A lottery, you’d think is the way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences way to select five nominees from all the countries submissions, but there is actually a method to this madness, which doesn’t mean a little luck can also help.
First of all, the film should have been distributed and shown in the US, and then it has to be selected by their country of origin as their submission among all their production. Then there are the merits: Was the film well reviewed? Well received by the audience? Are the people involved recognized filmmakers? Do they have other awards or previous nominations?
Sometimes this award is given to a film that is indisputably recognized as a work of international art, with previous wins at Cannes or Venice and a Director globaly recognized, like 1956’s ‘La Strada’ by Fellini, or ‘Z’ by Costa-Gavras or 1979’s ‘The Tim Drum’ by Schlondorf or 1983’s ‘Fanny and Alexander” by Bergman. Others, the Academy goes for the surprising effects, moving the spotlight from a favorite film to reward an underdog, like 1983 when Spain’s submission ‘Volver a Empezar’ won the Oscar from favorite ‘Coup de Torchon’ from France, or in 1987 when Denmark’s ‘Babette’s Feast’ took it from France’s ‘Au Revoir Les Enfants’ or even the recent case of Argentina’s ‘El Secreto de sus Ojos” kicking out Germany’s Cannes winner ‘The White Ribbon’ in 2009.
This year there are some favorites and some less known films in this category that gathers work from Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Cambodia and Palestine, with two well known international filmmakers (Sorrentino and Vinberberg), one previously nominated one (Hanny Abu-Assad, whose ‘Paradise Now’ was nominated in 2005) and two relatively new filmmakers to the American audiences and awards (Van Groeningen and Panh).
Here’s the list of five nominees for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film and a little bit about them.