2017 Foreign Oscar Guide: The Year of the Women Directors?

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Welcome to The Awards Circuit’s 2017 Foreign Oscar Guide. This weekly series will shine a spotlight on this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, looking at all 92 submitted films and their interesting trends and regional perspectives.

For reasons good and bad, there’s been a lot of talk lately about women in the film industry. Notably, Hollywood has been rocked by recent sexual harassment scandals in the same year that Patty Jenkins-directed “Wonder Woman” conquered the summer box office. While the picture isn’t perfect overseas, the Foreign Language Oscar category continues to be a beacon of positivity. Just last year, we celebrated a record number of submissions from female directors, yielding a nomination for Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann” in the process. And now, that milestone has been smashed, with 26 women-directed films being chosen to represent their countries. Only three women have ever helmed winners in this category, but hope springs eternal with this talented group. Here’s a deeper look at these films and the directors attempting to follow in the footsteps of Marleen Goris, Caroline Link and Suzanne Bier.

Ildikó Enyedi with her Golden Bear for “On Body and Soul”

From Europe, a number of women-directed films enter the race with festival laurels. At the top of the list is “Spoor,” directed by Academy favorite Agnieska Holland. The esteemed Polish director will be aiming for her 3rd career nomination with this crime drama that won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. And she wasn’t the only female director who was feted in Berlin. Ildikó Enyedi won the prestigious Golden Bear for “On Body and Soul” (Hungary), while Carla Simón won the Best First Feature for the Spanish submission “Summer 1993.” This popular dark horse contender is a moving drama about a 6-year old who is forced to live with her uncle after her parents die of AIDS. Meanwhile, the Swiss crowdpleaser “The Divine Order” and Georgia’s “Scary Mother” were winners at Tribeca (Nora Ephron Award, Best Actress and Audience Award) and Locarno (Best First Feature) respectively.

Angelina Jolie on the set of “First They Killed My Father”

While those films will boast their awards pedigree, Cambodia and Luxembourg will surely bank on the visibility of the big names involved in their submissions. The former will be represented by “First They Killed My Father,” the fourth directorial effort from Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie. After its Telluride premiere, this harrowing true story has been universally praised as her best directorial achievement to date. Luxembourg’s “Barrage” on the other hand, will be showcasing a star in front of the camera. Namely, Laura Schroeder directs the legendary Isabelle Huppert in this family drama involving three generations of women.

Rounding out this list are a number of under-the-radar entries. In addition to the aforementioned films, Europe will have representation from Armenia (Anahit Abad’s “Yeva“), Bulgaria (Kristina Grozeva’s “Glory“), Croatia (Hana Jušić’s “Quit Staring at My Plate“), Netherlands (Mijke de Jong’s “Layla M.“) and Slovenia (Hanna Antonina Wojcik Slak’s “The Miner“). And from the Asia-Pacific region, there will be films from Afghanistan (Roya Sadat’s “A Letter to the President“), Australia (Ruth Borgobello’s “The Space Between“), Iran (Narges Abyar’s “Breath“), Laos (Mattie Do’s “Dearest Sister“), Palestine (Annermarie Jacir’s “Wajib“), Taiwan (Hui-chen Huang’s “Small Talk“), Thailand (Anocha Suwichakornpong’s “By the Time It Gets Dark“) and Singapore (Kirsten Tan’s Sundance winner “Pop Aye“).

Finally, these films join the previously discussed group of women-directed submissions from the Americas, which include Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” (Argentina), Ana Cristina Barragán’s “Alba” (Ecuador), Tatiana Huezo’s “Tempestad” (Mexico), Arianne Benedetti’s “Beyond Brotherhood” (Panama) and Tana Schémbori’s “Los Buscadores” (Paraguay).

Contenders to watch: “Summer 1993”, “Spoor” and “First They Killed My Father”

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

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MOTION 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 |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |