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Oscar 2007: Best Foreign Language Semi-Finalists

Cecile de France in Avenue Montaigne
Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding
The Black Book by Paul Verhoeven
Cécile De France in Avenue Montaigne (top); Mads Mikkelsen in After the Wedding (middle); Carice van Houten in The Black Book (bottom)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has narrowed down to nine titles the list of potential 2007 best foreign-language film nominees.

They are (listed in alphabetical order by country):

Algeria, Days of Glory, Rachid Bouchareb, director

Canada, Water, Deepa Mehta, director

Denmark, After the Wedding , Susanne Bier, director

France, Avenue Montaigne, Danièle Thompson, director

Germany, The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director

Mexico, Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, director

The Netherlands, Black Book, Paul Verhoeven, director

Spain, Volver, Pedro Almodóvar, director

Switzerland, Vitus, Fredi M. Murer, director

Water by Deepa Mehta

Though it may seem that the above films hail from all (or most) corners of the globe, only one is actually devoid of European financing: Deepa Mehta's Indian-Canadian drama Water.

A depiction of the plight of young Indian widows living under the strictly patriarchal Hindu social system, Water created a huge furor among India's fundamentalist Hindus. Following death threats and the destruction of the film's sets, production had to be temporarily halted. It was later resumed in Sri Lanka.

Last year, Water won three Genie Awards (that's the Canadian Oscar), and its director was recently given the Freedom of Expression Award from the 2006 National Board of Review.

Days of Glory by Rachid Bouchareb
Doug Jones in Pan's Labyrinth

All other potential Oscar contenders are either full-fledged European productions or, in the cases of Days of Glory and Pan's Labyrinth, European co-productions.

Though representing Algeria, Rachid Bouchareb's surprisingly conventional Days of Glory is basically a French production, with some Algerian financing thrown in. Bouchareb himself was born in France. The film chronicles the prejudice encountered by North Africans fighting for France during World War II.

Written and directed by the Mexican Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth was partly financed by Spain. Set in that country during the 1940s, a time when General Francisco Franco's iron-fisted right-wing regime held sway over the land, del Toro's dark fairy tale follows a young girl who finds solace in a fantastical world.

As per the Academy's press release, this year the foreign-language film nominations are being determined in two phases.

“The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based members, screened the 61 eligible films and their ballots determined the shortlist.

“A Phase II committee, made up of ten randomly selected members from the Phase I group, joined by additional ten-member contingents in New York and Los Angeles, will view the shortlisted films and select the five 2006 nominees for the category.”

The Phase II screenings will take place between January 19-21, in both Hollywood and New York City.

Gong Li in Curse of the Golden Flower

Initially, I thought that Italy's submission, Emanuele Crialese's Nuovomondo, about an Italian family that emigrates to the United States; China's submission, Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower (above, with Gong Li), about a highly dysfunctional Chinese imperial family; and Bosnia and Herzegovina's submission, Jasmila Zbanic's Grbavica, a touching tale of mother-daughter love under duress, would end up among the five final nominees along with Volver and The Lives of Others.

I was, as so often happens, wrong. I won't bother with another set of predictions, except to say that my two original picks still in the running will definitely make the Oscar cut. [Addendum: Actually only one, The Lives of Others, landed a nomination.]

Nominations for the 2007 Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23. The Oscar ceremony will be held on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.

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4 Comments to Oscar 2007: Best Foreign Language Semi-Finalists

  1. Josefa

    I loved Avenue Montaigne. I can't believe that it didn't get a nomination. Volver was also excellent. One of the best Almodovar films, with all-around great performances.

  2. jalal khoban

    hi i love send me that the after brylluppet film with my email thanks for you

  3. Andre

    I'm not sure whether that's good or bad either — it's probably neither. An Oscar nod, at times, does help a film with no distribution to find a U.S. outlet, but sometimes even that isn't enough.

    Now, I found surprising — and a tad upsetting — was that “Volver” didn't get a best foreign-language film nomination. I assume this happened because of the Academy changes in the foreign-language film voting process this year.

    About 15 or so members in New York and Los Angeles decided which five films (out of nine semi-finalists) should get the nominations. An unfortunate decision, in my view.

    When you have a larger group of voters, personal prejudices (whether in favor of or against a particular director, performer, etc.) carry less weight in the final outcome.

  4. I think the most interesting thing about this group of nominees is that all nine already have a US distributor. When was the last time that interested US cinephiles (who, admittedly, must live in a big city) could end up seeing all the nominees theatrically either before or after the Oscar telecast? I don't think that has ever happened before. Not sure whether it is a good thing.