Academy Awards shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film Award for 2015 are kind of a surprise. There are no films from countries that have won most of the Oscars in this category in the past, France, Italy and Germany. Also it is hearth warming to see films selected from countries less known to international film fans such as Georgia, Venezuela, Estonia and Mauritania. Now we have to see if those selecting the final nominees will be as daring as the committees that picked the short list.
Nine features from among those submitted for consideration in the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category have advanced to the next round of voting, it was announced on Friday.
Eighty-three films — the most ever – were submitted for this year’s Oscar.
A committee of several hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members screened submissions over the past two months and voted, with their top six choices augmented by three additional selections voted on by the Academy’s Executive Committee.
Screening committees in New York, L.A., and London will carve the choices down to five, to be revealed when the Oscar nominations are announced on January 15, 2015.
The shortlisted films, in alphabetical order, are presented below with their trailers:
“Accused (Lucia de B.”)” (Netherlands), directed by Paula van der Oest. Paula van der Oest, who directed the 2003 Oscar nominee “Zus & zo,” tells the true-life story of Lucia de Berk (Ariane Schlute), a nurse known as the “Queen of Death,” who — in what was later seen as a miscarriage of justice — was sentenced to 40 years for the deaths of several patients in her care.
There is no U.S. distributor yet for “Accused” (Fortissimo Films). To watch a trailer, click on the video player below.
“Corn Island” (Georgia), directed by George Ovashvili. An old peasant and his granddaughter battle the elements on a small island in a river that forms a boundary between Georgia and the independent Republic of Abkhazia.
“Corn Island” was a prize-winner at festivals in Athens; Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; Montpellier, France; São Paulo; and Split, Croatia.
There is no U.S. release date set for “Corn Island” (42Film). To watch a trailer, click on the video player below.
“Force Majeure” (Sweden), directed by Ruben Östlund. A stunning tale of one man’s view of masculinity shattered when he can’t admit a moment of cowardice – abandoning his wife and two kids in the face of impending disaster. After an avalanche smashes into a Swedish family’s happy vacation in the French Alps, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) finds his position as husband and father on very weak ground.
A Golden Globe nominee, Ruben Östlund
‘s tale – inspired and informed by YouTube videos of people’s unpredictable reactions to impending disasters – won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, and received Best Film and Best Screenplay honors at the Seville European Film Festival. It was also named Best Foreign Language Film by the Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association.
“Force Majeure” (Magnolia Pictures) is now playing in U.S. theatres, and is available on VOD on various cable systems.
“Ida” (Poland), directed by PaweÅ‚ Pawlikowski. As she prepares to take her vows, a young novitiate (Agata Trzebuchowska) who has grown up an orphan in a convent in post-war Poland learns that she is Jewish. She joins her aunt (a judicial official with a taste for liquor and men, played by Agata Kulesza) and sets off on a journey to uncover her parents’ fate,
This haunting drama of self-discovery, shot in shimmering black and white, won the European Film Awards’ top prize (along with Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography), and was named Best Film of the London Film Festival. It received the Best Foreign Language Film Award from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The L.A. critics also named Kulesza Best Supporting Actress.
A Golden Globe nominee, “Ida” (Music Box Films) is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and on VOD via Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. It is also available via streaming at Netflix. To watch a trailer for “Ida” click on the video player below.
“Leviathan” (Russia), directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. A corrupt official tries to take a patch of land overlooking the Barents Sea but is rebuffed by the landowner, thanks to the help of a friendly lawyer. The thwarted official seeks vengeance, turning the suffering real estate holder into a modern-day Job.
A parable that makes pointed attacks on contemporary Russia, “Leviathan” won the Best Screenplay Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It also won Best International Film at the Munich Film Festival, and was named Best Film at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival.
A Golden Globe nominee, “Leviathan” will be released in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics on December 31. To watch a trailer for “Leviathan” click on the video player below.
“The Liberator” (Venezuela), directed by Alberto Arvelo. This Spanish-Venezuelan coproduction (which, at $50 million, is being called the biggest Latin American production ever) is an epic telling of the life of Simon Bolivar (Edgar Ramirez of “Carlos”) and his military campaigns to liberate the peoples of South America from Spanish colonialists in the 19th century.
The U.S. theatrical distributor of “The Liberator,” Cohen Media Group, will be releasing the film on home video in 2015
“Tangerines” (Estonia), directed by Zaza Urushadze
A Golden Globe nominee about the battles that ravaged Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “Tangerines (Mandariinid)” follows the two remaining men in a small Estonian village who come upon two rival soldiers, survivors of the encroaching war between Georgia and Abkhazia in 1992.
Caught in both actual and metaphysical crossfire, the two men tending their orchards take in the wounded soldiers who, despite their wounds, vow to kill each other.
There is no U.S. release date set for “Tangerines” (Allfilm).
“Timbuktu” (Mauritania), directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. The Islamic jihadists who have taken control of the city of Timbuktu in Mali have assumed the role of police, riding through town on motorcycles, and with bullhorns they proclaim the new sharia laws that must be followed: No music, no football, no loitering in front of your house, no adultery (especially during Ramadan). Women must be completely covered.
The narrative of “Timbuktu” (beautifully shot in Mauritania) is not so much about plot as it is incidents in the life of a city whose residents are reeling from the onrush of change, or standing defiantly in its path. The film mostly ignores specific historical events, but instead paints a humanistic portrait of life in an occupied territory, in which the new authority wields power in ways that are self-righteous, cruel, and without sense.
Abderrahmane Sissako, winner of the Ecumenical Jury prize at Cannes, was named Best Director at the Chicago International Film Festival.
“Timbuktu” (Cohen Media Group) will be released in the U.S. on January 28, 2015.
“Wild Tales,” (Argentina), directed by Damián Szifrón. The massively-honored comedy (it received 21 nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina, and won 10 awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor Damián Szifrón and Best Actress Erica Rivas) is an anthology of six madcap tales on the theme of vengeance.
That Pedro Almodóvar is one of the producers should give a hint of the surreal humor with which these screwed-over souls take out their anger — from the bride who discovers her groom’s infidelity, to the diner waitress who encounters the loan shark responsible for her father’s suicide; to the jerk motorist who discovers himself in need of a helping hand, only to see a driver he’d insulted pull up alongside on the desolate highway; to the demolition expert who concocts revenge against an impossibly crushing bureaucratic system.
“Wild Tales” (Sony Pictures Classics) will be released in the U.S. on February 20, 2015.