From the original 63 qualifying foreign-language films vying for this year's Academy Award, a 9-film shortlist of finalists has been issued by the AMPAS Foreign-Language Film Award Committee:
Canada: Monsieur Lazhar
Iran: A Separation
Poland: In Darkness
Taiwan: Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale
Morocco: Omar Killed Me
With perhaps two exceptions, the list contains films that have been the most talked about at numerous festivals and/or which have received critics' accolades. The "surprises" would be the Moroccan film and the Taiwan film, which is a lengthy, two-part, 276-minute epic action-war film. The arcane process by which the committee chooses the 9 finalists allows for a foreign-language executive committee to add three additional films to the six that are ultimately chosen by the branch's members to establish the shortlist -- these are often films that have not been touted in festivals or are less accessible in some way, e.g., Dogtooth from last year's nominees.
A Separation has been the winner in most critics' organizations year-end awards and can be seen as the frontrunner for the Oscar. Footnote was the best screenplay winner at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and both Pina and Bullhead have had success at festivals. Holocaust-themed films like In Darkness typically appear as contenders in this category.
Some films that might have been expected to make the shortlist include two other festival favorites: Le Havre, a well-received Kaurismaki film at the Cannes Film Festival, and Where Do We Go Now?, which won the Peoples' Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. France's Declaration of War has also been admired, as has Miss Bala from Mexico (opening in New York today).
The five foreign-language film nominees will be chosen this weekend and announced next Tuesday alonog with nominees in all other categories.