Italy, Spain send in Oscar choices

Countries rush to submit films to Academy

A slew of countries have unveiled their submissions for the foreign-language Oscar race ahead of Monday’s closing date.

Italy has chosen Giuseppe Tornatore’s white slavery noir “The Unknown.” Los Angeles-based Outsider Pictures has acquired North American rights to the Medusa-produced thriller, which dominated Italy’s David di Donatello prizes this year.

“The Unknown” stars Russian Xenia Rappoport as a secretive Eastern European prostitute-turned-cleaning lady haunted by her pimp.

Juan Antonio Bayona’s chiller “The Orphanage” is Spain’s candidate.

Produced by Rodar y Rodar and Telecinco Cinema, “Orphanage” was godfathered by Guillermo del Toro.

“Orphanage” stars Belen Rueda (“The Sea Inside”) as a woman who takes over the orphanage where she was raised to open a home for disabled children. Then her young son begins to play with the same imaginary friend who terrorized her when she was a child.

Johnnie To-helmed crimer “Exiled” has been selected to represent Hong Kong. Pic preemed in Venice last year and was widely sold internationally by Media Asia.

India has gone with “Eklavya: The Royal Guard,” from Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Distributed by Eros Intl., “Eklavya” stars Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan as the titular guard who protects a contempo Indian royal family and its dark secrets.

Cao Hamburger’s “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation” is Brazil’s candidate.

The Gullane Filmes pic, about a child separated from his parents during the military dictatorship years in Brazil, competed in Berlin. It has sold to more than 20 countries — an outstanding performance for a Brazilian, Portuguese-language feature.

Other pics are Carlos Reygadas’ “Luz Silenciosa” (Silent Light), Mexico; Jiri Menzel’s “I Served the King of England,” Czech Republic; Eran Kolirin’s “The Band’s Visit,” Israel; Milcho Manchevski’s “Shadows,” Macedonia; “Swopnodonay” (On the Wings of Dreams), from tyro director Golam Rabbany Biplob, Bangladesh; Roy Andersson’s “You, the Living,” Sweden; Ilmar Raag’s “The Class,” Estonia.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will announce the foreign-language film nominations on Jan. 22. The Oscar ceremony takes place Feb. 24.

(Nick Vivarelli, Christian Koehl, Will Tizard, Patrick Frater, Shalini Dore, Emiliano de Pablos, Goel Pinto, Gunnar Rehlin, Anna Marie de la Fuente and Marcelo Cajueiro contributed to this report.)

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