Pete Hammond

For the Academy’s official screening schedule, click here.

EXCLUSIVE: Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has yet to release an official list or tally (look for that by Thursday or Friday), the screening schedule is out and now circulating among members of the Foreign Language committee. It lists 63 films officially in competition for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar,  and barring any last-minute changes or additions that will mean there will be two fewer than last year’s total of 65. Screenings begin this Friday night at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre with one of my favorite films out of the Cannes competition in May, Aki Kaurismaki’s delightful Le Havre, which although set in France is Finland’s official entry primarily due to the nationality of the film’s director. After welcoming remarks it screens at 7:35 p.m. on a double bill with the United Kingdom entry, Patagonia, a dramatic story in the Welsh and Spanish languages that tells of two parallel journeys to Patagonia and Wales.

In the long three-month process of whittling down nine finalists, the last film to be shown to the brave Academy committee volunteers will be on Friday Jan. 13 with Argentina’s  western Aballay screening at 9:25 p.m. following Romania’s Morgen, a relationship drama about the friendship between a security guard and illegal immigrant. Argentina won the Oscar two years ago with The Secret in Their Eyes. The early schedule is top-heavy with a lot of the most-anticipated and talked-about films including Israel’s Cannes Screenplay winner Footnote on Saturday morning Oct. 15 and Iran’s much-praised  A Separation screening Monday night Oct. 17. Both films won high praise in Telluride and Toronto film fests.  Other higher profile October entries include Agnieszka Holland’s harrowing In Darkness from Poland on Oct. 28, Denmark’s Superclasico Oct. 22 and Lebanon’s People’s Choice winner at Toronto, Where Do We Go Now? on Oct. 29.  That’s a rich list that will get this competition off with a bang and keep this Academy committee happy I would think. Last year’s winner, Denmark’s In A Better World was actually one of the last films to screen in January. 2008 winner Departures was one of the earliest entries to screen that year so it is hard to tell where the advantage is in what order the films are shown.

One big difference from last year is the long running times of many 2011 entries led by Taiwan’s 4-hour and 24-minute epic Warriors of the Rainbow screening Jan. 7.  The Turkish selection, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s  Cannes Grand Prize winner, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (screens Jan. 6) is second-longest at 2 hours and 37 minutes (and feels it) tied with the controversial Russian entry, Burnt by the Sun: Citadel (Nov. 4) , sequel to Nikita Mikhalkov’s 1995 Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun. The new film has already caused a bit of controversy in its homeland when the head of the Russian selection committee asked Mikhalkov to remove himself and his film, a critical and commercial flop, from the competition. That clearly did not happen and the movie remains in the contest.

Other long sits include In Darkness (143 min) , The Netherlands entry Sonny Boy (140 min. – Oct. 31), Hungary’s Bela Tarr film, The Turin Horse (154 min. – Dec. 17), Serbia’s Montevideo: Taste of a Dream (145 min. – Nov. 14), and China’s epic Zhang Yimou epic starring Christian Bale, The Flowers of War (145 min. -  Dec. 12).  Although most other entries are presented as double features, only the 2 hour and 20 minute Sonny Boy of the films with longer running times  is being presented as a twofer Oct. 31. The Academy put their thinking caps on and scheduled the shortest film in the competition as the second feature, Uruguay’s  The Silent House which at 78 minutes won’t start until 10:05 that evening but is scheduled to end at 11:23 p.m. But hey it’s Halloween. Live it up,  committee members. Hopefully they will both be treats.

As I first reported here at Deadline there was controversy over the original Albanian entry, The Forgiveness of Blood largely due to the American nationality of its director Joshua Marston (he was born and bred in L.A.) even though most of its other elements were purely Albanian. The Acad’s Foreign Language Exec Committee met last week and ruled it ineligible, agreeing with other Albanian filmmakers who protested its initial selection. Marston was disappointed and has been vocal about what he feels is a wrong-headed decision to exclude his movie. The same thing happened to him in 2004 when his Colombian film, Maria Full Of Grace was disqualified for largely the same reasons. Albania instead will now be sending Amnesty, a sexy drama from Bujar Alimani, the director who filed the formal protest against Marston’s film. It will screen Jan. 9, near the end of the competition.

Other entries and their screening dates worth noting are Sweden’s  Beyond, the directorial debut of actress Pernilla August who is known for her work in Ingmar Bergman films including his Oscar-winner, Fanny and Alexander. The intense drama stars “it” girl from the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace and won the International Critics Week award at last year’s Venice Film Festival. It screens Nov 18. Wim Wenders’ 3D dance film, Pina will have members donning their glasses Dec. 2. Mexico’s Cannes hit, Miss Bala screens Jan. 8. France’s Declaration of War unspools  Nov. 12 while the Greek entry, Attenberg serves as the bottom half of that Saturday morning double bill. Italy’s Terraferma (Nov. 7) and Spain’s Black Bread (Dec. 10) were surprise entries over much higher profile possibilities from Nanni Moretti’s and Pedro Almodovar’s Cannes competition films. The Czech entry Alois Nebel screens Oct. 24 and is distinguished by being one of  only two animated films in the foreign race (Singapore’s Tatsumi- Oct 21 - is the other). It could also qualify for Animated Feature if entered by Nov. 1, a development the ‘toon crowd is hoping happens because it would increase the chances of 16 films qualifying in that category and therefore pushing the number of noms to five.

The committees are divided into four sections that are identified  by different colors, Red (which kicks things off on Friday), White, Green and Blue. Each has 16 films with the exception of Green which has 15 (but that includes that looooooong Taiwanese flick). Members must see at least 12 films from their section or another to be eligible to vote. To avoid embarrassing omissions the rules were changed a few years ago and now the top six vote getters from this larger committee (several hundred members usually) will be joined by three choices from the uber Foreign Language exec panel led by Mark Johnson. Those nine finalists then are judged by small specially selected Academy groups in New York and Los Angeles and whittled down to the five selections that will be announced on Jan. 24 with the rest of the Oscar nominations.

Happy viewing committee members. Bring along some Murine.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.