Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: From Chinese martial arts epic ‘House of Flying Daggers’ to Spanish right-to-die drama ‘The Sea Inside’
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. For the record: the two African entries are Oussama Fawzy’s seemingly Cinema Paradiso-inspired I Love Cinema (Egypt) and Darrell Roodt’s AIDS drama Yesterday (South Africa). (See further below the full list of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entries.)
Of note, this year marks 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 the most expensive Malaysian film ever made.
Among the other notable Best Foreign Language Film Oscar hopefuls are:
- Bahman Ghobadi’s Iranian-backed, Iraq War-related drama Turtles Can Fly, winner of the Best Picture Golden Shell at the 2004 San Sebastian Film Festival.
- Gianni Amelio’s Italian 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 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.
Two Gael García Bernal movies are Best 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 much praised, 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.
Another well-received Gael García Bernal effort, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta, ended up an Oscar orphan as well, for it doesn’t really belong to any one country. The film was shot in Spanish, its director is a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian, its top-billed actor is Mexican (in the role of an Argentinean, Che Guevara), its story is set in various South American countries, and most of its financing came from the (mostly) English-speaking United States.
According to Academy regulations, U.S. movies are ineligible in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
In any case, non-English-language U.S. productions or co-productions are quite rare. Besides 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 list of this year’s Best Foreign Language 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.
‘The Story of the Weeping Camel’ & ‘Born into Brothels’ among Best Documentary Feature semifinalists
From the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film submissions to the Best Documentary Feature semifinalists: The Story of the Weeping Camel, Born into Brothels, and Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train are three of this year’s 12 semifinalists, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced.
The 12 features were chosen by the Academy’s Documentary Branch, which will also select the eventual five nominees. The semifinalists are:
- Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni’s The Story of the Weeping Camel, the tale of a Gobi Desert camel calf abandoned by its mother after birth, the calf’s concerned owners, and the power of music on animals.
- Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born into Brothels, about the children of Calcutta prostitutes.
- Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller’s biographical documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, about the noted American historian.
- Paola di Florio’s Home of the Brave, the story of murdered civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo.
- Jessica Yu’s In the Realms of the Unreal, a portrait of artist and janitor Henry Darger. Yu took home the Best Documentary Short Oscar for her 1996 effort Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien.
- Stacy Peralta’s Sundance Film Festival opener Riding Giants, about surfing and its history.
- Christian Bauer’s The Ritchie Boys, the story of German Jews who were trained as an elite U.S. intelligence unit during World War II.
- Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, an indictment of both the fast-food industry and fast-food eaters.
- Tell Them Who You Are, filmmaker Mark Wexler’s look at his relationship with his father, two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966; Bound for Glory, 1976), whose credits also include Medium Cool, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Days of Heaven.
- Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void, a mixture of interviews and dramatic recreations depicting the fate of mountaineers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates while on a mountain-climbing trip in Peru.
- Lauren Lazin’s Tupac: Resurrection, an examination of the life of slain rapper Tupac Shakur.
- Kirby Dick’s Twist of Faith, about a man struggling to come to terms with his past sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.
Iraq War documentaries not in the running
Whether due to eligibility or other issues, conspicuously absent from the list of Best Documentary Feature Oscar semifinalists are many of the Iraq War-related and other political documentaries that have surfaced this year, including Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room, and Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism and Uncovered: The War on Iraq.
Fahrenheit 9/11 director-producer Michael Moore, winner of the 2002 Best Documentary Feature Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, opted not to submit his blockbuster documentary in that category. The anti-George W. Bush/anti-Iraq War effort, however, is eligible in other Academy Award slots, including Best Picture.
Oscar eligibility or lack thereof
Update: According to an Academy spokesperson, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, the pro-John Kerry Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, and the anti-Kerry Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal were never submitted for Academy consideration.
Control Room and Uncovered: The War on Iraq were disqualified because they have already been shown on television.
Since Michael Moore opted not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for Oscar 2005 consideration, that leaves only Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason’s The Hunting of the President, which was indeed eligible but failed to make the final cut. The film features American right-wingers as the ideological hunters and former U.S. President Bill Clinton as their prey.
‘The Incredibles’ & ‘The Polar Express’ among Best Animated Feature Oscar hopefuls
In other Oscar 2005 news, The Incredibles, The Polar Express, and Shrek 2 are three of the 11 releases eligible in the Best Animated Feature category. Here’s the list:
Clifford’s Really Big Movie.
Disney’s Teacher’s Pet.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
Home on the Range.
The Legend of Buddha.
The Polar Express.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
As per Academy rules, a maximum of three animated films can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries has at least eight but fewer than sixteen titles.
In other words, the 2005 Academy Awards will have only three Best Animated Feature nominees. Expect Brad Bird’s box office hit-in-the-making The Incredibles to be one of them.
Late-year North American release dates
Most of the titles listed below – opening in the U.S. (and usually Canada) in November and December 2004 – are awards season hopefuls. Several of them are mentioned further up in this post.
- The Incredibles.
- Jude Law, Marisa Tomei, Jane Krakowski, and Susan Sarandon in Alfie, a remake of Lewis Gilbert’s 1966 drama about a serial seducer (Michael Caine in the original).
- Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset.
- Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant in the Beeban Kidron-directed Bridget Jones’s Diary sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
- Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Best Actress Oscar winner Julie Christie (Darling, 1965) in Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland.
- Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey in Bill Condon’s Kinsey.
- Bad Education.
- Nicolas Cage in National Treasure.
- Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie in Oliver Stone’s already controversial Alexander the Great biopic Alexander.
- Joe Roth’s Christmas with the Kranks, with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis.
- Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, and two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Jodie Foster (The Accused, 1988; The Silence of the Lambs, 1991) in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.
- House of Flying Daggers.
- Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen in Mike Nichols’ Closer.
- Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin and Kate Bosworth as Sandra Dee in the Spacey-directed Darin biopic Beyond the Sea.
- George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Twelve.
- The Sea Inside.
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow, Jude Law as Errol Flynn, and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
- Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep in Brad Silberling’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
- Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, starring Eastwood and Hilary Swank.
- James L. Brooks’ Spanglish, with Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, 1971).
- Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson in Joel Schumacher’s version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.
- Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda.
- Jay Roach’s comedy Meet the Fockers, with Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, and Dustin Hoffman.
- Kevin Bacon in the London Film Festival-winning drama The Woodsman.
- Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, with Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, and veteran four-time Best Actress Oscar nominee Marsha Mason.
- Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, with Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Anjelica Huston.
- Paul Weitz’s In Good Company, with Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace.
- Sean Penn in Niels Mueller’s real-life-inspired The Assassination of Richard Nixon.
- John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson in Shainee Gabel’s A Love Song for Bobby Long.
- Al Pacino in Michael Radford’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website.
Image of Ziyi Zhang in Best Foreign Language Film Oscar hopeful House of Flying Daggers: Sony Pictures Classics.
The Story of the Weeping Camel image: ThinkFilm.
The Incredibles image: Pixar.
Tom Hanks The Polar Express image: Warner Bros.
“Foreign Language Film Oscar: Why Are 2 Bernal Movies Academy Award Orphans?” last updated in September 2019.