The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the shortlist of nine films that will advance to the next stage in the Foreign Language Film Oscar race. There are a number of deserving and buzzed about films here that were tipped to be among the next stage group. And, as with every year, there are some which are surprises to have missed the cut.
It’s no surprise to see Hungary’s Son Of Saul here. The intense Holocaust drama from Laszlo Nemes has been on a roll since it won the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes. Nemes is one of three first-time directors in the mix, along with Labyrinth Of Lies‘ Guilio Ricciarelli out of Germany. Both of those are with Sony Pictures Classics. The third first-timer is Theeb‘s Naji Abu Nowar whose film is only the second ever submitted from Jordan.
New to the shortlist on each of their third times out as reps of their respective countries are Belgium’s Jaco Van Dormael with The Brand New Testament (also a Golden Globe nominee) and Colombia’s Ciro Guerra with Embrace Of The Serpent.
A War helmer Tobias Lindholm, who’s currently writing Paul Greengrass’ upcoming The Tunnels, is on the list for the first time in a directorial capacity. This is his third film as director, although he has some familiarity with the Oscars — he penned the screenplay to Thomas Vinterberg’s 2013 nominee The Hunt.
France has popped up on the shortlist for the first time since The Intouchables with Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang, a story of scandal and sibling solidarity in northern Turkey. The film also has a Globe nomination as does Finland’s The Fencer from Klaus Haro, repping the country for the third time and advancing to the shortlist for the first.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Cuba-set Viva, from director Paddy Breathnach, is the first movie from the country to make it to the shortlist our of four ever submitted.
Among the notable omissions from this list is Pablo Larrain’s The Club, a Golden Globe nominee and the Grand Jury Prize winner in Berlin from the director of the only Chilean film ever to previously be nominated in this category. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin, which was recently voted the best movie of 2015 by the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine and scored a directing award for the veteran helmer in Cannes, is also a no-show. Further, the Un Certain Regard winner and generally lauded Rams from Iceland’s Grimur Hákonarson is something of a shocker to have been left out.
Here’s what happens next: The shortlist gets even shorter with the category’s five nominees decided upon by specially invited committees in New York, Los Angeles and London who will spend a January weekend viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots. The final nominations will be announced with the rest of the categories on January 14.
Here’s the full shortlist:
Belgium, The Brand New Testament, dir: Jaco Van Dormael
Colombia, Embrace Of The Serpent, dir: Ciro Guerra
Denmark, A War, dir: Tobias Lindholm
Finland, The Fencer, dir: Klaus Härö
France, Mustang, dir: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Germany, Labyrinth Of Lies, dir: Giulio Ricciarelli
Hungary, Son Of Saul, dir: László Nemes
Ireland, Viva, dir: Paddy Breathnach
Jordan, Theeb, dir: Naji Abu Nowar