
2. “The Assassin” (Taiwan)
Currently holding an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Assassin” is one of the highest praised foreign titles so far this year. Its revered helmer, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, won Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it also recognized by the cinematography and/or costume branches — it’s that gorgeous.
Taiwan has been nominated for the award three times, all for Ang Lee films, and won in 2000 for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
3. “Embrace of the Serpent” (Colombia)
“Embrace of the Serpent” has picked up a slew of awards throughout South America as well as the Art Cinema Award at Cannes. One look at our forum topic on the subject shows that many users have it at the top of their predictions.
Colombia has yet to earn its first nomination.
4. “The Second Mother” (Brazil)
“The Second Mother” won the Panoroma Audience Award at Berlin and the Special Jury Award for Acting at Sundance. A standout performance by Regina Case and stellar direction by Anna Muylaert make this a strong contender for a nomination.
Brazil has been nominated in the category four times, most recently in 1998 with “Central Station,” with no wins.
5. “The Club” (Chile)
“The Club” won the Jury Grand Prix in Berlin and arrives on the heels of 2012’s outstanding “No,” also directed by Pablo Larrain.
That was Chile’s first (and only) nomination in the category.
6. “Felix and Meira” (Canada)
A hit in its native country, “Felix and Meira,” won Best Canadian Feature at the Toronto Film Festival and all four Borsos Awards at the Whistler Film Festival.
Canada has won one of its seven bids to date.
7. “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” (Sweden)
This is Roy Andersson’s fourth film to be submitted as Sweden’s entry. While none of the other three were nominated, this looks like his year as his film won the Golden Lion at Venice and reaped five bids at this year’s European Film Awards, including Best European Film, People’s Choice Award, Director and Screenwriter.
While Sweden has won the award three times from 14 nominations, the last of these was 1983’s “Fanny and Alexander.”
8. “Rams” (Iceland)
Also nominated for Best European Film this year is “Rams,” winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
A nomination would be the second in Icelandic history and the first since 1991. More recently 2012’s “The Deep” did make the shortlist.
9. “Aferim!” (Romania)
Radu Jude won this year’s Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, a prize that was also claimed by Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”) in recent years. It’s nominated for Best Screenwriter at the European Film Awards.
Despite 31 entries, Romania has never been nominated though it made the shortlist in 2012 with “Beyond the Hills.”
10. “Mustang” (France)
Never underestimate France: they are the most nominated country in category history (39) and second to Italy in wins (12). While many assumed it would submit Palme d’Or winning “Dheepan,” France entered this coming of age story about five girls in a remote Turkish village. It’s up for two prizes at the European Film Awards, including Best European Film.