2016 Foreign Oscar Guide: Asia’s Eastern Promises

Welcome to Awards Circuit’s 2016 Foreign Oscar Guide. This weekly series will shine a spotlight on this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, looking at all 85 submitted films and their interesting trends and regional perspectives.

Much has been said about the Academy’s rule of allowing only one submission per country in the Foreign Language Oscar category. In the eyes of many, it gives an inaccurate representation of the best in world cinema, as some countries have multiple worthy films or may not select their best. But the restriction has its benefits, namely in leveling the playing field to allow entries from smaller nations a better chance at recognition. The system still shows its biases however, as the Asian region has been sorely underrepresented among the nominees, despite containing some of the world’s most influential film industries. This year, 19 Asian hopefuls will chase Oscar glory, ranging from big-budget genre films to intimate dramas.

Every year, one of the biggest questions is whether South Korea will finally get an Oscar nomination. The country has one of the most prominent film industries in the world, producing some of the most edgy fare in cinemas. This year, they may have one of their best shots at Oscar, submitting a glossy Hollywood-esque production from Warner Bros. The film is a historical spy thriller named “The Age of Shadows,” directed by Kim Jee-woon.

Jaclyn Jose in "Ma' Rosa"
Jaclyn Jose in “Ma’ Rosa”

A number of other Asian countries will also be seeking their first nod. These include Tauquir Ahmed’s “The Unnamed” (Bangladesh), Angga Dwimas Sasongko’s “Letters from Prague” (Indonesia), Boo Junfeng’s “Apprentice” (Singapore) and “A Father’s Will” (Kyrgyzstan), directed by Bakyt Mukul and Dastan Japar Uulu. In addition, there’s also the latest from the respected Filipino auteur Brillante Mendoza. His new drama “Ma’ Rosa” stars Jaclyn Jose, who beat out several acclaimed performers (Sonia Braga, Isabelle Huppert, Ruth Negga) for the Best Actress prize at Cannes.

Meanwhile, several former nominees are aiming to be among the finalists once again. From Cambodia, there’s Ian White’s noir thriller “Before the Fall.” From China, there’s the “Xuanzang” biopic directed by Huo Jianqi and produced by Wong Kar-wai. Representing Hong Kong is the award-winning crime drama “Port of Call,” based on a true story involving a murdered 16-year-old prostitute. Coming out of the prolific Indian film industry is Vetrimaaran’s “Interrogation,” which premiered at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. And finally, there’s “Amanat” from Kazakhstan and “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass” from Vietnam.

These submissions join the following films already discussed: “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son,” “Beautiful Pain,” “Mah-e-Mir,” “Karma,” “I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced” and “Hang in There, Kids!.”

Contender to watch: “Ma’ Rosa”

Check out the latest Oscar Predictions for Best Foreign Language Film!

Which of these Asian films are you rooting for? Let us know in the comments below.