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Goteborg: ‘Rams’s Grimur Hakonarson Opens Up About Foreign-Language Oscar Snub

While in Goteborg to present Cannes’ Un-Certain-Regard-winner “Rams,” Icelandic helmer Grimur Hakonarson talked to Variety about the disappointment of not making it into the final foreign-language Oscar list.

“There had been many reports indicating that ‘Rams’ was strongly tipped for a foreign-language nomination so we were surprised that we didn’t make the cut,” said Hakonarson.

“Each year, a number of movies that are presented to be strong contenders don’t make it; last year, Ruben Ostlund was one of them and it’s a strange experience to be in that place today. But maybe they just didn’t like the film that much” added the director.

Handled by Cohen Media Group in the U.S., “Rams” is a tragicomedy about two brothers who who haven’t spoken to each other in 40 years and live side by side in a remote Icelandic farming valley, tending to their sheep stock and prized rams who are considered one of the country’s best. When the entire valley comes under threat because of a lethal sheep disease the brothers are forced together to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep.

Hakonarson suggested that spending invested in Oscar campaigns should be capped to ensure that every movie has an equal chance of getting selected. Although ‘Rams’ is distributed in the U.S. by Cohen Media Group which managed to get ‘Mustang’ into the list, Hakonarson argues his movie didn’t get as much financial support from Iceland than other contenders that were backed by funding boards from big and/or prosperous countries such as France, Germany or even Denmark.

“Competing for an Oscar nomination is not a fair game and I think a cap on campaign spending would create a more even-level playing field, allowing more films from smaller countries with emerging film industries to get some attention,” claimed Hakonarson.

New Europe Film Sales has sold “Rams” to over 40 territories. In France, where ARP Selection is distributing, the movie has been thriving at the box office.

Besides Cannes where it won Un Certain Regard, “Rams” played at Karlovy Vary, Telluride, Toronto and won nods in Palm Springs, Hamptons and Zurich.

Iceland previously had two films nominated for an Oscar: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s “Children of Nature” in 1992 and Runar Runarsson’s short “The Last Farm” in 2006.

This year’s foreign-language Oscar list comprises Jaco Van Dormael’s “The Brand New Testament,”
Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” Tobias Lindholm’s “A War,” Klaus Härö’s The Fencer,” Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang,” Giulio Ricciarelli’s Labyrinth of Lies,” László Nemes’s Son of Saul,” Paddy Breathnach’s “Viva” and Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb.”

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