- Forty-nine countries have submitted entries for next year’s Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Yet arcane rules have prevented two well-received non-English-language features starring Gael García Bernal from becoming contenders.
- The period romantic drama A Legendary Love has become the first Malaysian production in contention for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nod. Zhang Yimou, Gianni Amelio, and Alejandro Amenábar movies are also in the running.
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries from 49 countries – but 2 well-regarded Gael García Bernal movies left orphaned
Of the 49 films submitted for the 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 27 are from Europe, 12 from Asia, eight from the Americas, and a mere two from Africa. Not found on the list: two widely admired Gael García Bernal titles. (More details further below.)
For the record: the two African entries are Oussama Fawzy’s seemingly Cinema Paradiso-inspired I Love Cinema (Egypt), which became one of the biggest hits at this year’s Carthage Film Festival, and Darrell Roodt’s Zululand-set AIDS drama Yesterday (South Africa). (See further below the full list of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries.)
Of note, this is the first time that Malaysia has sent in a movie for the Academy Awards: Saw Teong Hin’s A Legendary Love / The Princess of Mount Ledang / Puteri Gunung Ledang. The 15th-century-set story of the forbidden romance between a Javanese Hindu princess (Tiara Jacquelina) and a Malay Muslim warrior (M. Nasir), A Legendary Love is supposed to be the most expensive Malaysian film ever made.
House of Flying Daggers & The Sea Inside in contention
Among the other notable Best Foreign Language Film Oscar hopefuls are:
- Zhang Yimou’s Chinese period drama/epic House of Flying Daggers. Set in the mid-9th century during the Tang Dynasty, the film chronicles the deepening involvement between two police officers (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) and a beautiful blind dancer (Zhang Ziyi), who, they believe, is the daughter of a former leader of the rebel group House of the Flying Daggers.
- Bahman Ghobadi’s Iranian-backed, Iraq War-related drama Turtles Can Fly, winner of the Best Picture Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival and to be distributed by IFC Films in the United States.
- Gianni Amelio’s Italian father-son drama The Keys to the House / Le chiavi di casa, whose failure to win any important awards at this year’s Venice Film Festival led to an uproar in the nativist Italian press. In the cast: Kim Rossi Stuart and veteran Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter, The Verdict).
- Alejandro Amenábar’s Spanish right-to-die drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro, winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Best Actor Award at Venice. In the cast: Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, and Mabel Rivera.
Gael García Bernal’s Foreign Language Film Oscar orphans
Since arcane Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules allow only one Best Foreign Language Film entry per country, Pedro Almodóvar’s enthusiastically received, gay-themed Spanish comedy-drama-film noir Bad Education / La Mala educación, starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, is not among the submitted films. Spain’s movie selection committee apparently felt that The Sea Inside would have a better chance of landing a nomination.
Another generally well-received Gael García Bernal effort, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta, ended up a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar orphan as a result of another Academy regulation: the majority of the film’s financing came from the U.S., thus making it ineligible in that category.
Besides, The Motorcycle Diaries’ “internationality” would have made it difficult – if not downright impossible – for the Spanish-language socially conscious drama to represent any one country: Its director is a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian, its star is a Mexican actor playing an Argentinean historical figure (Che Guevara), and the film is set in various South American countries.
It should be noted that non-English-language U.S. productions or co-productions are quite rare. Apart from The Motorcycle Diaries, examples include W.S. Van Dyke’s Eskimo (1934), Gregory Nava’s El Norte (1983), and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, released earlier this year.
The 2005 Oscar nominations, including, of course, the five Best Foreign Language Film finalists, will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The Oscar ceremony will take place on Feb. 27.
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries
Below is the full list of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submissions, from Afghanistan to Venezuela.
Zornitsa Sophia’s Mila from Mars (Bulgaria), Magdalena Piekorz’s The Welts (Poland), Dominique de Rivaz’s My Name Is Bach (Switzerland), Sylvia Chang’s 20 30 40 (Taiwan), and Elia K. Schneider’s Punto y Raya (Venezuela) are the five entries directed by women.
- Afghanistan, Earth and Ashes, Atiq Rahimi.
- Argentina, Lost Embrace, Daniel Burman.
- Austria, Antares, Götz Spielmann.
- Belgium, The Alzheimer Case, Erik Van Looy.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Days and Hours, Pjer Žalica.
- Brazil, Olga, Jayme Monjardim.
- Bulgaria, Mila from Mars, Zornitsa Sophia.
- Canada, Far Side of the Moon, Robert Lepage.
- Chile, Machuca, Andrés Wood.
- China, House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimou.
- Croatia, Long Dark Night, Antun Vrdoljak.
- Czech Republic, Up and Down, Jan Hrebejk.
- Denmark, The Five Obstructions, Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier.
- Ecuador, Chronicles, Sebastián Cordero.
- Egypt, I Love Cinema, Oussama Fawzy.
- Estonia, Revolution of Pigs, Jaak Kilmi and René Reinumägi.
- Finland, Producing Adults, Aleksi Salmenperä.
- France, The Chorus, Christophe Barratier.
- Germany, Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel.
- Greece, A Touch of Spice, Tassos Boulmetis.
- Hungary, Kontroll, Nimród Antal.
- Iceland, Cold Light, Hilmar Oddsson.
- India, Shwaas, Sandeep Sawant.
- Iran, Turtles Can Fly, Bahman Ghobadi.
- Israel, Campfire, Joseph Cedar.
- Italy, The Keys to the House, Gianni Amelio.
- Japan, Nobody Knows, Hirokazu Kore-eda.
- Macedonia, The Great Water, Ivo Trajikov.
- Malaysia, A Legendary Love, Saw Teong Hin.
- Mexico, Innocent Voices, Luis Mandoki.
- The Netherlands, Simon, Eddy Terstall.
- Norway, Hawaii, Oslo, Erik Poppe.
- Palestine, The Olive Harvest, Hanna Elias.
- The Philippines, Crying Ladies, Mark Meily.
- Poland, The Welts, Magdalena Piekorz.
- Portugal, The Miracle According to Salomé, Mário Barroso.
- Romania, Orient-Express, Sergiu Nicolaescu.
- Russia, Night Watch, Timur Bekmambetov.
- Serbia and Montenegro, Goose Feather, Ljubiša Samardžic.
- Slovenia, Beneath Her Window, Metod Pevec.
- South Africa, Yesterday, Darrell Roodt.
- South Korea, Tae Guk Gi, Kang Je-gyu.
- Spain, The Sea Inside, Alejandro Amenábar.
- Sweden, As It Is in Heaven, Kay Pollak.
- Switzerland, My Name Is Bach, Dominique de Rivaz.
- Taiwan, 20 30 40, Sylvia Chang.
- Thailand, The Overture, Ittisoontorn Vichailak.
- Uruguay, Whisky, Juan Pablo Rebella & Pablo Stoll.
- Venezuela, Punto y Raya, Elia K. Schneider.
“Foreign Language Film Oscar Orphans” endnotes
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.
Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna The Motorcycle Diaries image: Focus Features.
Zhang Ziyi House of Flying Daggers image: Sony Pictures Classics.
“Foreign Language Film Oscar Orphans: 2 García Bernal Movies” last updated in September 2021.