While we wait for the rest of the official selections to be made by countries yet to submit entries in the Foreign-Language Film race at the Oscars by the Oct. 1 deadline, let’s take a closer look at the titles that already have heat after taking home awards at major international film festivals and show the most promise going into the next phase of the race.
Several hundred academy members of the Foreign-Language Film screening committee will watch the submissions (last year there were 81) and rate them. The top six vote getters make the shortlist and will be joined by three others selected by the members of the executive committee. Of the countries that have already named their candidate, below are the 10 films we believe to have the strongest chances, in alphabetical order by country:
“Death in Sarajevo” (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Billed by the 2016 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Jury Grand Prix and FIPRESCI prizes, as a “satirical parable about political dreams and nightmares” and directed by Danis Tanović, winner of the Oscar in 2001 for “No Man’s Land.” This marks the fourth time a Tanović film was entered into the competition; his most recent was 2013’s “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker” which made the shortlist, but was ultimately not nominated.
Director Pablo Larraín makes his fourth appearance in the field as helmer of Chile’s submission. He is a previous Oscar nominee for 2012’s “No” (also starring Gael García Bernal). This film about the hunt of the Communist fugitive and Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda screened during Directors’ Fortnight at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival before going on to both Telluride and TIFF this month and will be hitting the New York Film Festival next month. Larraín is also gaining buzz in the general fields with his English-language film “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman.
“The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki” (Finland)
Juho Kuosmanen’s film based on the true story of Olli Mäki, the famous Finnish boxer, during his run for the 1962 World Featherweight title screened at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and won the Prize Un Certain Regard. Although this is Kuosmanen’s first time in contention, Finland is coming off a successful 2015 after “The Fencer” made the short list last December.
“Toni Erdmann” (Germany)
Maren Ade’s dramedy about a father’s decision to reconnect with his adult daughter competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it won the festival’s FIPRESCI Award. Shortly after Cannes it won the FIPRESCI Grand Prix for best film of the year, a prestigious award that went to “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Boyhood” and “Amour” in recent years. She is the first female filmmaker so honored.
“The Salesman” (Iran)
Asghar Farhadi is back in the hunt for Oscar for his second film since the 2012 Oscar winning “A Separation” which was also a nominee for Best Original Screenplay. “The Salesman” competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and took home prizes for Best Actor (Shahab Hosseini) and Best Screenplay. Farhadi’s film focuses on the ways intimate relationships are tested by outside forces, this time by the life of the woman who previously occupied their new home.
“Ma’ Rosa” (Philippines)
Screening in competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Brillante Mendoza’s film about a convenience story-owning family struggling with daily life after the parents are detained by authorities for possible illegal activity took home the award for Best Actress (Jaclyn Jose). In 27 previous submissions, Philippines has never been nominated or even made the preliminary shortlist.
Playing in competition at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, “Paradise,” which follows three people whose paths cross during a time of war, won the Silver Lion for Best Director. Despite a long career, Andrei Konchalovsky is contending for this award for the first time. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1982 for his short film “Split Cherry Tree” and his feature “Runaway Train” was nominated for three awards in 1985 (Film Editing, Actor and Supporting Actor).
“Barakah Meets Barakah” (Saudi Arabia)
Mahmoud Sabbagh’s film about the romance between a guy from the middle class and a girl from a wealthy family was the first Saudi feature film to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival where it took home the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury this year. Saudi Arabia has only ever submitted one other film for consideration, 2013’s “Wadjda,” which many believed had enough buzz for the win but failed to make the shortlist.
Having already opened at home, Pedro Almodóvar’s latest feature about a woman confronting the events that led to an estrangement with her daughter had its international premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. This marks the sixth time an Almodóvar film has been submitted by Spain, of which one has won the Oscar (1999’s “All About My Mother”), a second has been nominated (1988’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”) and a third has made the shortlist (2006’s “Volver”).
“From Afar” (Venezuela)
This film by Lorenzo Vigas about a wealthy middle-aged man who gets sexually involved with a younger man from a street gang has had a long journey before becoming an Oscar contender, having competed at the 2015 Venice Film Festival beating out a pair of last year’s Oscar-nominated films “Anomalisa” and “The Danish Girl” to take home the festival’s Golden Lion award. This is the first shot at Oscar for Vigas and would be Venezuela’s first submission to be nominated.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions right here. You’ll compete for a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscars). Be sure to read our contest rules.