France, Colombia enter Oscar race

Gauls sending Academy a 'Christmas' card

Helmer Christian Carion’s $22 million, WWI-set “Joyeux Noel” (Merry Christmas) will represent France in the foreign-language category at the Oscars, while Colombia is going with “La sombra del caminante,” written and helmed by newcomer Ciro Guerra.

Carion’s ambitious sophomore effort beat competition from hit docu “The March of the Penguins” and arthouse successes “Kings and Queen” and “The Beat That My Heart Skipped.”

With dialogue in French, German and English, “Merry Christmas” tells the true story of a spontaneous truce between front line soldiers in northern France on Christmas Eve 1914.

Diane Kruger and Daniel Bruhl lead the ensemble Euro cast. Christophe Rossignon produced.

“Merry Christmas” screened before European culture ministers out-of-competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but unusually, it has yet to open in Gaul.

To comply with Academy regs that require foreign films to be distributed in their own territories by Sept. 30, Gallic distrib UGC will release the film in one theater Wednesday, ahead of a nationwide bow on about 400 screens Nov. 7.

France’s seven-member Oscar selection committee included Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux and film producer and Unifrance prexy Margaret Menegoz.

Colombia’s “La sombra del caminante” won the Film in Progress award at the 2003 San Sebastian Film Festival and has unspooled in more than 35 international fests. Pic tracks the friendship between two men who meet in Bogota. One is missing a leg while the other is a “silletero,” a person paid to carry him around.

Pic was co-produced by Ciudad Lunar and Tucan Prods. Latter shingle also co-produced “Maria Full of Grace,” whose lead, Catalina Sandino Morena, nabbed an actress nom last year.

The closing date for submissions to the foreign-language Oscar category is Oct. 3. Ceremony will be held March 5.

Meanwhile, Colombian blockbuster “Rosario tijeras” will rep the country at Spain’s Goya Awards.

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