Oscars International Race Has an Empress, a Soldier and a Donkey – But No Front Runner

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More than 50 countries have announced their submissions in the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category, and so far the race is broad and varied but without the kind of clear favorite that “Parasite,” “Roma” and “Amour” were in past years.

Then again, the Japanese movie “Drive My Car” didn’t appear to be a runaway favorite last year at this point, but it swept the critics’ awards and turned into a prohibitive frontrunner by the time Oscar voters began to cast their ballots. So maybe there is a dominant film in the mix, but we just don’t know it yet.

Still, with key countries like France, Italy, Denmark and Mexico yet to announce their entries the race, the category has a few favorites and a lot of uncertainty as the Oct. 3 deadline for submissions approaches.

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Four of the highest-profile titles premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival: Marie Kreutzer’s adventurous period drama “Corsage,” starring Vicky Krieps as 19th century Austrian Empress Elisabeth; Lukas Dhont’s tender coming-of-age film “Close,” the Belgian selection; Jerzy Skolimowski’s nearly wordless “EO,” a road movie from the point of view of a donkey that was submitted by Poland; and South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s stylish crime story/love story hybrid, “Decision to Leave.”

Other films that could be positioned to do well include the German selection, Edward Berger’s harrowing new version of the classic anti-war novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a Netflix release; Spain’s “Alcarras,” a drama by Carla Simon that won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival; and “Our Brothers” from director Rachid Boucharev, who has represented Algeria seven previous times in the Oscar race, landing three of the country’s five nominations.

As usual, the rule that allows an Academy-approved body from each country to choose that country’s Oscar submission has led to some surprises. India, continuing a long history of bypassing the films that seem to have the best chance of landing nominations, went for the “Cinema Paradiso”-style “Last Film Show” instead of the international sensation “RRR.” When that news was announced, “RRR” immediately appealed to Oscar voteers to consider it for Best Picture.

Romania, meanwhile, chose Monica Stan and George Chiper’s “Immaculate” rather than the Cannes entry “R.M.N.” from Cristian Mungiu, one of the directors who helped launch the acclaimed New Romanian Cinema movement with films like “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” (The country’s selection committee has often chosen films from key directors in that movement, including Cristi Puiu, Corneliu Porumboiu and Radu Jude, but none of those were ever nominated; the country finally scored its first nom when it submitted the documentary “Collective” two years ago.)

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Several other notable films are still in the running from their countries. Denmark has narrowed its choices to three films, including “Border” director Ali Abbasi’s harrowing “Holy Spider,” about a real-life serial killer who preyed on prostitutes in Iran. France has narrowed its contenders to five, including Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning,” Alice Winocour’s “Paris Memories” and Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer.” Italy’s 12 finalists include “The Eight Mountains” from Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersh, who also collaborated on the 2012 Belgian nominee “The Broken Circle Breakdown.”

And Mexico, which has made the shortlist the last two years in a row and won for “Roma” in 2018, announced a list of five finalists, one of which – Lorenzo Vigas’ “The Box” – was taken off the table when Venezuela made it their submission. By far the best known of the remaining finalists is “Bardo (False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths),” which received mixed reviews at the Venice and Telluride festivals but comes from Alejandro G. Inarritu, whose films have won eight Oscars, including Best Picture for “Birdman.”

For the second year, director Susanne Bier and curator Rajendra Roy will head the International Feature Film Executive Committee. Bier first became a co-chair of the committee when the late Diane Weyermann recused herself in 2020, while Roy came in last year when term limits forced Larry Karaszewski off the committee.

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The films will be available on a special screening room devoted to the category on the members-only Academy Screening Room site, although no films are currently available and members have not yet been invited to join the committee that votes for the international award. The Academy may also hold official in-person screenings in Los Angeles, a screening option that has not been available for the past two years, but that option has yet to be determined.

Here is the list of films that have been announced by their home countries. The Academy must still vet these films to make sure they meet eligibility requirements, so inclusion on this list is not a guarantee that the film will qualify. (Bulgaria originally submitted “Mother,” which was deemed ineligible because more than 50% of its dialogue was in English.)

Albania: “A Cup of Coffee and New Shoes On,” Gentian Koci
Algeria: “Our Brothers,” Rachid Bouchareb
Armenia: “Aurora’s Sunrise,” Inna Sahakyan
Austria: “Corsage,” Marie Kreutzer
Belgium: “Close,” Lukas Dhont
Bolivia: “Utama,” Alejandro Loayza Grisi
Bosnia and Herzegovina: “A Ballad,” Aida Begic
Brazil: “Mars One,” Gabriel Martins
Canada: “Eternal Spring,” Jason Loftus
Costa Rica: “Domingo and the Mist,” Ariel Escalante
Croatia: “Safe Place,” Juraj Lerotic
Czech Republic: “Il Boemo,” Petr Vaclav
Ecuador: “Lo Invisible,” Javier Andrade
Finland: “Girl Picture,” Alli Haapasalo
Georgia: “A Long Break,” Davit Pirtskhalava
Germany: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Edward Berger
Greece: “Magnetic Fields,” Yorgos Goussis
Guatemala: “The Silence of the Mole,” Anais Taracena
Hungary: “Blockade,” Adam Toser
Iceland: “Beautiful Beings,” Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson
India: “Last Film Show,” Pan Nalin
Indonesia: “Ngeri-Ngeri Sedap,” Bene Dion Rajagukguk
Iran: “World War III,” Houman Seyyedi
Ireland: “The Quiet Girl,” Colm Bairead
Israel: “Cinema Sabaya,” Orit Fouks Rotem
Japan: “Plan 75,” Chie Hayakawa
Kazakhstan: “Life,” Emir Baigazin
Kosovo: “Looking for Venera,” Norika Sefa
Latvia: “January,” Viestur Kairish
Lithuania: “Pilgrims,” Laurynas Bareisa
Moldova: “Carbon,” Ion Bors
Montenegro: “The Elegy of Laurel,” Dusan Kasalica
Nepal: “Butterfly on the Windowpane,” Sujit Bidari
Netherlands: “Narcosis,” Martijn de Jong
New Zealand: “Muru,” Tearepa Kahi
Palestine: “Mediterranean Fever,” Maha Haj
Panama: “Birthday Boy,” Arturo Montenegro
Paraguay: “Eami,” Paz Encina
Poland: “EO,” Jerzy Skolimowski
Portugal: “Alma Viva,” Cristele Alves Meira
Romania: “Immaculate,” Monica Stan, George Chiper
Serbia: “Darkling,” Dusan Milic
Slovakia: “Victim,” Michal Blasko
Slovenia: “Orchestra,” Matevz Luzar
South Korea: “Decision to Leave,” Park Chan-wook
Spain: “Alcarras,” Carla Simon
Sweden: “Boy From Heaven,” Tarik Saleh
Switzerland: “A Piece of Sky,” Michael Koch
Taiwan: “Goddamned Asura,” Lou Yi-an
Tanzania: “Tug of War,” Amil Shivji
Tunisia: “Under the Fig Trees,” Erige Sehiri
Turkey: “Kerr,” Tayfun Pirselimoglu
Uganda: “Tembele,” Morris Mugisha
Ukraine: “Klondike,” Maryna Er Gorbach
Uruguay: “The Employer and the Employee,” Manolo Nieto
Venezuela: “The Box,” Lorenzo Vigas

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