According to news service TASS, Russia has picked “Leviathan” as its foreign-language entry for the Oscars, an artistically smart but politically surprising choice.
Director Pavel Chukhrai, who sits on the Russian Oscar committee, told TASS that the decision was made after the film scored a majority vote.
The film, a dark satire on life under Vladimir Putin, was directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev. In his May 22 review from Cannes, Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote that it is a loose retelling of the Book of Job, in which an ordinary man must grapple with his faith in the Russian state. The 142-minute work “is the director’s most accessible and naturalistic film, using everyday characters to test how well modern-day Russia is maintaining the social contract with its citizens.” But many expected that its satiric look at the government would KO its chances.
Sony Pictures Classics will give the film a limited domestic release starting Dec. 31.
The deadline for foreign-language submissions is Oct. 1. About a week after that, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will unveil all the entries, which so far number about 60. A short list of nine titles will be unveiled before the five Oscar nominees are announced Jan. 15, at the same time other Oscar categories are unveiled. Ceremonies will be Feb. 22.
“Leviathan” was awarded a prize for best screenplay at the Cannes Festival. The film will get a wide release in Russia, with its swear words bleeped out, since they violate a new law forbidding obscenities in films.
Since 1992, Russia has been nominated for five foreign-language Oscars, winning for the 1995 “Burnt by the Sun.” Before that, the Soviet Union had been nominated for an additional nine between 1968 and 1984, with three wins.