Oscar 2015 Predictions, Foreign Film: Peru, Chile, Dominican Republic Join Race
The Foreign Language film race continues to get more competitive as 13 new countries submitted features to compete at the Academy Awards.
Among the latest countries to submit was Peru, which submitted the festival hit "The Gospel of the Flesh." The movie premiered at the Chicago Latin Film Festival among others. Directed by Eduardo Mendoza de Echave, the drama was one of the most popular in the countries last year and was received to rave reviews.
Peru has only been nominated once, and with no big festivals under its belt, this new submission is unlikely to make the cut.
Chile has one of the strongest submissions this year with "To Kill a Man." The feature won the World Dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival and later premiered at the Rotterdam and Fribourg Film Festivals. It was also acquired by Film Movement for U.S. distribution.
The country has been submitting since 1990 and for the past four years has had strong contenders. It was also nominated for the first time in 2012 for the feature "No."
Meanwhile, Dominican Republic submitted the dramatic film "Cristo Rey," which made its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last year. The film by Dominican Republic native Leticia Tonos is a "Romeo & Juliet" drama with overtones about two half-brothers chasing after the same girl.
The country has been submitting inconsistently since 1983 and has never been nominated. The country's latest submission is very different from last year, as it chose a drama instead of a comedy, and "Cristo Rey" was at some of the top festivals. That should give the film an edge over some of the Latin American countries with smaller films. Still, it will be interesting to see how far the drama goes in the race.
The country of Mauritania made history this year submitting its first film. The elected feature was the French co-production "Timbuktu," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews. The feature went on to win the Prize of the Ecumenial Jury and the Francois Chalais Prize. It later went to the Jerusalem Film Festival, where it won the In Spirit for Freedom Award.
Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako, "Timbuktu" will continue its festival run at the New York Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival where it will hope to continue generating buzz and attempt to get the eventual Oscar nomination.
Austria also submitted after considering a number of films. The country which has been nominated four times and won twice for "Amour" and "The Counterfeiters." This year, the country has submitted the Western "The Dark Valley." Having premiered at the Berlin Festival in the Special Gala sidebar, the Andreas Prochaska feature, was popular in both Germany and Austria and won the 2014 German Awards for Best Feature Film as well as seven other awards.
The movie has yet to pick up an American distributor, but if it is nominated, the movie is likely to be released next year.
Bulgaria's submission was "Bulgarian Rhapsody" by Ivan Nitchev. The country, which has never been nominated, made headlines for the decision to choose the film as the feature was not at any international film festivals and because the director was apparently on the board that chose the feature.
"Bulgarian Rhapsody" was a co-production with Israel and many of the Bulgaria's film community has started a petition against the selection. For many, "Viktoria" which was at Sundance this year and "Alienation," which won Venice Days, were better choices.
Therefore, the controversy may make it probable for the film to be disqualified, which could mean that Bulgaria may submit another feature.
Another country to submit was Georgia, which elected the Karlovy Vary competition winner "Corn Island." The country was nominated once in 1996 for its first submission "A Chef in Love" but since then has failed to make the shortlist.
This year, the country submitted the feature by Giorgi Ovashvili, which was highly popular at the festival circuit and as aforementioned won the Crystal Globe at the Czech Republic's most prestigious festival. The film next makes a stop at the London Film Festival where it will continue to get international exposure.
Greece's submission this year is "Little England" by Pantelis Voulgaris. The feature premiered at the Shanghai Film Festival and went on to win the Best Film award at the Hellenic Film Awards, which are Greece's equivalent to the Oscars.
Greece has been nominated five times at the Oscars and the last time the country was nominated was in 2012 for the feature "Dogtooth." This year, the period drama "Little England" seems like a dark horse, especially with no major international film festivals under its belt.
Japan nominated "The Light Shines Only There" as it official submission. The feature by Mipo Oh won the Best Director award at the Montreal World Film Festival and it hopes to bring home the country's second Oscar.
The country has been nominated 12 times and won in 2009 when "Departures" surprised, beating out front-runners "The Class" and "Waltz with Bashir."
"Accused" was submitted by the Netherlands for consideration. The feature, by Paula van der Oest, had a successful run in Benelux, where it was distributed by Independent Films, and was recently released on DVD and VOD. Fortissimo Films sold the rights for the feature in a number of countries. "Accused" is slated to play at the Netherlands Film Festival later this month.
The Netherlands has been nominated for seven Academy Awards and has won three since first submitting in 1959. However, this year's submission lacks the international acclaim and buzz that previous submissions have obtained.
Norway has one of the strongest submissions this year as it chose "1001 Grams." Directed by Bent Hamer, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and scored rave reviews.
The feature tells the story of a recently divorced, workaholic scientist who goes to a seminar in Paris that's all about the actual weight of a kilogram.
Norway hopes to obtain its sixth nomination at the Academy Awards with this recent hit and if the film is acquired by a U.S. distributor, it is likely to have an even greater chance. The country was last nominated in 2012 with "Kon-Tiki."
Meanwhile, Taiwan surprised by naming "Ice Poison" the official submission over Venice winner "Stray Dogs." The film, by Midi Z, premiered in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February, and has had an extensive festival career with stops including Tribeca, Moscow, Montreal Durban and la Rochelle. Director Midi Z went on to win the best directing award at the Taipei festival and "Ice Poison" was named best international feature at the Edinburgh festival.
The country has been nominated three times and has won once in 2000 for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Interestingly enough all three features have been directed by two time Oscar winner Ang Lee. Midi Z hopes to break that trend and get the country its fourth nomination.
Ukraine surprised choosing "The Guide" over "The Tribe," which won the Critics Week sidebar at Cannes. The film was directed by Oles Sanin and has not been at any major film festivals at the moment.
The country has been submitting since 1997 and has never been nominated. However, "The Tribe" could be the first.
The Academy Awards will announce the nominations on Jan. 15.