Out of 76 submissions, nine movies have been selected as semi-finalists for the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Listed in alphabetical order by country, the films are:
- Belgium, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Felix van Groeningen, director. Best Actress European Film Award winner Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh star as a couple whose love is put to the test after their daughter falls seriously ill.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker / Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza, Danis Tanovic, director. Set in Bosnia’s Roma (gypsy) community and based on real-life events, this 2013 Berlin Film Festival Grand Prix winner stars Berlin’s Best Actor Nazif Mujic as a scrap-metal collector and salesman desperately trying to save the life of his wife, who has been denied medical assistance because she lacks health insurance. Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land, a comedy-drama about the Bosnian War, was 2001′s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner.
- Cambodia, The Missing Picture / L’image manquante, Rithy Panh, director. The Khmer Rouge atrocities committed in the second half of the 1970s are portrayed via clay figures, archival footage, and narration by Randal Douc. If nominated, The Missing Picture will become the first Cambodian film — actually a French-Cambodian co-production — to achieve that feat.
- Denmark, The Hunt / Jagten, Thomas Vinterberg, director. In a picturesque Danish village, a kindergarten teacher (Mads Mikkelsen) is wrongfully accused of — and savagely hounded for — being a child molester. The Hunt, which has elements in common with Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour*, has won numerous international awards, including Best Actor (Mikkelsen) at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 2012 European Film Awards.
- Germany, Two Lives / Zwei Leben, Georg Maas, director. Starring Liv Ullmann — in her first major film role in nearly two decades — and Juliane Köhler (Aimee & Jaguar, Downfall), Two Lives follows a World War II orphan-turned-STASI spy (Köhler) whose past catches up with her. Liv Ullmann is a two-time Best Actress Oscar nominee: for Jan Troell’s The Emigrants (1972) and Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face (1976). (More on Liv Ullmann in Two Lives.)
- Hong Kong, The Grandmaster / Yi dai zong shi, Wong Kar Wai, director. In the Hong Kong-Chinese martial arts drama The Grandmaster, Best Actress Golden Horse winner Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays the daughter of a fighting master, who, with the intent of restoring her family’s honor, challenges grandmaster Ip Man (Tony Leung) to a duel.
- Hungary, The Notebook / A nagy füzet, János Szász, director. In Szász’s World War II-set drama, a pair of 13-year-old twin brothers (László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt) must fend off for themselves while experiencing the monstrosity of war all around them. Needless to say, this Karlovy Vary Film Festival Best Picture winner has nothing in common with Nick Cassavetes’ sentimental romantic drama The Notebook (2004), that starred Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands, and James Garner.
- Italy, The Great Beauty / La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, director. A sort of La Dolce Vita 21st-century style, Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty chronicles the inner awakening of a 65-year-old writer-journalist (Toni Servillo) as he reassesses his life and times.
- Palestine, Omar, Hany Abu-Assad, director. The Special Jury Prize winner at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard sidebar, Omar tells the story of a Palestinian baker — the Omar of the title (played by Adam Bakri) — who is captured by the Israeli military after carrying out with a group of friends a sniper attack against an Israeli soldier. Omar is eventually freed so as to betray the rebels’ suspected leader; instead, the group carries another attack against Israel’s occupation forces — things, however, don’t go as planned, for there’s a traitor among them. Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now (2005), about Palestinian suicide bombers, was a controversial Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner.
2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations process
As has been the case in the last few years, there are two phases in the selection of the 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees.
- Phase I: an indeterminate number of Academy members — attendees vary from film to film — watched the original submissions between mid-October and December 16, 2013. The nine semi-finalists listed above consist of that group’s top six choices, in addition to three titles handpicked by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee.
- Phase II: "Specially invited committees" in New York and Los Angeles will select the eventual five Oscar 2014 nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category. As per the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ press release, "they will spend Friday, January 10, through Sunday, January 12, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots."
The 2014 Academy Awards nominations — including the ones in the Best Foreign Language Film category — will be announced on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The Oscar 2014 ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, will take place on March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. In the U.S., it’ll be broadcast live on ABC.
* Officially, The Children’s Hour has two Hollywood-made film versions, both directed by William Wyler. As These Three (1936), Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins, and Joel McCrea found themselves involved in a threesome thanks to vicious little liar Bonita Granville; in The Children’s Hour (1961), Shirley MacLaine’s life is ruined — and Audrey Hepburn’s relationship with James Garner seriously damaged — after vicious little liar Karen Balkin comes up with a slanderous lesbian tale.
["Mads Mikkelsen, Liv Ullmann Star in Semi-Finalists for 2014 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar" continues on the next page. See link below.]
Photo of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 2014 semi-finalist Two Lives, with Liv Ullmann and Julia Bache-Wiig: Tom Trambow / IFC Films.