Oscar 2006 Best Foreign Language Film category has received a record number of submissions, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced. Fifty-eight countries and territories — including Hong Kong (which somehow still manages to get included in the roster as if it were an independent state within China), and first-timers Costa Rica, Fiji, and Iraq — have submitted films for consideration.*
Among the 58 entries are Berlin Film Festival Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Jentsch) winner Sophie Scholl - The Final Days / Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage (Germany), directed by Marc Rothemund; Bohdan Sláma’s Something Like Happiness / Stesti (Czech Republic), winner of the Golden Shell for Best Picture at the San Sebastián Film Festival; Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu / Moartea Domnului Lazarescu (Romania), winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Chicago Film Festival; and Reza Mir Karimi’s Best Picture winner at the 2005 Iran Cinema Celebration Awards, So Close, So Far / Kheili dour, kheili nazdik (Iran).
Also, Cristina Comencini’s Don’t Tell / La Bestia nel cuore (Italy), which won Giovanna Mezzogiorno the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival; Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s The Child / L’Enfant (Belgium), this year’s Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner; Paradise Now (Palestine), Hany Abu-Assad’s controversial tale of two Palestinian suicide bombers; and Tsai Ming-liang’s sexually-charged Best Picture Golden Horse Award nominee The Wayward Cloud / Tian bian yi duo yun (Taiwan).
* Five other countries submitted films that were, for one reason or another, disqualified: Austria’s Hidden / Caché, directed by Michael Haneke; Greece’s Brides, directed by Pantelis Voulgaris; Nepal’s Basain, directed by Subash Gajurel; Uruguay’s Alma Mater, directed by Álvaro Buela; and Venezuela’s 1888, el extraordinario viaje de la Santa Isabel, directed by Alfredo Anzola.
Italy’s initial choice, Private, was also deemed ineligible because its dialogue was not in Italian. (Set in the Middle East, Private’s dialogue is spoken mostly in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.). At the time, Italy submitted another film, Don’t Tell.
Language issues were the reason for the disqualification of both Brides (which stars Englishman Damian Lewis) and Hidden, whose dialogue is in French. (When I called the Academy to find out why those films had been disqualified, I was told that it was "internal information" that would not be made available to the public. Needless to say, the Academy’s "internal information" has since been made publicly available.)
Uruguay is the only country to have had a film taken out of the Best Foreign Language Film competition after the nominations were announced. That happened in 1993 (for the year 1992), when Adolfo Aristarain’s A Place in the World / Un Lugar en el mundo was deemed ineligible when reports surfaced indicating that Aristarain’s drama was mostly an Argentinean production.
Dec. 22 Addendum: Singapore’s submission, Be with Me, has been disqualified because the majority of its dialogue is in English.
Dec. 24 Addendum: The Netherlands’ submission, Bluebird, has been disqualified because it was too similar to a version previously aired on Dutch television. Also, Bolivia’s Say Good Morning to Dad and Tajikistan’s Sex & Philosophy have been disqualified because 35mm prints of those two films were not delivered at the Academy.