Foreign-lingo titles line up for Oscar bid

Russia's 'Fools' creates controversy

Carlos Carrera’s “El Crimen de Padre Amaro” (The Crime of Father Amaro) is Mexico’s entry for a foreign-lingo Oscar nomination, while Russia has put forward “House of Fools” and Belgium is going with “Le Fils” (The Son).

Gael Garcia Bernal starrer “Padre Amaro” has broken Mexican B.O. records since it opened in August, taking in more than $15 million.

The Catholic Church objected strongly to the pic about a priest who gets a teenage girl pregnant and urges her to have an abortion.

Vet helmer Andrei Konchalovsky’s Venice fest prize winner “House of Fools” is set in a madhouse during the first Chechen war in the 1990s. It was selected by a board headed by helmer Vladimir Menshov (winner in 1980 for “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”), and included Konchalovsky’s brother, director Nikita Mikhalkov, who took the prize in 1995 for his “Burnt by the Sun.”

For the first time in many years, Russia had a wide choice of eligible films — so the final choice has not escaped controversy. Prime alternative candidate was Alexander Rogozhkin’s “The Cuckoo,” a prize winner at Moscow’s June film festival.

Both Russian pics have been picked up for U.S. distribution: “House of Fools” by Paramount Classics and “The Cuckoo” by Sony Picture Classics.

“Le fils” is Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s French-lingo drama about a teacher who confronts personal tragedy when a boy enrolls in his class.

The film premiered in May in Competition at Cannes, where Olivier Gourmet won actor honors for his performance as the emotionally tortured teacher. It is the Dardenne brothers’ second bid for an Oscar nom. “Rosetta,” which won the Golden Palm in 1999, was put forward as Belgium’s entry in 2000 but was not nominated. No Belgian movie has ever won the foreign-lingo Oscar.

(Simeon Tegel in Mexico City, Tom Birchenough in Moscow and Melanie Goodfellow in Brussels contributed to this report.)