Best Foreign Language films

Top 25 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Contenders

Mon Dec 14 12:59:38 EST 2015

What are the top contenders out of a crowded field of 81 submissions?

"Embrace of the Serpent, " "Felix & Meira,Viva, " "Ixcanul, " "A War, " and "Mustang"

Fascinating is the best way to describe the process by which the final five nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film are selected. Each year dozens of countries send their Oscar hopeful to Hollywood for AMPAS to consider. This work should, at least in theory, be the best representation of the national cinematic achievements of that year. This usually makes for a crowded field of storytelling marvels.

Since each country, via its national film academy or a special cultural committee, can only submit one candidate, there are always “snubs” even at the selections stage. These often happens because a film doesn’t meet the requirements or simply because the selecting body didn’t regard them as highly. While there are numerous detractors regarding AMPAS rule of only one entry per country, in a sense this helps level the playfield given that smaller territories might have very choices in comparison to European powerhouses. The other perspective argues that because of this process sometimes the real standouts don’t get a chance to compete.

Once a film becomes the official entry the next, and most arduous step, is to get into the 9-film shortlist. Six of them are chosen by popular within the AMPAS’ Foreign Language Film committee and the other three by an executed committee. These nine finalists are then watched by 30 randomly selected members from different Academy branches over one weekend. This is where the five nominees are chosen. This year 80 accepted submissions (noting that Afghanistan’s entry was disqualified) are vying for the trophy, and that means that 75 of the world’s best films will have to cherish the exposure given by process.

Nevertheless, making the shortlist is more than a commendable feat itself. This list will be revealed next week, and though there are always unexpected surprises, there are of course a few favorites and films that have garnered lots of positive attention throughout the season. After watching over three quarters out of the colossal list of entries in contention I’d like to share my observations on the 25 films that seem like the strongest bets to make the coveted shortlist and eventually become Academy Award nominees. Granted, other films could easily sneak in if they manage to impress the right people, but I feel confident that most of those that will advance will come from the least below.

ARGENTINA

"The Clan"

(El Clan)
Dir. Pablo Trapero
ISA: Film Factory Entertainment
U.S. Distribution: Fox International
Trapero’s sordid crime drama based on the real life story of the Puccio family, which became national news when authorities discovered they were behind a series of kidnapping and murders, is a compelling work that uses Argentina’s historical context as backdrop. . Almodovar’s El Deseo, the company behind the Oscar-nominated “Wild Tales”, produced the film.

AUSTRIA

"Goodnight Mommy"

(Ich seh, ich seh)
Dirs. &
ISA: Films Distribution
U.S. Distribution: RADIUS-TWC

One of the most daring selections is also one the most acclaimed horror films of the year. This art house chiller confronts a pair of mischievous twin boys with their convalescent mother who recently underwent a facial surgery. The thematic and aesthetic elegance that co-directors and employed elevates “Goodnight Mommy” beyond the usual gruesome fare.

BELGIUM

"The Brand New Testament"

(Le tout nouveau testament)
Dir. Jaco Van Dormael
ISA: Le Pacte
U.S. Distribution: None Yet

This fantastical take on religion is yet another unique vision from director Jaco Van Dormael, the filmmaker behind such films as “Mr. Nobody.” With a humorous tone, “The Brand New Testament” explores what would happen if God himself lived in a regular apartment in Brussels pretending to be a mortal and finding pleasure in the little things that annoy human life - all of which are orchestrated by him.

BRAZIL

"The Second Mother"

"The Second Mother" (Que Horas Ela Volta?)
Dir. Anna Muylaert
ISA: The Match Factory
U.S. Distribution: Oscilloscope Pictures
The Brand New Testament
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