Foreign-language Oscar race heats up

Countries submit entries for Academy consideration

With the Oct. 1 deadline fast approaching, a slew of countries have unveiled their films vying for nominations in Oscar’s foreign-language category.

Two of the recently announced selections, Canada’s “I Killed My Mother” and Belgium’s “The Misfortunates,” world preemed in the Directors’ Fortnight at May’s Cannes Film Festival.

“I Killed My Mother,” the first film by 23-year-old Montreal-based writer-director Xavier Dolan, won three prizes in the Cannes sidebar. The autobiographical French-language drama stars Dolan as a gay 16-year-old who has a stormy relationship with his mother. Here Films will release the pic Stateside early next year.The other Fortnight selection is Felix Van Groeningen’s “The Misfortunates,” about a boy growing up in the 1980s in a household of drunks, gamblers and womanizers. Produced by Ghent-based shingle Menuet, the film just had its North American bow in Toronto. International sales are handled by MK2.

Serbia’s choice, helmer Darko Lungulov’s “Here and There,” was a hit at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, where his tale of romance and desperation set in the very different worlds of Serbia and America took awards for new narrative filmmaker and New York film.

Backgammon as a metaphor for life takes a central role in Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev’s “The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner.” Film won best Bulgarian feature last year at the Sofia Film Festival.

Armenia’s choice is “A Magician’s Nephew,” a documentary about screenwriter Tonino Guerra, a friend of Federico Fellini, directed by Ruben and Vahe Gevorkyants.

Other nominations for Eastern Europe have yet to gain wider recognition, including Lithuania’s “Waterhole,” Gytis Luksas’ pic about the Soviet period in Lithuania as seen through the eyes of a boy in a small village; and Slovenia’s “Landscape No. 2,” Vinko Moderndorfer’s film about two art thieves who steal a mysterious document that unleashes diabolical powers from the past.

Poland’s candidate is documentary filmmaker Borys Lankosz’s feature debut, “The Reverse,” a darkly humorous suspense story told against the backdrop of communist Poland in the 1950s.

“The Reverse” was produced by Kadr studio — a film cooperative in which such filmmakers as Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Kawalerowicz made their most important films of 1950s and 1960s — and marks the studio’s return to film production after 15 years.

Dark thriller “Terribly Happy,” helmed by Henrik Ruben Genz and produced by Thomas Gammeltoft for Fine and Mellow Prods., has been tapped as Denmark’s hope.

“Terribly Happy” concerns a Copenhagen cop who’s transferred to a rural town but soon discovers that things are not as quiet as they seem.

Pic, which won the Grand Prix at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic , has been picked up by Oscilloscope for U.S. distribution.

Mario Barroso’s “Doomed Love,” a contempo adaptation of the 19th century novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, is Portugal’s pic. The Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose Carlos Carrera’s “Backyard” (El traspatio). Pic focuses on the probe into the murder of women in the city of Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Carrera helmed 2002 Gael Garcia Bernal starrer “The Crime of Father Amaro,” Mexico’s all-time top grosser domestically. “Backyard” is distributed in Mexico through Paramount and recently screened at Toronto.

Sergio Rezende’s “Salve geral” is Brazil’s nominee. Pic is set during a wave of gang violence that shook Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, in 2006. “Salve geral” is the phrase used by the criminal organizations’ leaders to order the attacks.

The $4.5 million drama is produced by Toscana Audiovisual. Distributor Sony/Downtown will open it in Brazil on Oct. 2, the day after the start of the trial of Marco Herbas Camacho, who allegedly ordered the attacks.

The Film Federation of India selected Marathi-lingo “Harishchandrachi Factory,” directed by Paresh Mokashi, about the making of India’s first pic in 1913. It’s only the second Marathi film that the country has sent to the Oscars, after “Shwaas” in 2004.

Sri Lanka will enter “Flowers of the Sky,” helmed by Prasanna Vithanage, while Thailand’s National Film Assn. will submit the love story “Best in Time,” directed by Youngyooth Thongkonthun.

om will be announced Feb. 2, and the Academy Awards take place on March 7.

Nick Holdsworth in Moscow, Ian Mundell in Brussells, Michal Chacinsk in Warsaw, Gunnar Rehlin in Stockholm, Martin Dale in Lisbon, James Young in Mexico City, Marcelo Cajueiro in Rio de Janeiro, Shalini Dore in Los Angeles and Clifford Coonan in Beijing contributed to this report.

More Film

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Jonah Hill Passes on Role in 'The Batman'

    After being offered a role in “The Batman,” Jonah Hill has moved on from the project. Why exactly Hill is passing is currently unknown, and insiders tell Variety that when the news was initially reported, it was very early in the negotiations and that a deal was far from closing. The news comes after Zoe [...]

  • Daniel Kaluuya Elizabeth Moss

    SCAD Savannah Film Festival Honorees Include Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss

    Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss, Danielle Macdonald, Aldis Hodge, Valerie Pachner, Samantha Morton, Alan Silvestri and Olivia Wilde are set to be honored at the 22nd Annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Breakout Award honorees include Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jharrel Jerome, Mena Massoud and Camila Morrone. Macdonald, who appears on Netflix in “Unbelievable” and the upcoming [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman. Alexander Skarsgard,

    Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard to Reunite for Robert Eggers' 'The Northman'

    With his latest film “The Lighthouse” set to bow this weekend, Robert Eggers’ next film has cast two leads, “Big Little Lies” alums Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård. The pic, titled “The Northman,” is described as a Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century. In talks to join Kidman [...]

  • Jessica Henwick

    'Matrix 4' Taps 'Iron Fist' Star Jessica Henwick

    Jessica Henwick is in final negotiations to star in the upcoming fourth installment of the “Matrix” franchise. She joins Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, who will be reprising their roles in the film, as well as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who was tapped as one of the leads last week. Neil Patrick Harris also just joined [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Record 32 Animated Feature Films Submitted for Oscars

    “The Addams Family,” “Frozen II,” “Toy Story 4,” “Abominable” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” are among the record 32 movies submitted for the animated feature film category at the 2020 Oscars. Last year’s Academy Awards race boasted 25 entries, while 2017 had 26 and 2016 had 27 (a then-record). The list of contenders [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content