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Oscar’s Final Foreign-Language List Includes a Few Plot Twists

Saudi Arabia has first entry, Pakistan repped for first time in 50 years

Saudi Arabia and Moldova have their first entry; Pakistan is repped for the first time in 50 years; Montenegro is submitting for the first time as an independent country; and there are a record 76 films in the Academy’s official roster of foreign-language entries.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released its list Monday, after a review by the exec foreign-language committee. The roster had been expected to be unveiled Friday, as the panel convened that morning to review the submissions. The delay was a clue that some of the films required more investigation into their eligibility. The Czech Republic had submitted the Agniezska Holland film “Burning Bush.” But the Acad’s official roster named Jiri Menzel’s “Don Juans” for the country. The Holland film had made the festival rounds, but was also a TV miniseries, which may have led to the disqualification.

The Acad allows each country to select its own submission and countries have been announcing their choices in the past weeks (Variety, Sept. 30). Even before the unveiling, some of the choices for the 86th Academy Awards raised questions.

France submitted “Renoir,” causing many to wonder why “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was not chosen. In fact, “Blue” opened in France after the eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013), so it might be Gaul’s choice next year.

India chose “The Good Road” instead of “The Lunchbox,” and Japan chose “The Great Passage” instead of “Like Father, Like Son.” Both choices were met with outrage, because the bypassed films had been seen and admired while the submitted films were generally unseen. The outrage was fueled by some online sites that like to handicap the eventual five nominees even before the countries have submitted.

On this year’s list, many of the submissions have not been widely seen outside their country. But there are also ones that have been acclaimed on the fest circuit, and a few that have received commercial release in the U.S. That roster includes Chile’s “Gloria,” Denmark’s “The Hunt,” Hong Kong’s “The Grandmaster,” Iran’s “The Past,” Italy’s “The Great Beauty,” Netherlands’ “Borgman,” the Palestinian territories’ “Omar,” Poland’s “Walesa” and Saudi Arabia’s “Wadjda.”

This year’s roster includes some interesting twists, including submissions from English-lingo countries Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. This reflects the change in rules after Austria’s 2005 choice, Michael Haneke’s French-language “Cache,” was disqualified. After protests, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences the next year revoked the stipulation that a film needs to be in the country’s dominant language.

Hard-and-fast requirements include the film’s opening date and one-week continuous engagement in the country of origin. Another strict rule is that the language be predominantly non-English.

Other rules are more fluid, including the level of artistic contributions from the country. In an era of joint ventures, few films have clear-cut geographic boundaries, but the principal contributors should be from the country.

Foreign-language committee chairman Mark Johnson told Variety, “We take great pride in being flexible; we want to include movies, not reject them. But if they’re ineligible, they’re ineligible.”

One example was Israel’s 2007 “The Band’s Visit.” Though the film had many key Israeli contributors, the language was 65% English. (The story concerned Egyptians and Israelis, whose only common language was English.) So Israel was notified and then submitted “Beaufort,” which went on to earn an Oscar nom.

Nominations will be announced Jan. 16, and awards presented March 2.

Following is the official list of entries.

Afghanistan, “Wajma – An Afghan Love Story,” Barmak Akram, director;

Albania, “Agon,” Robert Budina, director;

Argentina, “The German Doctor,” Lucía Puenzo, director;

Australia, “The Rocket,” Kim Mordaunt, director;

Austria, “The Wall,” Julian Pölsler, director;

Azerbaijan, “Steppe Man,” Shamil Aliyev, director;

Bangladesh, “Television,” Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, director;

Belgium, “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Felix van Groeningen, director;

Bosnia and Herzegovina, “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker,” Danis Tanovic, director;

Brazil, “Neighboring Sounds,” Kleber Mendonça Filho, director;

Bulgaria, “The Color of the Chameleon,” Emil Hristov, director;

Cambodia, “The Missing Picture,” Rithy Panh, director;

Canada, “Gabrielle,” Louise Archambault, director;

Chad, “GriGris,” Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, director;

Chile, “Gloria,” Sebastián Lelio, director;

China, “Back to 1942,” Feng Xiaogang, director;

Colombia, “La Playa DC,” Juan Andrés Arango, director;

Croatia, “Halima’s Path,” Arsen Anton Ostojic, director;

Czech Republic, “The Don Juans,” Jiri Menzel, director;

Denmark, “The Hunt,” Thomas Vinterberg, director;

Dominican Republic, “Quien Manda?” Ronni Castillo, director;

Ecuador, “The Porcelain Horse,” Javier Andrade, director;

Egypt, “Winter of Discontent,” Ibrahim El Batout, director;

Estonia, “Free Range,” Veiko Ounpuu, director;

Finland, “Disciple,” Ulrika Bengts, director;

France, “Renoir,” Gilles Bourdos, director;

Georgia, “In Bloom,” Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, directors;

Germany, “Two Lives,” Georg Maas, director;

Greece, “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food,” Ektoras Lygizos, director;

Hong Kong, “The Grandmaster,” Wong Kar-wai, director;

Hungary, “The Notebook,” Janos Szasz, director;

Iceland, “Of Horses and Men,” Benedikt Erlingsson, director;

India, “The Good Road,” Gyan Correa, director;

Indonesia, “Sang Kiai,” Rako Prijanto, director;

Iran, “The Past,” Asghar Farhadi, director;

Israel, “Bethlehem,” Yuval Adler, director;

Italy, “The Great Beauty,” Paolo Sorrentino, director;

Japan, “The Great Passage,” Ishii Yuya, director;

Kazakhstan, “Shal,” Yermek Tursunov, director;

Latvia, “Mother, I Love You,” Janis Nords, director;

Lebanon, “Blind Intersections,” Lara Saba, director;

Lithuania, “Conversations on Serious Topics,” Giedre Beinoriute, director;

Luxembourg, “Blind Spot,” Christophe Wagner, director;

Mexico, “Heli,” Amat Escalante, director;

Moldova, “All God’s Children,” Adrian Popovici, director;

Montenegro, “Ace of Spades – Bad Destiny,” Drasko Djurovic, director;

Morocco, “Horses of God,” Nabil Ayouch, director;

Nepal, “Soongava: Dance of the Orchids,” Subarna Thapa, director;

Netherlands, “Borgman,” Alex van Warmerdam, director;

New Zealand, “White Lies,” Dana Rotberg, director;

Norway, “I Am Yours,” Iram Haq, director;

Pakistan, “Zinda Bhaag,” Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, directors;

Palestine, “Omar,” Hany Abu-Assad, director;

Peru, “The Cleaner,” Adrian Saba, director;

Philippines, “Transit,” Hannah Espia, director;

Poland, “Walesa. Man of Hope,” Andrzej Wajda, director;

Portugal, “Lines of Wellington,” Valeria Sarmiento, director;

Romania, “Child’s Pose,” Calin Peter Netzer, director;

Russia, “Stalingrad,” Fedor Bondarchuk, director;

Saudi Arabia, “Wadjda,” Haifaa Al Mansour, director;

Serbia, “Circles,” Srdan Golubovic, director;

Singapore, “Ilo Ilo,” Anthony Chen, director;

Slovak Republic, “My Dog Killer,” Mira Fornay, director;

Slovenia, “Class Enemy,” Rok Bicek, director;

South Africa, “Four Corners,” Ian Gabriel, director;

South Korea, “Juvenile Offender,” Kang Yi-kwan, director;

Spain, “15 Years Plus a Day,” Gracia Querejeta, director;

Sweden, “Eat Sleep Die,” Gabriela Pichler, director;

Switzerland, “More than Honey,” Markus Imhoof, director;

Taiwan, “Soul,” Chung Mong-Hong, director;

Thailand, “Countdown,” Nattawut Poonpiriya, director;

Turkey, “The Butterfly’s Dream,” Yilmaz Erdogan, director;

Ukraine, “Paradjanov,” Serge Avedikian and Olena Fetisova, directors;

United Kingdom, “Metro Manila,” Sean Ellis, director;

Uruguay, “Anina,” Alfredo Soderguit, director;

Venezuela, “Breach in the Silence,” Luis Alejandro Rodríguez and Andrés Eduardo Rodríguez, directors.

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