Welcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards. Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races. If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article. Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!
In the aftermath of this year’s Oscar nominations, diversity – or lack thereof – once again became a hot topic. But look further down the list at Best Foreign Language Film and you’ll find an impressively varied slate of films. While the Academy at large has often been hesitant to recognize new filmmakers, the foreign language branch has embraced the fresh perspectives in world cinema this year. Among the 5 finalists are no less than 3 debut features, a pair of first time nominations (Colombia and Jordan) and a female director. And the stories they tell focus on such underrepresented images as Bedouins in the Middle East, Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon and young girls in Turkey. Most importantly, this slate isn’t diverse for diversity’s sake, it’s a very high quality lineup too. In my mind, they’re all winners. But here’s a closer look to see which films have the goods to go all the way.
The Nominees Are:
Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
A War (Denmark)
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Embrace of the Serpent
On a topsy-turvy Oscar morning, no announcement was a more welcome surprise than the nomination for Embrace of the Serpent for Best Foreign Language Film. This mystic journey through the Amazon is gorgeously shot in black and white, with a captivating narrative that spans two different eras. It’s artful rendering was surely a standout among the list of submissions, but I still expected it to be too cerebral for Academy tastes. As a result, the nomination is probably its biggest reward, as the film may be too outré to appeal to the broader Academy. This is Colombia’s first nomination in this category.
Denmark’s A War has been something of a stealth contender this year, having been absent from all precursor conversation prior to its nomination. But in hindsight, its inclusion makes perfect sense. The film was written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, (who wrote the screenplay for 2013 nominee The Hunt) and features a sympathetic storyline about soldiers in the line of fire in Afghanistan and the consequences of their actions. Although the film is perhaps the most understated of the bunch, it builds to a compelling conclusion as its protagonist (rising star Pilou Asbæk) faces a complex moral crisis. Denmark has been frequently nominated in recent years and last claimed the prize in 2010 for Susanne Bier’s In a Better World.
When the coveted Palme d’Or went to a French film last year (Dheepan), many assumed France’s submission had essentially been decided. But the French selectors turned heads when they announced a very Turkish debut film (Mustang) from Cannes’ lower profile Directors’ Fortnight section to represent the country. Looking back however, they couldn’t have gone with a better choice. The film has benefited from strong word of mouth since its premiere and was an ubiquitous presence throughout the precursors. Telling a touching coming of age tale about a group of sisters in an aggressively conservative village, the film’s strong female-centric perspective will pose a formidable alternative to its competitors. Mustang was directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven and would be France’s first win since 1992’s Indochine.
Son of Saul
Easily the most critically acclaimed foreign language film in 2015, Son of Saul has been the talk of the town from Cannes to Toronto and beyond. Turning an unflinching eye towards the horrors of the Holocaust, the film has been praised for its directing, acting, screenplay and cinematography. With just his first film, László Nemes has delivered a tour de force that is destined for Oscar glory. And its seemingly inevitable win would be Hungary’s first since the István Szabó’s Mephisto in 1981.
Ever since Theeb was announced as Jordan’s submission, I’ve had my eye on it as potential nominee. And lo and behold, there it is. This stunning debut checks many of the boxes required for your typical winner in this category, featuring a child in peril, war themes and festival cred from its lauded Venice premiere. But most of all, it’s just really good filmmaking. It hasn’t attracted the same “must-see” buzz as some of the other films in this category, so a win seems unlikely at this point. But Jordan can be proud of this fine film, which marks their first ever nomination in this category.
Will Win: Unlike so many other categories in this unpredictable Oscar year, Son of Saul has been a strong frontrunner for several months now. I don’t expect this to change.
Could Win: Mustang seems to be the only likely spoiler, having showed up alongside Son of Saul for virtually every awards nomination for Best Foreign Language Film this season.
Should Win: I still haven’t seen Son of Saul yet, but Ciro Guerra’s masterful Embrace of the Serpent would be an excellent choice.
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PICTURE |DIRECTOR | LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS |SUPPORTING ACTOR |SUPPORTING ACTRESS |ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY |ADAPTED SCREENPLAY |ANIMATED FEATURE |PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE |ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | FOREIGN LANGUAGE | LIVE ACTION SHORT |ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT