It’s that time of year when the Academy announces its various shortlists prior to the holiday season. And perhaps the most eagerly anticipated of them all is the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film. This year is truly shaping up to be one of the most nail-bitingly competitive years ever for this contentious category. And if 2016’s shocking lineup is an indication, there will be more surprises in store when the 9 lucky films are announced next week. Indeed, predicting this category can be a fool’s errand. But Awards Circuit embraces the challenge. Here is my rundown of the current state of the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film.
From as far back as the Berlin Film Festival in February, foreign language contenders have been staking their claim to a spot on the Academy’s shortlist. It was there that Sebastián Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman” opened to rapturous praise and sparked Oscar talk for the film and its transgender lead Daniela Vega. The film walked away from the fest with the screenplay prize and perhaps, more importantly, a distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics. Indeed, Sony Classics has proven to have the Midas touch in this category with numerous wins over the years. And their reputation will likely remain intact with a slate that also includes such formidable contenders as Michael Haneke’s “Happy End“, “Loveless” and “Foxtrot.” The latter two titles have been especially strong on the circuit, picking up wins from LAFCA and NBR among other citations.
If there’s a challenger to Sony’s stable of thoroughbreds, its likely to come from one of the other Cannes premieres. These include Grand Prix winner and critics darling “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” as well as Best Actress winner “In The Fade” starring Diane Kruger. Both films received Critics Choice nominations this week.
There’s also a notable American invasion that could shake up this year’s foreign language race. Sweden’s unique Palme d’Or winner “The Square” for example, features award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss in a key role. Meanwhile, American-born directors Jonas Carpignano and Angelina Jolie are representing Italy and Cambodia with “A Ciambra” and “First They Killed My Father” respectively. All three are serious contenders to watch.
THE DARK HORSES
Nipping at the heels of the frontrunners are a number of dark horse contenders. These are lower profile films that nevertheless have the potential to go all the way if they make it to the shortlist. One example is Carla Simón’s moving debut feature “Summer 1993” which would be Spain’s first nominee since 2004 winner “The Sea Inside”. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s “The Insult” is a prime candidate for the first-time nominee slot that has been a regular component of the nominee lineup in recent years. This socially conscious drama about a dispute between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee is being handled by Cohen Media Group, who shepherded “The Salesman” to victory last year. Other noteworthy dark horses include the thought-provoking supernatural thriller “Thelma” and “Spoor“, the latest from Academy fave Agnieszka Holland.
As mentioned earlier, the shortlist is prone to offering up some left field choices that leave pundits scratching their heads. And with a record 92 submissions this year, the race is ripe for a major upset or two. Among the potential wildcards, I would first point towards a trio of crowdpleasers, namely “A Taxi Driver,” “The Divine Order” and “Sheikh Jackson.” Likewise, “Félicité,” “Pop Aye,” “On Body and Soul” and “The Last of Us” have all picked up prizes at major festivals and cannot be discounted. And finally, if the Foreign Language Film Award Committee is feeling particularly generous towards LGBTQ cinema, I’m sure they could make room for the Finland’s “Tom of Finland” and South Africa’s “The Wound“. Both have already been released in the US to positive reviews.
Evidently, the possible combinations are seemingly endless this year. Based on my personal gut instinct, however, these are my predictions for the Best Foreign Language Film shortlist (in order of likelihood):
- “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” (France)
- “The Square” (Sweden)
- “In the Fade” (Germany)
- “Loveless” (Russia)
- “Summer 1993” (Spain)
- “First They Killed My Father” (Cambodia)
- “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
- “Foxtrot” (Israel)
- “The Insult” (Lebanon)
Also watch out for: “Spoor,” “Thelma”, “The Wound”, “Tom of Finland” and “On Body and Soul”
Missed any of our coverage of the Foreign Language Oscar Race? Click through to the next page to catch up on all our reviews, articles and interviews.
2017-2018 Foreign Language Film Oscar Coverage by AwardsCircuit.com
Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman)
Ruben Östlund (The Square)
Daniel Rezende (Bingo: The King of the Mornings)
Jang Hoon (A Taxi Driver)
Amit Masurkar (Newton)
Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland)
Annemarie Jacir (Wajib)
Bingo: The King of the Mornings
BPM (Beats Per Minute)
A Fantastic Woman
The Divine Order
First They Killed My Father
In the Fade
Racer and the Jailbird
Song of Granite
A Taxi Driver
Tom of Finland
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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 |