Plot: Story follows a woman who starts a relationship with a young soldier while she is caring for her comatose husband.
Oscar Chances: Afghanistan has only been submitting films for about a decade and they have yet to receive a nomination. This Afghan production had a lot of help from people in the French film industry like writer Jean-Claude Carriere and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. That may help the film, but it’s not likely to be a nominee.
Plot: Branko enters into a romantic relationship with one of his father’s employees, Sara, a young nurse. Accidentally or not, Sara provokes the tense relation of a father and a son, uncovering a silent generational conflict between the two.
Oscar Chances: It wasn’t until 2008 that Albania started regularly submitting films in this category. Their film industry is growing and they might have a breakout film within a few years, but Pharmakon is not likely to be it.
Plot: The movie focuses on the life of Ahmed Zabana, a 30-year-old nationalist who became a hero to the independence movement after being executed by the French colonial authorities in 1956.
Oscar Chances: The only Algerian films that have been nominated in the past two decades have come from director Rachid Bouchareb. This film’s submission might help draw attention to the 50th Anniversary of Algeria’s independence, but it is not likely to become the first non-Bouchareb Algerian nominee since the 80s.
Plot: Juan lives in clandestinity. Just like his mum, his dad and his adored uncle Beto, outside his home he has another name. At school, Juan is known as Ernesto. And he meets María, who only has one name.
Oscar Chances: Argentina won this award a few years ago with the fantastic police drama The Secret in Their Eyes. Clandestine Childhood is a period film from debut director Benjamin Avila. It hasn’t received the level acclaim that The Secret of Their Eyes did, so it probably won’t make the cut.
Directed by Cate Shortland
Plot: In spring 1945, the German army collapses. As the Allied forces sweep across the Motherland, five children embark on a journey which will challenge every notion we have of family, love and friendship.
Oscar Chances: If there is one thing we can say with certainty about the Foreign Language branch of the Academy, it’s that they love World War II films. This production is set in Germany and in Germans, but has a mostly Australian crew, which makes it eligible. This has as strong a chance of getting nominated as any Australian film before.
Plot: Retired music teachers Anne and Georges have their love for one another tested when Anne suffers an attack and begins to deteriorate physically and mentally.
Oscar Chances: Consider this one the frontrunner. It’s biggest barrier will be the bizarre rules in the Foreign branch of the Academy that have caused Haneke’s films to be disqualified in the past. This is an Austrian, German, and French production and the language is French. In 2005, Haneke’s Caché was deemed ineligible because it wasn’t Austrian enough. If Amour makes it through the bureaucracy, it could go all the way.
Plot: The tale of an orphan befriended by an elderly man who loved, but lost, the boy’s grandmother long ago.
Oscar Chances: This is Azerbaijan’s fourth submission for Best Foreign Language Film and it might be their best chance at a nomination yet. Buta won the award for Best Children’s Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which means it has gotten some attention abroad. Will Academy members make time to see it?
Plot: The story concerns a young couple, Murielle and Mounir, who set up home in smalltown Belgium with Andre, a wealthy doctor who has been a sort of godfather to Mounir.
Oscar Chances: Belgium usually submits a Dardennes brothers film, but due to eligibility they have decided to submit another Cannes Film Festival favorite. Our Children stars Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup, who were previously featured in Oscar nominee A Prophet. Plus its star, Emilie Dequenne, won Best Actress in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes. Oscar loves acting, so the chances for this one are good.
Plot: Several different stories intertwine about people who are picking up their lives in a post-war Sarajevo.
Oscar Chances: This movie took home a special distinction award when it played in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. Bosnia’s submission No Man’s Land won this award in 2001 and they might be due for a comeback; especially for a movie that is so well received like this one.
Plot: Father and son work as clowns Puro Sangue/Valdemar and Pangare/Benjamin in a circus in the Brazilian countryside. Benjamin decides to follow a different path and meets several people on the way.
Oscar Chances: This film had success at a few small film festivals and made a lot of money in its home country, but word of mouth has not been loud enough outside of its home country. The small voting body in the Academy’s foreign branch might find something to like about it, but it probably won’t be at the top of their lists to see.
Plot: The story of a woman who lost many family members to Pol Pot’s bloody Khmer Rouge regime, and was inspired by Leave Sila, Bora’s mother-in-law.
Oscar Chances: This is only the second time in history that Cambodia has submitted a film, the last being all the way back in 1994. According to Variety, the film was personally financed by Chhay Bora using 15 years of his savings. This might be a case where the story behind the film gets more attention than the film itself.
Plot: An ad executive comes up with a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum.
Oscar Chances: No is one of Duncan’s favorite movies of the year and it was widely acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Director’s Fortnight award. The Academy did not go for Larrain’s last submission Tony Manero, which did not even make the shortlist, but maybe they have come around?
Plot: Set in modern-day China, a young woman becomes embroiled in controversy after a cell phone video of her being disrespectful on a public bus goes viral. The aftermath effects her personal and professional life and brings her face to face with the video’s poster, an ambitious journalist.
Oscar Chances: Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou are two of China’s chosen directors whose films are submitted often. Yimou has been picked by the Academy before, but Kaige has not. The film’s subject is definitely relevant, but it might not be enough to score Kaige’s first nomination.
Plot: The real life story of Andres Lopez Lopez aka “Florecita” during his years involved with the Colombian Cartel aka “Cartel Norte del Valle”.
Oscar Chances: Colombia has had less success in this category than other Latin American countries like Argentina or Mexico. This movie also stars American actor Tom Sizemore. If Sizemore’s latest efforts are to be judged, then this Colombian submission is probably not going anywhere.
Plot: Based on a true story from the 18th century, the film looks at the love affair between Denmark’s young queen and her royal physician – a romance that will transform the country even as it dooms the pair.
Oscar Chances: Coming off their win in 2011 for Susanne Bier’s In a Better World, Denmark is hoping to make it two wins in three years with this highly acclaimed drama. A Royal Affair is one of the most financially successful Danish films of all-time and it took home Best Actor and Screenplay prizes at the Berlin Film Festival. It is also one of the few foreign submissions that will open in most major U.S. cities, which should give it a boost.
Plot: After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.
Oscar Chances: It’s a rare year that the French submission is not in competition for this Oscar. This movie received 9 nominations at the Cesar Awards and won the prize for Omar Sy. The Intouchables is that feel-good type of movie that the Academy often falls for. It looks like it might be between this movie and Michael Haneke’s Amour for the top prize.
Plot: 0 women, seven of them belonging to the poorest population, are desperately trying to win a beauty contest for mothers who have more than 3 children. The winner will get an apartment and $25,000.
Oscar Chances: This effort from debut director Rusudan Chkonia played at the Venice Film Festival this month to a moderately positive reception. Variety speculates that it might be the type of movie that gets remade in English eventually. Maybe the Oscars will be a nice warm-up to help it find a U.S. audience?
Plot: Three people – a criminal, a bank officer and a cop – end up in a catastrophic situation in the midst of a global economical crisis and are forced to betray any morals and principles to solve their financial problems.
Oscar Chances: I was looking through Hong Kong’s past submissions in this category and I realized that Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love wasn’t nominated when it was submitted in 2000. The Academy seriously needs to correct this injustice. Maybe nominating Life Without Principle would help.
Plot: Based on the cold-blooded killings of six Roma families in Hungary between 2008-2009, when murder squads set fire to houses before gunning down the occupants as they tried to escape.
Oscar Chances: After receiving five Oscar nominations in the eighties, Hungary has been on a lengthy cold streak with their last nomination in 1988 (they haven’t even been shortlisted since then). Just the Wind was a big hit at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year taking home the Silver Bear and the Amnesty Peace Prize. It could make for a European heavy field this year.
Plot: The real-life survival tale of a fisherman who miraculously survived several hours in the freezing ocean after his boat capsized off the south coast of Iceland in 1984.
Oscar Chances: Director Baltasar Kormakur has some Hollywood cred already, having directed actors like Mark Wahlberg, Forest Whitaker, and Julia Stiles. It has been 20 years since the last Icelandic film was nominated in this category and Kormakur’s film is a long shot to break that streak.
Plot: A love triangle between a man who cannot speak or hear, an autistic woman and a fully abled woman. Told in flashback, the film moves between 1972 and the present day.
Oscar Chances: The Indian film industry produces almost as many films as Hollywood, but they rarely get nominated for the Foreign Film Oscar (only once in the past 10 years). Barfi! has been playing in the U.S. for a while, but is still pretty under the radar compared to some of the better known European submissions. India will win eventually, but this year is probably not it.
Plot: It tells the story of Rasus, a military officer, hunting for Srintil, his young love, whose magical dancing led village elders to believe she was the next Ronggent, with special powers given by the goddess of dance.
Oscar Chances: Indonesia submits a film just about every year, but they have yet to even make the shortlist. With nominations moved earlier in the year, there is less time for Academy members to dive into small releases from countries that are not often nominated. The Dancer, and other films from small nations, might miss out as a result.
Plot: A romantic comedy set in Tel Aviv that tells the story of 18-year-old Shira, who finds herself suddenly torn between family devotion and her own desires when her older sister dies in childbirth and she is offered as a replacement bride.
Oscar Chances: Israel is on a roll with 4 Oscar nominations in the past 5 years. Fill the Void swept the country’s Ophir Awards and received positive reviews at the Venice Film Festival. With such great success as of late, this will definitely be a submission that the Academy looks at closely.
Plot: This semi-documentary stars real inmates at Rome’s maximum-security Rebibbia penitentiary who perform Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” behind bars.
Oscar Chances: Italy has won this award more times than any other country, but they have been on a cold streak lately with 7 years since their last nomination and 14 since their last win. Caesar Must Die won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and nearly swept Italy’s David di Donatello awards. It has major acclaim and a good shot at putting Italy back on the map.
Plot: A Korean/Japanese man returns to his family in Japan after living in North Korea for 25 years where he finds it difficult to connect with his aging mother and his anti-North sister.
Oscar Chances: The Hollywood Reporter gave Our Homeland a rather unfavorable review when it played at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. Japan frequently makes the Academy short list and they won as recently as 2008 with their film Departures. They seem unlikely to have success this year, but never count them out.
Plot: It’s based on ancient myths about Adam’s first wife Lillith, an immortal without a soul who is made of clay and not from Adam’s rib. Lillith is an amoral character who knows neither good nor evil but whom men find irresistible. Once smitten they are forever in her power.
Oscar Chances: Latvia has only submitted four films in their history and none have been nominated. They have a growing film industry that needs a few more years to establish some ground before their first nomination is likely to come.
Plot: Alejandra and her dad Roberto have just moved to town. She is new at school, he has a new job. Starting over is sometimes complicated when you have left so much behind.
Oscar Chances: After Lucia was well-received at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard category. Mexico has a strong track record this decade with a nomination just about every other year. Miss Bala surprisingly missed the cut last year, so they are due for another.
Plot: It follows the 1947 expedition of anthropologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl, as he sailed from South America to the Polynesian Islands on a wooden raft.
Oscar Chances: Norway has a pretty good history in this category, but they have yet to record a win. This movie has not received the levels of international acclaim that guarantees they will get there, but the Academy loves real-life adventure story so a nomination is certainly not out of the question.
Plot: Set in Jordan in 1967, the pic tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who runs away from a Palestinian refugee camp in his search for freedom.
Oscar Chances: Palestine has only submitted 5 times in their history, the last being in 2008 when they submitted another film from Annemarie Jacir, and have only been nominated once. Their one nomination came for Paradise Now, a film that received a lot of publicity for its political relevance. When I Saw You has not received as much favorable buzz.
Plot: Coming-of-age pic revolves around a troubled 8-year-old girl who finds solace in the heroes of Peru’s turbulent past when her mother announces a baby brother is on the way.
Oscar Chances: This film has been playing well at a variety of film festivals around the world. Peru was nominated three years ago for The Milk of Sorrow and they seem to be at least part of the discussion every year. This imaginative film could end up charming some members of the Academy.
Plot: A 70-year old gay man finally comes out of the closet and looks for love in his twilight years while striking up a friendship with a dog named Princess.
Oscar Chances: This movie sounds an awful lot like Mike Mills’ Beginners, which had a few fans within the Academy. The Philippines has never had a film nominated before, but their film industry is definitely getting stronger. They probably won’t receive a nomination this year, but there time will soon come.
Plot: Based on the true story of Polish military leader Wojciech Jaruzelski’s standoff with the pro-Democracy Solidarity movement, 80 Million follows a group of opposition leaders who attempt to withdraw 80 million zlotys from the movement’s bank account.
Oscar Chances: Oftentimes when a country submits a movie that is tightly focused on their own politics and history it does not play as well as movies that have more universal appeal. Poland received nominations in 2011 and 2007 for World War II set movies, which this branch adores. They are less fond of more recent period dramas.
Plot: A regular family living in the outskirts of Lisbon sees the serenity of their lives shaken beyond any remedy within a week.
Oscar Chances: This film won the Portugese version of the Golden Globes, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything because Portugal, like so many other countries on this list, has never received a nomination in the past. Family dramas are appealing to the Academy, but bigger countries might have an advantage this year.
Plot: A drama centered on the friendship between two young women who grew up in the same orphanage; one has found refuge at a convent in Romania and refuses to leave with her friend, who now lives in Germany.
Oscar Chances: Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days was controversially ignored by the Academy in 2007 despite being praised by many as the best foreign film of that year. Romanian directors have been producing some of the best cinema in the world for the last couple of years and they are due for at least a nomination. As long as the anti-Romania sentiment doesn’t continue, this should go far.
Plot: After barely surviving a battle with a mysterious, ghostly-white Tiger tank, Red Army Sergeant Ivan Naydenov becomes obsessed with its destruction.
Oscar Chances: This Russians have opted for more patriotic films lately instead of films that have proven international appeal. Not many people outside of Russia have seen White Tiger, so it is difficult to speculate on the Oscar chances. It does have the war element going for it, but not a whole lot else.
Plot: A young girl descends into exploitation after going to the Czech Republic to work in a textile factory.
Oscar Chances: This was a joint production between a Slovakian and Czech Republican crew, but the Slovakian Republic gets to make the submission. The Academy’s foreign branch has typically been pretty conservative, but they surprised everyone when they nominated the Greek film Dogtooth in 2009. It might not be such a stretch for this gritty film to get noticed.
Plot: The plot follows three friends on a road trip. Young soldier Gregor is about to go to Afghanistan, Ziva says she is off to study abroad and self-loathing homosexual Andrej intends to stay at home.
Oscar Chances: The film has been well received at a number of small festivals and won top prizes at the Nashville and Slovene Film Festivals. Slovenia has never received a nomination before, and this movie has a long way to go if it’s going to be the country’s first.
Plot: The story of a young rape victim who is left for dead in a township near Johannesburg and rescued by a middle-aged woman. After rushing the girl to the hospital, the woman becomes entangled in her life, ultimately launching her own investigation into the girl’s attack.
Oscar Chances: The last time South Africa chose a film by Darrell Roodt was 2004 when his film Yesterday became the country’s first nomination. This message movie might give South Africa their first nomination since Tsotsi took home the top prize in 2005.
No Trailer or Clips Available
Plot: The film follows the journey of a vicious debt collector toward redemption, after he meets a woman claiming to be his mother.
Oscar Chances: This film was the surprise winner of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, which definitely got people’s attention. Like Romania, South Korea has been churning out inspired films for years, but still has never had a nomination. Will this festival favorite be their first?
Plot: A retread of the Snow White tale, set in 1920s Seville with the heroine as a feisty bullfighter.
Oscar Chances: This year was filled with Snow White remakes, but this one sounds like the best of them all. It received great reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival this year and is the most acclaimed film of 2012 in Spain. It’s been 8 years since Spain was last nominated (they won for The Sea Inside) and they are due for another big year.
Plot: Based on Lars Kepler’s bestseller, the film follows a murderer killing the members of a single family one by one. A psychiatrist uses hypnotism to glean clues from a son who survives a murder attempt, with serious injuries, before the killer reaches his last victim.
Oscar Chances: Movies based on Swedish crime novels are all the rage these days. None of the films in Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series were submitted by Sweden despite their immense popularity, so it’s hard to say how the Academy feels about this type of movie. Sweden usually gets a nomination every couple years, which means they are due for another one, since their last was in 2004.
Plot: Sister (L’enfant d’en haut) centers on a poor 12-year-old boy and with his teen sister who steal from wealthy tourists at a swanky ski resort in order to survive.
Oscar Chances: Sister has been very well-received in Europe with a special award at the Berlin Film Festival and a nomination for the European Film Awards. It also will receive a very limited U.S. release and might build some steam to get a decent campaign behind it. It’s not the strongest European film this year, but it’s chances are decent.
Plot: Based on the life of blind Taiwanese piano prodigy Yu Hsiang, who plays himself in the film.
Oscar Chances: Taiwan has never had a film get nominated that wasn’t directed by Ang Lee. This film seems to have a lot of elements the Academy likes (biography, perseverance overcoming tragedy, true story), plus just a little bit of the gimmick factor, but without Lee at the helm it will probably be ignored.
Plot: A harrowing story of a father’s mission to kill his teenage daughter after she falls pregnant, bringing shame to the family.
Oscar Chances: The plot of Where the Fire Burns sounds nice and cheery, which is right up the alley of the Academy’s foreign branch. The Turkish film industry is a strong one, but if the more highly praised Once Upon a Time in Anatolia didn’t make the cut last year, this drama is not likely to make it either.
Plot: The true story of a Soviet wartime hero whose life is transformed when he is sent to one of Stalin’s Gulags for the “crime” of falling into German hands as a prisoner of war. After escaping he flees to Canada and becomes chief of a Red Indian tribe.
Oscar Chances: This is only the sixth time that Ukraine has submitted a film for consideration for Best Foreign Language Film and they have never come close to a nomination. This bizarre premised film has not received much attention outside of Eastern Europe, so it seems unlikely to be Ukraine’s first.
Plot: The chance of an innocent child’s game will unveil a betrayal that will forever change the lives of two families when their paths cross, endangering what they love the most, in a city that does not give them a truce.
Oscar Chances: Of the 21 previous submissions Venezuala has made, not one has succeeded in even making one of the Academy’s shortlists. This doesn’t mean they won’t achieve their first nomination this year, but it does mean they won’t be paid as close attention as, say, Italy.
Plot: The film depicts an 81-day battle between Vietnamese and American soldiers at the citadel in Quang Tri during the summer of 1972. Soldiers, including young students, were called from the north to fight during this battle, many of them sacrificing their lives.
Oscar Chances: I had a very difficult time finding anything about Vietnam’s submission, which usually doesn’t mean there is much international attention directed its way. However, the only Vietnamese film in history to be nominated for this award was called The Scent of Green Papayas. Maybe the Academy has a thing for Vietnamese films that start with “The Scent of…”