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Australia Selects ‘Tanna’ as Foreign-Language Oscar Contender

Australia has selected Vanuatu-set drama “Tanna” as its contender in the Academy Awards’ foreign-language section.

The film was made in the Nauvhal language and co-directed by Bentley Dean and Martin Butler.

Based on real events, the story is the story of two young lovers who dared to defy the Vanuatu islanders tradition of arranged marriage and changed the island’s culture as a result.

It had its world premiere last year in Venice and won the audience prize in Venice Critics’ Week, before enjoying an extensive festival career. International sales are handled by U.S.-based Visit Films.

The cast of “Tanna” did not have any acting experience, nor are they literate. The chief of Yakel plays Chief Charlie; the Yakel medicine man plays the Medicine Man, and Mungau, who plays the male protagonist Dain, was chosen by consensus because he was identified as the most handsome man. The story and dialogue were developed over the course of a six-month shoot through workshopping, improvisation on location and close consultation with JJ Nako, the translator, cultural interpreter, guide, and adviser.

The selection was made by federal funding body Screen Australia. “ ‘Tanna’ does what all great films aspire to do: transport you out of your seat and keep you completely riveted as you dive into another world. It’s a simple and universal story told with such impressive nuance and looks extraordinary on screen,” said Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason in a statement.

The deadline to submit foreign-language entries is Oct. 3. The Academy will announce the nominations on Jan. 24 and the Oscars will be held Feb. 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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