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Eye on the Oscars: Foreign Language

While nabbing a special film for a festival slot is an achievement, festival directors can also feel a twinge of triumph when a film goes on to contend for the foreign-langauge Oscar. Some fest toppers weigh in on a few outstanding examples.

Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick says he immediately thought “A Separation” was an outstanding film.

“We had shown Asghar Farhadi’s previous film, ‘About Elly,’ and were very happy he came back to us with ‘A Separation.’ What amazes me is to see that this film came out of Iran and has captivated local audiences and performed remarkably well in countries like the U.S. and France. It’s the most universal Iranian film we’ve ever seen.”

Jean Christophe Berjon, former topper of Cannes’ Critics Week and now the audiovisual attache at the French Embassy in Mexico, says he had to persuade Valerie Donzelli, Edouard Weil (the producer) and Jeremie Elkaim (Donzelli’s co-scribe and co-star) to have “Declaration of War” open at Critics’ Week, which only plays first and second features.

“The film was also invited to open in Un Certain Regard, Venice and Directors’ Fortnight. Usually we wait until the very last minute, once we’ve seen everything, to decide what films we want but when we saw ‘Declaration of War,’ we didn’t think twice, we jumped on it,” Berjon says.

Olivier Pere cites Israel’s 2010 foreign-lingo Oscar contender “The Human Resources Manager,” by Eran Riklis and, this year, Canada’s candidate “Monsieur Lazhar,” as Locarno world preems that went on to enter the Oscars race.

“Of course these are the types of films with broad appeal that we were attracted to, knowing full well that they could end up representing their country at the Oscars,” he says.

Counterpoint with Venice’s Giorgio Gosetti on “Incendies.” “Along with my selection committee we immediately sensed that there was huge emotional impact in this film. But that this could lead to an Oscar nomination, frankly; no. I did not think about it. Honestly, that only occurred to me after Canada picked the film as its candidate.”

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