Palestinian, Belgian films among Oscar nominees
This image released by the Tribeca Film Festival shows Veerle Baetens in a scene from "The Broken Circle Breakdown." The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign picture on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2. (AP Photo/Tribeca Film Festival)
LONDON (AP) — The Academy Awards recognized tales of struggle, suffering and love in the Oscars' foreign-language category Thursday, nominating five films from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, including a bluegrass-flavored Belgian drama and a tale of tragic romance from the Palestinian territories.
The contenders include Felix van Groeningen's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," about a music-loving couple facing the serious illness of their child, and Hany Abu-Assad's "Omar," the story of a love affair and its consequences against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They're up against "The Hunt," from Denmark; "The Great Beauty," from Italy; and Cambodian drama "The Missing Picture." The winner will be announced at the 86th Oscars ceremony in Hollywood on March 2.
This is one of the Oscars' most unpredictable categories, in part because countries nominate just one feature each — leading to surprise omissions. The highly praised French lesbian drama "Blue is the Warmest Color," a Palme d'Or winner at Cannes, was not submitted by France because it opened too late for the Academy's rules.
But it can be a chance for highly personal films from small countries to gain big international audiences.
"If there's a message here, it's make the kind of movie you want, believe in yourself and don't copycat," a delighted van Groeningen told The Associated Press after learning of the nomination of "The Broken Circle Breakdown."
It's been a wild ride to make this film," he said.
"There's something crazy about this movie. The Americans really love it. They respond really emotionally to it. But on the other hand, they wouldn't make that kind of movie."
Abu-Assad, an Israeli-born director of Palestinian descent, previously earned an Oscar nomination — and controversy — for his 2005 film "Paradise Now," about two young West Bank men planning to become suicide bombers.
This film image released by Adopt Films shows Adam Bakri in a scene from the film "Omar." The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign picture on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2. (AP Photo/Adopt Films)
"Omar" also touches on a sensitive subject, focusing on a Palestinian man who becomes an Israeli informer.
And it couldn't avoid political sensitivities even at Thursday's nomination announcement, where "Omar" was described as a film from Palestine, rather than the Palestinian territories, the designation used for his earlier film. Neither the Academy nor Israel had any immediate comment on the nomenclature.