LONDON — Hungary has selected Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul,” which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, as its official entry in the foreign-language film category of the Academy Awards. It is believed to be the first country to select its film to compete at the Oscars.
The film is set in October 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners isolated from the camp and forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination. While working in one of the crematoriums, Saul discovers the corpse of a boy he believes is his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task: to save the child’s body from the flames, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.
After Nemes received the Grand Prix at Cannes, he said: “We wanted this film to tell the new generation about the destruction of European Jews.”
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At Cannes, the film also won the award from international critics’ organization Fipresci, the Francois Chalais Prize, and the Vulcain Award for best sound.
The film, which is shot in Hungarian, Yiddish, German, Russian and Polish, was supported by the Hungarian National Film Fund.
World sales are handled by Films Distribution. The U.S. distributor is Sony Pictures Classics. “Son of Saul” will be released in Hungarian theaters by Mozinet on June 11.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Hungarian Oscar Selection Committee on Wednesday. It was unanimous. The committee’s members are director Krisztina Deak, director Kriszta Goda, Agnes Havas, CEO of the Hungarian National Film Fund, university lecturer Andras Balint Kovacs, cinematographer Tibor Mate, film distribution expert Andras Kalman and Andrew G. Vajna, the government film commissioner.