Mexico, Brazil, Belgium pick their pix

This article was updated on Oct. 2, 2006.

HOLLYWOOD — Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy horror pic “Pan’s Labyrinth” will represent Mexico in this year’s foreign-language film Oscar race.

Picturehouse, which picked up North American rights at Sundance for close to $6 million, will release the Spanish-language drama on Dec. 29 in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago before expanding to 35 other markets on Jan. 12.

As Monday’s deadline approaches for submissions in the Oscar category, several other nations have announced their choices.

A committee of distribs, producers, helmers and critics chose Fien Troch’s quirky whodunit “Someone Else’s Happiness” to rep Belgium. Dutch-language pic, the 28-year-old helmer’s feature debut, revolves around the hit-and-run killing of a child in a close-knit village outside Brussels. Another debut pic, Marcelo Gomes’ “Cinema, aspirinas e urubus” (Movies, Aspirin and Vultures), is Brazil’s entry. A commission of film industry reps appointed by the Ministry of Culture chose it from among 14 contenders.

Road movie set in 1942 is based on the life story of Gomes’ uncle.

Fyodor Bondarchuk’s Afghan war drama “9th Company” has been selected as Russia’s entry nearly a year after its release at home; it had not played the required week in local theaters by last year’s deadline.Pic, which took in almost $26 million at the local B.O., was made for almost $10 million by local shingle Slovo, with investment from Russian TV channel CTC and Ukraine’s 1+1. Most of the impressive action scenes were shot in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

From Hungary, the entry is Szabolcs Hajdu’s “White Palms,” which juxtaposes a gold-medal gymnast’s training under a regime of brutal corporal punishment with his experiences in Canada. “White Palms” received its international preem at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight this year; it has upcoming fest dates at Pusan, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Seville and the AFI Fest in Los Angeles.

India’s submission is UTV Motion Pictures’ “Rang de basanti” (Color It Orange), helmed by Rakesh Mehra and starring producer-thesp Aamir Khan, whose “Lagaan” reached the final five in 2002. Pic revolves around a young British filmmaker who travels to India to make a film on the revolutionaries who influenced her grandfather.

Thailand has submitted Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s arty gangster thriller “Invisible Waves.” Pic is the helmer’s third selected for the foreign-language Oscar race, after 2002′s “Monrak Transistor” and 2003′s “Last Life in the Universe.”

Vietnam has chosen “Pao’s Story,” the debut feature from Ngo Quang Hai. Pic preemed in August at the Montreal World Film Festival and won Vietnam’s Golden Kite awards for film, actress, supporting actress and cinematography.

And Luxembourg has chosen Venezuelan-born, Polish-based helmer Franco de Pena’s human-trafficking drama “Your Name Is Justine.”

Shot in English, German and Polish, pic is a co-production between majority partner Luxembourg Hemisphere Films and Poland’s Opus Film. It was shot mainly in the Grand Duchy using a large number of local technicians.

(Anna Marie de la Fuente, Melanie Goodfellow, Marcelo Cajueiro, Tom Birchenough, Shilpa Bharatan Iyer and Katja Hofmann contributed to this report.)

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