LONDON — German industry insiders did the obvious and chose Maren Ade’s breakout feature “Toni Erdmann” as their country’s entry in the race for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards, it was announced Thursday.
The choice, made by an independent jury Wednesday night, seemed a foregone conclusion after the Intl. Federation of Film Critics earlier in the day named “Toni Erdmann” best film of the year. The award was the latest coup for a film that went in to the Cannes Film Festival relatively unheralded and emerged an unexpected hit, winning raves from critics if not any festival prizes.
The last German film to win the foreign-language Oscar, in 2007, was “The Lives of Others,” a drama set in East Berlin at the height of the espionage-ridden Cold War. “Toni Erdmann,” one of eight films on Germany’s long list for Oscar-entry consideration, departs from the Cold War- and Nazi-related themes so often seen in well-traveled German films and concentrates on the funny and painful relationship between a woman and her estranged father.
“I am very happy that the jury is sending ‘Toni Erdmann’ into the Oscar race and am anxious to see how Toni behaves in Los Angeles,” Ade said in a statement.
“The incredible success story of ‘Toni Erdmann’ continues,” added Petra Mueller, CEO of Film and Media Foundation NRW, which helped fund Ade’s movie.
At least three other films under consideration by the nine-member jury dealt with Hitler or the Nazis. In choosing “Toni Erdmann,” the panel praised the film for its “unswerving artistic clarity” and its portrayal of “universal topics like social isolation and the challenge of interpersonal integrity.” The film is just what “modern international cinema should be,” the jury said.
Critics agreed. Variety‘s review called Ade’s third feature “a humane, hilarious triumph.” The film scored 450,000 admissions in Germany following its release there last month, and has been sold by international agent The Match Factory in 100 territories. Sony Pictures Classics acquired North and Latin American rights to “Toni Erdmann” in a well-publicized deal at Cannes, and is expected to release the movie in the U.S. in December.
The film is a Komplizen Film production in conjunction with Coop99, KNM, Missing Link Films and SWR/WDR/ARTE.