We’ve come to our final set of contenders in the 2014 Foreign Oscar Guide and it’s a group that could conceivably claim all 5 spots in the nominations. It’s no secret that this category has traditionally been very Eurocentric over the years. Of course, this may just be a result of the sheer number of submissions they send each year, usually accounting for about half the entire field. But there’s no denying that the quality of the continent’s cinema has a lot to do with it too. Who can argue with winners like The Lives of Others, All About My Mother and Cinema Paradiso? Once again, the European films this year are high on quality and quantity, already boasting many awards heading into the Oscar race.
At the head of the pack is Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (Poland’s submission). This austere but affecting postwar drama has been wowing audience and critics alike and is the closest thing to a lock that we have in the Foreign Language Oscar Race. Since its world premiere way back at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival, it has won many prestigious international awards and is currently dominating the early US critics awards.
Ida seems set to dominate the region’s top awards ceremony (the European Film Awards) this coming Saturday, but it will face stiff competition in various categories. In Best Director and Best Actress for example, it will come up against Paolo Virzi’s Human Capital (Italy), starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (who is also featured in the French submission). This multi-narrative drama was a winner at the Tribeca Film Festival for Best Actress and dominated Italy’s David di Donatello Awards, beating the reigning Oscar champ The Great Beauty in the process.
Another film which will be highlighted at the European Film Awards is Austria’s The Dark Valley, a western directed by Andreas Prochaska. The film has already been honored by the European Film Academy for Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. International audiences will probably recognize a familiar face among its cast, as Hollywood actor Sam Riley plays a central role as the mysterious rider who stirs up trouble in an Austrian town.
The Croatian and Lithuanian also have an American feel to them. For his debut feature, Tomislav Mršić’s decided to tackle the popular Croatian play Cowboys, about a troupe of theater outsiders trying to make their own production. Lithuania’s pick also uses American iconography, in the form of The Gambler, a drama set in Las Vegas.
Looking further, most of the submissions have gone through the international film festival circuit and some have walked away with top prizes. These include Georgia’s Corn Island (winner of Karlovy Vary’s Crystal Globe) and Greece’s Little England (winner of the Golden Goblet in Shanghai). Latvia’s Rocks in My Pockets (also eligible for Best Animated Feature) and Norway’s 1001 Grams also picked up significant notices.
The rest of the list may not be as lauded awards-wise, but there are sure to be many hidden gems to discover. Particularly noteworthy is the selection of films directed by women. In addition to the others already mentioned (Rocks in My Pockets and Concrete Night), women helmed the submissions from Czech Republic (Andrea Sedláčková’s Fair Play), Malta (Rebecca Cremona’s Simshar) and the Netherlands (former nominee Paula van der Oest’s Accused).
Rounding out the European submissions are: Nabat (Azerbaijan), With Mom (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bulgarian Rhapsody (Bulgaria), Sorrow and Joy (Denmark), Tangerines (Estonia), Beloved Sisters (Germany), Life in a Fishbowl (Iceland), The Gift (Ireland), Three Windows and a Hanging (Kosovo), Never Die Young (Luxembourg), To the Hilt (Macedonia), The Unsaved (Moldova), The Kids from the Marx and Engels Street (Montenegro), The Japanese Dog (Romania), See You in Montevideo (Serbia), A Step into the Dark (Slovakia), Seduce Me (Slovenia), Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Spain) and Little Happiness (United Kingdom).
These are in addition to the following films that were previously discussed: Two Days One Night (Belgium), Concrete Night (Finland), Saint Laurent (France), White God (Hungary), What Now? Remind Me (Portugal), Leviathan (Russia), Force Majeure (Sweden) and The Circle (Switzerland).
Evidently, the Academy has many options to consider among the European films. As they narrow down the list, I’d expect to see films like Ida, Force Majeure and Leviathan emerge. However, Ida is really the only film you should bet on. With so many strong contenders, there are bound to be some major snubs on the shortlist.