Best Foreign Film Oscar Predictions 2011

Photo from 'Incendies', Canada's Oscar submission.

One of the most controversial categories at the Oscars is the Best Foreign Film category. This small branch has the daunting task of screening the 50+ films that have been submitted to the Academy from their respective countries and determining which five are worthy of nominations. Every year there are always a few films that this branch leaves off their short list, causing angry outcries in the movie blogging community. The Academy’s Foreign Film branch does not seem to follow the festival circuit, nor do they always go along with the critical consensus. They are one of the few independently thinking branches of the Oscars which makes the category both fascinating and frustrating.

Yesterday the Academy’s Foreign Film branch narrowed down the 60 submitted films to nine finalists which will then be trimmed to five when Oscar nominations are announced next Tuesday. This year’s crop of finalists was lacking some of this category’s powerhouses including France, Italy, and the Russia, which is sure to cause some mild disappointment among fans of those country’s submissions. However, all of that seems to be overshadowed by the fact that Greece’s critically acclaimed, but unusual submission Dogtooth has made the cut. The film from Yorgos Lanthimos has appeared on over 25 critics top ten lists and was one of the most acclaimed films at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, yet many Oscar watchers have thought the film to be too bizarre for this usually conservative branch.

The entire list of films that have made the short list is below:

Algeria, Hors la Loi (Outside the Law)
Canada, Incendies
Denmark, In a Better World
Greece, Dogtooth
Japan, Confessions
Mexico, Biutiful
South Africa, Life, Above All
Spain, Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain)
Sweden, Simple Simon

Several films that have been considered favorites for most of the year made their way onto the shortlist including Incendies and Biutiful. Incendies is from Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve who has had 4 of his films submitted into consideration for Best Foreign Film and is hoping for his first nomination. Biutiful was a Cannes Film Festival sensation last year and is from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who has had mainstream success in the U.S. and whose last film that was submitted by Mexico, Love’s a Bitch was nominated in 2000. Both Mexico and Canada seem like the strongest contenders for a nomination.

The Greece shortlisting surprise seems to imply that great success could be in store for Dogtooth. Although I have not yet seen it, movies like it are usually love it or hate it affairs and apparently members of the Academy’s Foreign Branch subscribe to the former. If they love it enough, there should be no reason it does not emerge as a nominee next Tuesday and potentially an emerging frontrunner.

Susanne Bier and Denmark were surprising winners last Sunday night at the Golden Globe awards when In a Better World beat out favorites like I Am Love and Biutiful to take home the Best Foreign Film Award. There is no cross-over between voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and voters in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, but it does indicate that some momentum may be swinging Denmark’s way. I would expect it to be a nominee next week.

Filling out the fifth spot is difficult. South Africa has had only two films ever get nominated and both have been in the last decade with their 2005 submission Tsotsi winning it all. This is the first film that they’ve submitted that has been in Northern Sotho rather than the more common Afrikaans and Zulu. It has been widely acclaimed by international critics and is a strong contender to earn South Africa its third nomination. Algeria is also in the spotlight with its submission Outside the Law from filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb who has earned the country two previous nominations. The film caused some controversy with its reported “anti-French” historical inaccuracies, which if nothing else will at least get people talking about it. I’m going to pick South Africa for the nominee and Algeria for the alternate.

Here is a recap of my predictions:

1) CanadaIncendies
2) Mexico Beautiful
3) GreeceDogtooth
4) DenmarkIn a Better World
5) South AfricaLife, Above All

ALTERNATE: AlgeriaHors la Loi (Outside the Law)

What do  you think of the shortlisted films? What are your predictions?

[Source: indieWIRE, Wikipedia]

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  • I have the same five. Therefore I feel your choices are superb.

  • My alternate is Confessions (Japan), though.

  • Andrew R.

    I was the only person to predict Dogtooth as making the nine. WOO! But I don’t think it’s going any further. My predictions:

    1. MEXICO-BIUTIFUL-Acclaimed. Has a US release. Is my 10th favorite film of the year. Serious competition.

    2. CANADA-INCENDIES-Locked in. It looks great, it’s getting a release, it’s acclaimed, and it’s Academy bait. I’ll be shocked if it misses out.

    3. ALGERIA-HORS LA LOI-Very Americanized trailer, but it’s been getting very good reviews from US critics. European ones less so. I think it’ll make it, but it’s actually the most likely to be dropped. But if it makes it, it could be a dark horse for the win.

    4. SOUTH AFRICA-LIFE ABOVE ALL-They love AIDS dramas from foreign countries, and I think its status as a sentimental favorite (and Roger Ebert loved it) will safely lock it in.

    5. JAPAN-CONFESSIONS-It’s supposed to be similar to Battle Royale, a Japanese film which made my Top 10 of 2000. I already love it. This movie will just snag the 5th slot.

    6. SPAIN-TAMBIEN LA LLUVIA-Looks very weird and political. The only semifinalist with a trailer that does not have English subtitles.

    7. DENMARK-IN A BETTER WORLD-That’s right, I stuck the Globe winner at #7. The Globes and Academy rarely agree. I might be wrong about this one (and if I am, I actually think Algeria is more likely to get the boot then S. Africa or Japan), but it’s called risk taking. I will be shocked if this doesn’t make the list, though.

    8. SWEDEN-SIMPLE SIMON-Looks very silly. Enough said.

    9. GREECE-DOGTOOTH-I’m thrilled Dogtooth made the nine, as it’s one of the two I’ve seen and I really liked it. But it probably was one of the three films put through by a separate committee (Japan and Spain were most likely the other two), and this film features incest, violence, and is just too weird for the Academy to get behind. But if it gets through, I’ll be thrilled.

    BIGGEST SNUB: Either France or China, as China submitted the first IMAX picture made outside the US and so I thought it had the money power to make it, and France’s film got raves. Italy and Germany were also expected to make a splash, although Italy would’ve had more luck with I Am Love.

  • julian

    The foreign filn branch of the academy picks films from the bunch that don’t get seletced by regular voters, that is the only reason whu Dogtooth got in. The extra spots (which makes the shortlist a nine movie selection) are there to secure snubs of critically revered movies (alas Dogtooth). BUT the more conservative voters of the academy in general is not going to pick a film like that; it is far too daring and controversial. I think Denmark, Canada, Algeria, South Africa and Mexico will take the five spots. Mexico is the favorite due to the star power of bardem and inarritu, but I don’t think it’s going to win, it’s too bleak and depressing. The academy tends to go for a more uplifting film, therefore Denmark seems like an obvious choice. It is a well made film with a universally recognizable theme told from a children’s perspective. That’s a winning combination. Plus, Susanne Bier is an acknowledged player in Hollywood. Academy members interested in forein films definitely knows who Bier is. That’s a further advantage on behalf of Denmark’s submission (puzzling fact: the movie didn’t even get a nomination for BP when The Danish Film Academy chose its nominees last month! So there are, apparently, five better Danish movies made last year…!)

  • Andrew R.

    @Julian-The three films that got in via the special branch were almost certainly Dogtooth, Confessions, and Tambien La Lluvia. Confessions has a shot at being a nominee (albeit on the bubble). The other two don’t.

  • Aris

    I like the list the Academy has set forth this year. Last year I was pulling for the South African film White Wedding because it was the only foreign film that ever made me laugh. IF you haven’t seen it definitely check it out!

  • Margaret

    Last year, South Africa’s “White Wedding” should have received a nomination but didn’t–which disappointed me. The film itself was surprising for a romantic comedy. Sure, it had all the parts of a countdown-to-the-ceremony film, but there were a lot of underlying social issues that it addressed which sparked my interest. It just came out on DVD/VoD, so I don’t have to worry about it not being anyone’s favorite, so long as I have it in my own collection:

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