Whittling through 92 submissions, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed its shortlist of nine titles to advance in the Best Foreign Language Film category this year. The final five Oscar nominations in the race will be announced along with the rest of the categories on January 23. As ever, the shortlist comes with its own share of surprises, including a snub for a lauded French film the second year running.
The group advancing to the next stage includes such favorites as Ruben Ostlund’s The Square (Sweden), Loveless from Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev and Chile’s A Fantastic Woman by Sebastián Lelio. Each of those was nominated for a Golden Globe this week. As was Fatih Akin’s Germany terrorism drama In the Fade, which has seen its street cred solidified by the Academy with tonight’s shortlist inclusion.
Films also making the cut include Berlin Golden Bear winner On Body and Soul, from resurgent Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi, along with Venice favorites Foxtrot, from Israel’s Samuel Maoz, and The Insult by Franco-Lebanese helmer Ziad Doueiri.
But for the second year in a row, the Phase One committee has excluded France, not advancing Robin Campillo’s lauded activist drama BPM. The blow was perhaps slightly presaged by the lack of a Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the Golden Globes on Monday but nevertheless is notable for a movie that has found such favor since its Cannes debut in May. Similarly, the Academy last year failed to give Paul Verhoeven’s Elle a shortlist slot.
Also diverging from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s picks, the Oscar group did not shortlist Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father. The Cambodian Netflix drama made Jolie the highest-profile American director to represent another country in another tongue as the Oscar submission, but that evidently was not enough to advance her past the initial main field.
Two pics that turned up as wildcards on today’s shortlist are Senegal’s Félicité from director Alain Gomis and South Africa’s The Wound from John Trengove. The former is a Kinshasa-set drama that won the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin this year, and the latter is a feature dramatic debut that stretches back to Sundance.
Ostlund’s The Square just swept the European Film Awards last weekend, and makes for an interesting proposition to come on nominations day. While his roundly loved Force Majeure made the shortlist a few years ago, it was left out of 2015’s final five nominations. That led the filmmaker to channel his energy into a cathartic YouTube video. By shortlisting him again today, the Academy has ensured Ostlund will make what he has told me will be “the best sequel in YouTube history.”
Here’s the complete shortlist:
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, dirctor;
Russia, Loveless, Andrey Zvyagintsev, director;
Senegal, Félicité, Alain Gomis, director;
South Africa, The Wound, John Trengove, director;
Sweden, The Square, Ruben Östlund, director.