Friday, November 15, 2013

A Look at the List of This Year's 76 Best Foreign Film Submissions

Waad Mohammed in Wadjda
In what is now unintentionally turning into a week looking at the Best Foreign Film category, we look at the list of eligible films for 2014's race. With a record 76 countries submitting nominees, the field may seem to be crowded, but there are definitely some standouts from the bunch. Even if majority of them aren't recognizable to the average viewer, these films will probably in discussion again at a later point. For a full listing of nominees as well as a few thoughts, please click below to read more.

As discovered earlier this week, the one shocking twist is that Blue is the Warmest Color was disqualified for an improper release date. Leaving much speculation to what would take its place, the answer was only a few days away with France selecting Renoir. While the film doesn't have nearly as much recognition or credibility to the Palme d'Or winner, it is reflective of a race and unfortunate laws (Last year France submitted The Intouchables over personal favorite Rust and Bone probably due to box office success). Still, with the list released, there isn't any more need for speculation. 

Here are all 76 entries as well as countries, directors, and languages where stated:

Afghanistan - Wajma (An Afghan Love Story), directed by Barmak Akram (Dari) 
Albania - Agon, directed by Robert Budina  
Argentina - Wakolda, directed by Lucía Puenzo (Spanish, German) 
Australia - The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt (Lao) 
Austria - The Wall, directed by Julian Polsler (German) 
Bangladesh - Television, directed by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (Bengali) 
Belgium - The Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Felix van Groeningen (Flemish) 
Bosnia and Herzegovina - An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, directed by Danis Tanović (Bosnian, Romany) 
Brazil - Neighbouring Sounds, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho (Portuguese, Mandarin) 
Bulgaria - Colour of the Chameleon, directed by Emil Hristov (Bulgarian) 
Cambodia - The Missing Picture, directed by Rithy Panh (French) 
Canada - Gabrielle, directed by Louise Archambault (French) 
Chad - GriGris, directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun 
Chile - Gloria, directed by Sebastian Lelio (Spanish)
China - Back to 1942, directed by Feng Xaiogang (Mandarin)
Colombia - La Playa DC, directed by Juan Andrés Arango (Spanish)
Croatia - Halima's Path, directed by Arsen Anton Ostojić (Bosnian) 'Gabrielle' 
Czech Republic - The Don Juans, directed by Jiri Menzel (Czech) 
Denmark - The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg (Danish) 
Dominican Republic - Who's The Boss?, directed by Ronni Castillo (Spanish) 
Ecuador - Porcelain Horse, directed by Javier Andrade (Spanish)
Egypt - Winter of Discontent, directed by Ibrahim El- Batout (Arabic) 
Estonia - Free Range, directed by Veiko Õunpuu (Estonian) 
Finland - Disciple, directed by Ulrika Bengts (Finnish) 
France - Renoir, directed by Gilles Bourdos (French) 
Georgia - In Bloom, directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß 
Germany - Two Lives, directed by Georg Maas (German)
Greece - Boy Eating The Bird's Food, directed by Ektoras Lygizos (Greek) 
Hong Kong - The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar-wai (Cantonese, Mandarin)
Hungary - The Notebook, directed by Janosz Szasz (Hungarian)
Iceland - Of Horses and Men, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson (Icelandic)
India - The Good Road, directed by Gyan Correa (Gujarati)
Indonesia - Sang Kiai, directed by Rako Prijanto
Iran - The Past, directed by Asghar Farhadi (French, Persian)
Israel - Bethlehem, directed by Yuval Adler (Hebrew, Arabic)
Italy - The Great Beauty, directed by Paolo Sorrentino (Italian)
Japan - The Great Passage, directed by Yuya Ishii (Japanese)
Kazakhstan - The Old Man, directed by Ermek Tursunov (Russian, Kazakh)
Latvia - Mother I Love You, directed by Janis Nords (Latvian)
Lebanon - Blind Intersections, directed by Lara Saba 
Lithuania - Conversations of Serious Topics, directed by Giedrė Beinoriūtė (Lithuanian) 
Luxembourg - Blind Spot, directed by Christophe Wagner (Luxembourgish, French) 
Mexico - Heli, directed by Amat Escalante (Spanish)
Moldova - All God's Children, directed by Adrian Popovici
Montenegro - Bad Destiny, directed by Draško Đurović (Serbo-Croatian)
Morocco - God's Horses, directed by Nabil Ayouch (Arabic)
Nepal - Soongava: Dance of the Orchids, directed by Subarna Thapa (Nepalese)
The Netherlands - Borgman, directed by Alex van Warmerdam (Dutch)
New Zealand - White Lies, directed by Dana Rotberg (Maori)
Norway - I Am Yours, directed by Iram Haq (Norwegian, Urdu)
Pakistan - Zinda Bhaag, directed by Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi (Udu, Punjabi)
Palestine - Omar, directed by Hany Abu-Assad (Arabic)
Peru - The Cleaner, directed by Adrian Saba (Spanish)
Philippines - Transit, directed by Hannah Espia (Filipino, Tagalog, Hebrew)
Poland - Walesa, directed by Andrzej Wajda (Polish)
Portugal - Lines of Wellington, directed by Valeria Sarmiento
Romania - Child's Pose, directed by Calin Peter Netzer (Romanian)
Russia - Stalingrad, directed by Fedor Bondarchuk (Russian)
Saudi Arabia - Wadjda, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour (Arabic) 
Serbia - Circles, directed by Srdan Golubovic (Serbian)
Singapore - Ilo Ilo, directed by Anthony Chen (Mandarin, Hokkien, English, Tagalog)
Slovakia - My Dog Killer, directed by Mira Fornay (Slovak)
Slovenia - Class Enemy, directed by Rok Biček (Slovene)
South Africa - Four Corners, directed by Ian Gabriel (Afrikaans, Tsotsitaal)
South Korea - Juvenile Offender, directed by Kang Yi-kwan (Korean)
Spain - 15 Years and One Day, directed by Garcia Querejeta (Spanish)
Sweden - Eat Sleep Die, directed by Gabriela Pichler (Swedish, Croatian)
Switzerland - More Than Honey, directed by Markus Imhoof (German, Mandarin)
Taiwan - Soul, directed by Chung Mong-Hong (Mandarin)
Thailand - Countdown, directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya (Thai)
Turkey - The Butterfly's Dream, directed by Yılmaz Erdoğan (Turkish)
Ukraine - Paradjanov, directed by Serge Avedikian and Olena Fetisova (Russian)
United Kingdom - Metro Manila, directed by Sean Elllis (Filipino, Tagalog)
Uruguay - Anina, directed by Alfredo Soderguit (Spanish)
Venezuela - Breach in the Silence, directed by Luis Rodríguez and Andrés Rodríguez (Spanish)

Quite an impressive list. While I cannot claim to have seen any of them, the one that stands out the most is Hong Kong's entry The Grandmaster, which received a somewhat wide release and is to date the most financially successful film in America of the nominees. Even if there have been those that argued that the American cut doesn't do it justice, the general praise seems to suggest that even if there are better films, it is most likely to be one that stands out among these titles. In an interesting move, Uruguay has submitted Anina. It also submitted the film for Best Animated Feature.

However, the big one to watch out for is Wadjda from Saudi Arabia. Besides being the country's first ever submission, it has been getting critical praise and has been considered one of the best films of the year and is considered to be a significant film. In fact it holds a 99% on critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes (in comparison, The Grandmaster currently holds 74%). The soundtrack from Max Richter has been getting some praise as well, though looks less likely to land a nomination for Best Original Score.

Berenice Bejo in The Past
The only other film that jumps out is Iran entry The Past, which holds a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is another film that has gotten a lot of praise and with Iran having previously won for A Separation, it looks like they have another hit on their hands. Critics are calling it one of the best films of the year and there has long been speculation that former Academy Award nominee Berenice Bejo (Best Supporting Actress - The Artist) could be up for another nomination. In fact, on statistics website Gold Derby, Bejo is listed at #10 with odds of 100:1. While those aren't impressive odds, there is potential that The Past receiving a Best Foreign Film nomination can raise recognition much like it did for Emmanuelle Riva last year for Best Actress in Amour. However, in ironic sense, while Blue is the Warmest Color has been disqualified, the Best Actress category also has Adele Exarchopolous as a potential heavyweight, more-so than Bejo with odds of 50:1. While it isn't unorthodox, it may prove unlikely that two foreign films will be able to get Best Actress nominations against the likes of established favorites Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) and Sandra Bullock (Gravity). 

No matter what, this is a rundown of the entire submissions for the ceremony and should help to clear up any trouble I have when speculating films in the months to follow. Of everything on here, the only one that I was curious to see make it would be director Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love. While I have yet to see it, I have heard very positive things about the film and coming from an established world cinema maestro, it is strange to not see it on here. However, With films like The Past and Wadjda proving to be potential front runners, I am curious to see what other films manage to come out strong. Even if I cannot claim to be an expert on the category, I hope to continue to learn and hopefully become more invested in the more obscure categories during coverage.

Who stands out as potential nominees to you? Is Wadjda going to take the top prize this year? Does Berenice Bejo stand a chance in the Best Actress race?

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