Our annual look at the individual Oscar categories. If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2015. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions page for Best Foreign Language Film here.
Today we look at Best Foreign Language Film, one of my favorite Oscar categories. The Academy Awards continues to attract global attention as the world’s premier film awards show and as such, this category becomes one of the more keenly followed awards for those fans around the world. The unique selection process may have its flaws, but this year was a great example of some of the intriguing developments it can foster. Namely, we had a record number of submissions in the initial phase and the final list yielded first-ever nominations for Estonia and Mauritania. It’s certainly something to celebrate. So without further ado, here are your nominees:
- Ida (Poland)
- Leviathan (Russia)
- Tangerines (Estonia)
- Timbuktu (Mauritania)
- Wild Tales (Argentina)
If you could design a foreign language Oscar contender in a lab, the resulting film would probably look a lot of like Ida. This Polish drama seems to have the perfect combination of elements for this category – critical and box office success, themes related to World War II and the Holocaust and stunning black and white cinematography to give it that extra sheen of “prestige”. Ida has been the frontrunner since it was announced as an official submission and it’s expected to maintain that status all the way to the Oscar night podium. Poland is seeking its first win after 9 nominations.
Despite rave reviews following its Cannes premiere last year (with a Best Screenplay prize as proof), Leviathan has endured a rocky road to its nomination. As with any Foreign Oscar race, this year served up its share of controversies and Leviathan certainly stands out among the nominees in this regard. At home especially, its anti-government stance put the film under attack from detractors, some of whom claimed it to be anti-Russia. The film seems to have weathered the storm however, with a Golden Globe win under its belt and a strong opportunity to claim a potential upset victory in this race. Russia previously won this category at the 1994 Oscars through Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun.
While its competitors have been earning accolades at some of the world’s biggest film festivals, Tangerines has been “the little film that could” throughout this race. This modest war drama first signaled its awards strength when it showed up as a Golden Globe nominee and eventually made its way onto the AMPAS list. Now a proud first-time nominee for Estonia, the film is perhaps too understated to contend for the win, but its nomination is ample recognition on its own. The film was recently acquired for US distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films, a deal which was certainly aided by the increased publicity from its Oscar nod.
When countries submit films for the Foreign Oscar for the first time, they usually enter just for the experience of being part of the process. In the case of Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu however, Mauritania surely knew they had a strong contender. This tremendously moving drama from one of Africa’s most respected filmmakers has been impressing audiences since its Cannes debut, reducing many to tears. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were to claim a historic win for Mauritania on their first attempt.
Unlike the other more austere dramas, Wild Tales is the certified crowdpleaser in this category. Though it hasn’t been as widely seen as some of the other contenders (its US release date is set for February 20), this uproarious comedy has been very popular with audiences wherever its been shown. It also has the backing of the dominant studio in this category Sony Pictures Classics (they also have Leviathan), which positions it as a very strong contender for the win. Argentina has won twice before with 1985’s The Official Story and recently with The Secret in Their Eyes in 2009.
Will Win: Ida
Could Win: Leviathan
Should Win: Ida
Snubbed: Force Majeure