Pete Hammond badgeEXCLUSIVE: Viva, a Cuban-set Spanish-language film which rocked the Telluride Film Festival during its world premiere over Labor Day weekend, has been selected as Ireland’s official entry for the 2015 Foreign Language Film Oscar competition. Although the subject matter and location of this film is anything but Irish, the Irish Film & Television Academy was able to choose it because it is directed by Irishman  Paddy Breathnach and a director’s birthplace goes a long way in Academy rules in determining eligibility of films submitted by individual countries. For example even though the Oscar-winning Amour was French in every way, it was submitted by Austria due to the nationality of its director, Michael Haneke.

In fact, in Telluride (where BTW a number of Irish directors had films playing) I asked Breathnach about the possibility of his very Cuban film jumping into the Oscar race as an Irish entry. It was his hope that the committee would just look at the films for their quality,Oscars 3 and not let other considerations come into play as they sometimes do in the increasingly political selection process that many countries go through to pick their Foreign Oscar contender. The whole process really does need to be overhauled, but it doesn’t seem that the Academy really wants significant change in the one country/one film rule. Fortunately for Viva, the IFTA gets it.

“The Irish Academy is delighted that this wonderful film from Paddy Breathnach and (screenwriter) Mark O’Halloran will represent Ireland for consideration  in the Oscar Foreign Language category — as it reflects the diverse creativity and vision of this Irish team in bringing such a tender Cuban story to the screen that is both intriguing and visually captivating,” said IFTA CEO Aine Moriarty.

viva_fFor his part, Breathnach is thrilled. “We loved every minute of our adventure on this film which took us from Ireland to Cuba and back again. As well as our wonderful Irish team, we had the pleasure of working with a great Cuban cast and crew and I feel this nomination recognizes this incredible international collaboration,” he said.

As I initially reported from Telluride, Benicio Del Toro has come aboard the film as executive producer further adding international flavor to the story of an 18-year-old Cuban named Jesus (Hector Medina) who works at a local Havana drag club but dreams of being on that stage himself as a performer. This causes conflict with his father who was recently released from prison. Word on the streets of Telluride was extremely positive as the movie continued to screen several times there. Buyers are said to be circling.

Viva, which was produced by Rebecca O’Flanagan and Rob Walpole of Treasure Films, joins a growing list of Foreign Language entries (see below). The Academy’s process of screening all these movies begins in October, with the final five nominations to be announced January 14.


  • 2o15 Foreign Language Film Oscar Submissions

  • AustriaGoodnight Mommy – Severin Fiala/Veronika Franz
  • BosniaOur Everyday Life – Ines Tanovic
  • BrazilSecond Mother – Anna Muylaert
  • BulgariaThe Judgement – Stephan Komandarev
  • ChinaWolf Totem – Jean-Jacques Annaud
  • CroatiaThe High Sun – Dalibor Matanic
  • Dominican RepublicSand Dollars – Laura Amelia Guzmán/Israel Cárdenas
  • Finland – The Fencer – Klaus Haro
  • Germany Labyrinth Of Lies – Giulio Ricciarelli
  • GreeceXenia – Panos H. Koutras
  • GuatemalaIxcanul – Jayro Bustamente
  • HungarySon Of Saul – Laszlo Nemes
  • IcelandRams – Grímur Hákonarson
  • IraqMemories On Stone – Shawkat Amin Korki
  • IrelandViva – Paddy Breathnach
  • Japan – 100 Yen Love – Masaharu Take
  • Jordan – Theeb – Naji Abu Nowar
  • Kazakhstan – Stranger – Ermek Tursunov
  • Luxembourg –  Baby(a)lone – Donato Rotunno
  • Netherlands – The Paradise Suite – Joost van Ginkel
  • Norway – The Wave – Roar Uthaug
  • Palestine – The Wanted 18 – Paul Cowan/Amer Shomali
  • Panama – Box 25 – Mercedes Aria & Delfina Vidal
  • Paraguay – Cloudy Times – Arami Ullon
  • Portugal – Arabian Nights: Volume 2 – The Desolate One – Miguel Gomes
  • RomaniaAferim! – Radu Jude
  • Serbia – Enclave – Goran Radovanović
  • South Korea – The Throne – Lee Joon-ik
  • Sweden – A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence – Roy Andersson
  • SwitzerlandIraqi Odyssey – Samir
  • VenezuelaGone With The River – Mario Crespo
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