Oscars: 9 Foreign Language Film semi-finalists include ‘The Square,’ ‘In the Fade’ but not ‘First They Killed My Father’ or ‘BPM (Beats Per Minute)’

On Thursday (Dec. 14), the academy announced the nine semi-finalists in the Foreign-Language Film race at the Oscars. The clear frontrunner in the group is the Swedish entry, “The Square,” which just swept the European Film Awards. Among its rivals for Best Picture at the EFAs were two other films that have made the cut with the academy: Hungary’s “On Body And Soul” and Russia’s “Loveless.”

One of the other five EFA nominees was submitted to the Oscars but was snubbed: France’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” The fifth EFA contender “The Other Side of Hope,” was not entered by Finland which went with “Tom of Finland” instead.

While last year’s shortlist of line had six films from Europe, this year’s has only four with Germany’s “In the Fade,” which earned Diane Kruger the Best Actress award at Cannes, rounding out that quartet.

The other five films still in contention include two from Africa (Senegal’s “Félicité” and South Africa’s “The Wound”), two from the Middle East (Israel’s “Foxtrot” and Lebanon’s “The Insult) and one from South America (Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman”).

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The absence of Asia from the shortlist is striking, especially given the high profile of the Cambodian entry “First They Killed My Father” by Angelina Jolie, which qualified based on her dual citizenship with that country. This acclaimed biopic chronicles the horrific childhood of Loung Ung under the deadly Khmer Rouge in 1970s Cambodia. Jolie worked with Ung, who is now a human rights activist, to adapt her 2000 memoir of the same name. One of Jolie’s children, Maddox, is Cambodian by birth, and she says he was the one who encouraged her to make this movie as he wanted to know more about his heritage.

Six of the nine film were decided by the several hundred academy members who volunteered to be on the Foreign-Language Film screening committee while the other three were added by the 20 members of the executive committee, chaired by academy governor and Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” 1988).

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The nine semi-finalists culled from a record 92 entries are:

Chile, “A Fantastic Woman,” Sebastián Lelio, director

Germany, “In the Fade,” Fatih Akin, director;

Hungary, “On Body and Soul,” Ildikó Enyedi, director

Israel, “Foxtrot,” Samuel Maoz, director

Lebanon, “The Insult,” Ziad Doueiri, director

Russia, “Loveless,” Andrey Zvyagintsev, director

Senegal, “Félicité,” Alain Gomis, director

South Africa, “The Wound,” John Trengove, director

Sweden, “The Square,” Ruben Ostlund, director

These nine semi-finalists will be screened three per day beginning in early January for academy members in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London and will also be available online. Those who can attest to seeing all the semi-finalists can vote for the final five which will be revealed, along with the other Oscar nominations, on Jan. 23. The entire academy membership will get screeners of these five nominated films and vote for the winner, which will be revealed on the Oscars March 4.

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