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OSCARS: Nine Films On Foreign Language Shortlist; ‘The Past’, ‘Wadjda’ Miss Cut

oscarLast weekend, I profiled 15 films that had a lot of heat ahead of the Foreign Language Oscar shortlist unveiling today. Of those 15 (plus a handful of wildcards), seven have ended up among the Academy’s nine selections that will move on to the second round of voting. As with many of the Oscar categories this year, this was a field jam-packed with strong contenders and the ultimate shortlist reflects that. Among the films that were roundly expected to make the cut, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty out of Italy, and Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt from Denmark, are both in. But in one of the biggest surprises, 2011 Foreign Language Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi did not make the cut with this year’s The Past. That film, as with the other two above, has a Golden Globe nomination, and it won the Best Actress prize for Bérénice Bejo this year in Cannes. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia did not benefit from beginner’s luck. The first entry from the kingdom, the roundly lauded Wadjda, is not on the list. Both of those films are with Sony Pictures Classics which had last year’s winner, Amour. Another shocking omission is Gloria, Sebastien Lelio’s Chilean feature about a 58-year-old divorcée looking for love. That had received tons of advance buzz. Of the other pics chosen to advance by the Academy, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster probably has the highest profile, and is the most profitable of the bunch, and Belgium’s Broken Circle Breakdown was a prize winner in Berlin, Tribeca and at the recent European Film Awards.

Oscar Foreign Language Preview: Long List Of Contenders For Such A Short List
‘The Grandmaster’s Wong Kar Wai On China’s Growth, Kung Fu, Oscar Contenders & Bruce Lee

The Academy’s shortlist was whittled down from a record 76 entries. The next heat will see an uber-committee of 30 high-profile members choose the ultimate five nominees after viewing the finalists over the weekend of January 10-12. They will be unveiled with the rest of the nominees on January 16th. Here are the titles that advanced to the next stage: Read More »

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Russia’s ‘Stalingrad’ Storms Into China

After making records in its home territory, Russian pic Stalingrad is off to a strong start in China. The Sony Pictures Releasing International WWII drama went out in China on Thursday last week on 7,136 screens, including 123 in IMAX 3D, and took $8.3M over four days. This makes it the highest-grossing Russian release in the territory. It’s also the best-ever start for a non-Chinese and non-American film there. In its home space of Russia it added another $2.6M, bringing its cume to $47.7M. The film, which is Russia’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, is an epic love story set during the devastating battle for Stalingrad that lasted more than six months and ended with the German army surrendering in 1943. Along with all the attention being paid to China, Russia is also an increasingly important market where box office has grown. Whether the numbers will help Stalingrad‘s Oscar chances remains to be seen. Russia’s last nominee in the Best Foreign Language catrgory was 2007′s 12 by Nikita Mikhalkov. Here’s a trailer for Stalingrad:

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Argentina Calls On ‘The German Doctor’ As Foreign Language Oscar Entry

Argentina, one of the last big territories to announce its submission for the Foreign Language Oscar race, has chosen The German Doctor (Wakolda). Lucia Puenzo‘s drama is based on her own novel about the search for notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who hid in South America. The triller focuses on an Argentinian family that unwittingly puts their daughter under the care of the monster. It screened in Un Certain Regard in Cannes and Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired it this week for the U.S. Argentina last won the Foreign Language Oscar in 2009 with The Secret In Their Eyes, directed by Juan José Campanella whose 3D animated pic Foosball is currently the top grossing local film in Argentina at a particularly hot box office for homegrown pics.

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Norway Submits Toronto Discovery ‘I Am Yours’ To Foreign Language Oscar Race

Iram Haq’s first feature, Jeg Er Din (I Am Yours), screened in the Discovery section of Toronto. Just prior to its debut there, it was shortlisted as Norway’s potential Foreign Language Oscar entry along with Erik Skjoldbjær’s thriller Pioneer and Arild Østin Ommundsen’s drama It’s Only Make Believe. In confirming I Am Yours to represent Norway, the selection committee has gone less commercial than last year when it picked Kon-Tiki. That film, which eventually scored an Oscar nomination, was also the No. 1 movie of 2012. I Am Yours was released in Norway on August 16th by SF Norge and has sold about 10,600 tickets so far. It does not have U.S. distribution, contrary to the more commercial Pioneer, which is No. 15 at the local box office and which was acquired by Magnolia for Stateside release. Of its ultimate choice, the selection committee on Monday said I Am Yours is “mature and universal” and noted the “personal and authentic” film “raises important questions about being a woman” in a complex society. Amrita Acharia stars as a twentysomething single mother in Norway’s expatriate Pakistani community who struggles with her perpetually disapproving mother. Ola Rapace and Rabia Noreen also star. Actress-turned-director Haq has notably had roles in 2005′s Import-Export and Morten Tyldum’s 2008 film Fallen Angels.

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‘Wadjda’ Tapped As First-Ever Saudi Arabia Entry Into Oscar Foreign-Language Race

Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, the first-ever feature shot entirely inside the Kingdom – and notably the first Saudi film made by a female director – has now become the Kingdom’s first entry ever submitted to the Oscars. Sultan AI Bazie, head of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, and chairman of the nominating committee, said, “We are very proud of the film as an authentic representation of our country and culture, and are very pleased to see the themes and story of the film resonate with audiences well beyond our borders.” Produced by Rotana Studios, the film debuted in Venice last year. Al Mansour explained that she was sometimes relegated to directing by telephone since Saudi law does not allow women and men to be seen together outside. Following Venice, the movie played the Telluride, Palm Springs, London, Tribeca and LA Film Festivals among others. It tells the story of a young girl who challenges deep-rooted Saudi traditions in a determined quest to buy a bicycle. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the pic last September.

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Hot Trailer: ‘The Flowers Of War’

A 20-minute snippet of the Christian Bale-starring The Flowers Of War, China’s official entry into the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar race, was shown to buyers last month at the Toronto Film Festival. Now comes a trailer for Zhang Yimou’s true-life drama set against the backdrop of the 1937 Nanking Massacre (the film had been titled Heroes Of Nanking). It will be a unique property to market for whoever acquires U.S. rights: The film is about 60% Mandarin-language and 40% English; in this trailer, there are subtitles for both. The film will have its world premiere in Beijing on Dec. 16.

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TOLDJA! Academy Unveils 63 Entries In Foreign-Language Oscar Race

OSCARS: 63 Films In Competition For Foreign-Language Film Academy Award

Beverly Hills, CA – Sixty-three countries, including first-time entrant New Zealand, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 84th Academy Awards®. The 2011 submissions are:

Albania, “Amnesty,” Bujar Alimani, director;

Argentina, “Aballay,” Fernando Spiner, director;

Austria, “Breathing,” Karl Markovics, director;

Belgium, “Bullhead,” Michael R. Roskam, director;

Bosnia and Herzegovina,”Belvedere,” Ahmed Imamovic, director;

Brazil, “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within,” José Padilha, director;

Bulgaria, “Tilt,” Viktor Chouchkov, Jr., director;

Canada, “Monsieur Lazhar,” Philippe Falardeau, director;

Chile, “Violeta Went to Heaven,” Andrés Wood, director;

China, “The Flowers of War,” Zhang Yimou, director;

Read More »

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Oscar-Nominated Susanne Bier Remaking French Thriller ‘Rapt’

EXCLUSIVE: Susanne Bier’s film In a Better World is Denmark’s Foreign Language Film nomination for Sunday’s Oscars. Now she plans to direct a remake of French kidnapping thriller Rapt for Smuggler Films before the end of this year. The Danish director with Anders Thomas Jensen, her co-writer on In a Better World, have almost finished the screenplay. Patrick Milling Smith, John Hart (Revolutionary Road) and Greg Shapiro (The Hurt Locker) are producing with Brian Carmody  exec producing for Smuggler. Inspired by a true story, Rapt follows a corporate chairman who is held for ransom by a group of highly organized criminals while family, the corporation and the police are pitted against each other. The 2009 French original was nominated for a Cesar, the French equivalent of an Oscar. Milling Smith tells me: “The underlying story is definitely a high stakes thriller but at its core it is about human struggle. We have a real character drama in this story with people fighting for survival while seeing their finely balanced worlds thrown into chaos. Susanne has shown in her very special films the delicate hand she has in bringing out the truth and humanity in the most challenging of situations.”

Deadline has tipped Bier to win Best Foreign Language Oscar on Sunday. Her drama After the Wedding was nominated for a foreign language Oscar in 2007. Bier followed up with her English language debut Things We Lost in the Fire starring Halle Berry … Read More »

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OSCAR: Academy Chooses 9 Films For Foreign Language Race

Beverly Hills, CA — Nine films will advance to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards®.  Sixty-six films had originally qualified in the category.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

Algeria, “Hors la Loi” (“Outside the Law”), Rachid Bouchareb, director;
Canada, “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve, director;
Denmark, “In a Better World,” Susanne Bier, director;
Greece, “Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos, director;
Japan, “Confessions,” Tetsuya Nakashima, director;
Mexico, “Biutiful,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director;
South Africa, “Life, above All,” Oliver Schmitz, director;
Spain, “Tambien la Lluvia” (“Even the Rain”), Iciar Bollain, director;
Sweden, “Simple Simon,” Andreas Ohman, director

Read More »

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‘Crazy Heart’ Helmer Scott Cooper In Remake Of Thriller ‘Carancho’

By | Monday November 15, 2010 @ 3:48pm PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Remake rights are being shopped this week for Carancho, the Pablo Trapero-directed thriller which Argentina has submitted for the Best Foreign Language category of the Academy Awards. Crazy Heart helmer Scott Cooper is attached to direct the remake, from a script by Aaron Stockard, who collaborated with Ben Affleck on The Town and Gone Baby Gone. Imagine Entertainment is taking out the pitch tomorrow with producer Roy Lee. The original was in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes and just played at last week’s AFI Festival. It will be released in the US early next year by Strand. The translated title is Vulture, and thriller revolves around an ambulance-chasing personal injury attorney (Ricardo Darin) who straddles the line between helping unfortunate accident victims and exploiting them by skimming the proceeds for his employer. A larger conspiracy unfolds just as the lawyer seems on the verge finding some worth in his life after he falls for a young hospital doctor (Martina Gusman). Foreign sales company Fine Cut controls the rights and will broker the remake deal.

Below is a trailer for the film:

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