The entire Academy Awards endeavour seems to expand every year, as more and more often, shortlists are announced during the behind-the-scenes nominations process, ahead of the final nominations announcement. While that tends to make the awards season feel even longer, it does much to raise the profile of films that might otherwise be little noticed by general audiences – including those submitted to the Academy for consideration as Best Foreign Film.
The Academy accepts one submission from each country, and the deadline for those submissions was October 1st this year. The selection process then has two phases. In the first phase, the Foreign Language Film Award Committee screens each submission, and selects six for shortlisting, with an additional three selected by the Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. This set of nine films is then announced as the shortlist, and this is the announcement we have seen today.
The shortlisted films are as follows:
The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
Directed by Jaco Van Dormael, and co-written by Van Dormael and Thomas Gunzig, this is a comedy that looks at what might happen if God was found to be alive, and living in Brussels with his daughter. The cast features Pili Groyne, Benoit Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve and Francois Damiens
Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Directed by Ciro Guerra, with an adapted screenplay by Guerra and Jacque Toulemonde Vidal, this is a dramatic adventure based on the diaries of Richard Evan Schultes and Theodor Koch-Grunberg. The story follows two scientists who are engaged in a lengthy search for a sacred healing plant in the Amazon, and develop a relationship with a Shaman, who is the last of his people. Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Brionne Davis and Antonio Bolivar star.
A War (Denmark)
Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, this is a drama that focuses on a family of five having to deal with the ramifications of war, as a husband undertakes missions in Afghanistan, and his family struggles to cope at home. Pilou Asbaek, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim and Soren Malling star.
The Fencer (Finland)
Directed by Klaus Härö, and written by Anna Heinamaa, this is a historical sport drama that sees an Estonian fencer flee the Russian secret police, and take a job teaching sport at a local school. His new life is disrupted when the past catches up with him, however. The cast features Joonas Koff, Mart Avandi, Kirill Karo and Ursula Ratasepp.
Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who also co-writes with Alice Winocour, this is a social drama dealing with sexism faced by some traditional communities in northern Turkey. In a village in the region, five sisters face increased oppression from their family when they are found to have been playing with boys. Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Tugba Sunguroglu and Ilayda Akdogan star.
Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
Directed by Giulio Ricciarelli, who co-writes with Elisabeth Bartel and Amelie Syberberg, this drama reveals a conspiracy that involved several high profile institutions and branches of government in Germany, and which served to hide Nazi warcrimes. Alexander Fehling, Andre Szymanski, Friederike Becht and Johannes Krisch star.
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Directed by László Nemes, who co-writes with Clara Royer, this historical drama is set in Auschwitz in 1944, and sees a prisoner seek to save his soul by salvaging a boy’s body from the flames, into which he has been forced to deposit the corpses of others. Geza Rohrig, Levante Molnar, Urs Rechn and Gergo Farkas star.
Directed by Paddy Breathnach, and written by Mark O’Halloran, this drama is set in Havana, and centres on an estranged father and son who struggle to rebuild their relationship and overcome the disparities between their lives. Hector Medina, Jorge Perugorria, Luis Alberto Garcia and Renata Maikel Machin Blanco star.
Directed by Naji Abu Nowar, who co-writes with Bassel Ghandour, this adventure drama takes place during World War I in the Ottoman province of Hijaz, and centres on a young Bedouin boy who guides a British officer to a classified rendevous point. Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat and Jack Fox star.
The nominations process will now move into the second phase, in which the Foreign Language Film Award Committee will screen the nine shortlisted titles in three cities – at which point another round of voting will see the list reduced to five films. The final nominations for the 88th Academy Awards will be announced on January 14th, 2016, with the winners – including Best Foreign Film – being revealed on February 28th, 2016.
Source: The Playlist