Golden Globes 2015: Foreign-language nominees mix of surprise, competition

Films from Estonia, Israel, Russia, Sweden and Poland/Denmark are nominees for foreign-language Golden Globe

Though the attention of many was on the larger categories on Thursday, people all over the world were also watching the Golden Globe nominations for foreign-language film. The nominees were a mix of the expected and a few relative surprises. The winner of the Globe for foreign language has gone on to win the equivalent Oscar the last four years running.

This year’s nominees were Sweden’s “Force Majeure,” Israel’s “Gett: The Trial of Vivian Amsalem Gett,” Russia’s “Leviathan,” Estonia’s “Tangerines” and the film “Ida” credited to Poland and Denmark.

Left off the list were such possible Oscar nominees as Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night,” starring Marion Cotillard, the Turkish film “Winter Sleep,” winner of the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and higher-profile films such as Canada’s “Mommy,” France's "Saint Laurent" and Argentina’s “Wild Tales.”

“I’m telling you, I’m really shocked,” said Ivo Felt, producer of “Tangerines,” while rattling off a list of films he assumed would be nominated before his own. Directed by Zaza Urushadze and currently without a U.S. distributor, the film is a drama of two men who stay behind when their war-torn village is evacuated, eventually taking in wounded soldiers from either side of the conflict.

The Globe nomination is the first for an Estonian film. Noting that the country produces only five or six films a year, Felt said the attention even just from the nomination was meaningful.

“It’s really crazy. Our film is so small, to get a nomination, it’s a real boost for a small film industry like Estonia,” Felt said by phone from Estonia on Thursday. “And I really hope that now someone does pick it up for U.S. distribution. As the producer, I have to say it’s worth it.”

For Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund, who has seen his film popping up on some critics' top-10 lists and has been very much in the conversation for year-end awards, his feelings toward the nomination were a little different.

“We’ve had such a great response, suddenly you get spoiled and instead of being happy you’re very disappointed if you don’t get nominated,” Ostlund said by phone from Gotheburg, Sweden. “And this happens so quickly, suddenly you’re seeing from another perspective. I was a little bit afraid of being disappointed. I was more relieved when it was nominated than happy.”

In “Force Majeure” a family survives a near-disaster on a skiing holiday but then struggles to recover from the way the father behaved in a moment of pressure. The film is Ostlund’s fourth feature but his first to receive commercial distribution in the U.S. (A national traveling series of his earlier work was announced Friday, kicking off at L.A.’s Cinefamily Jan. 9.)

Ostlund, who began his filmmaking career with short films on skiing, admits he is well aware of the other films in this year’s foreign-language race.

“I’m following all of the contenders,” he said. “I’m so jealous whenever someone puts another film as the No. 1 best foreign film. I have a sports background, so I’m very competitive. But I’m quite good at losing.”

Ostlund’s attitude was quite different from that of Pawel Pawlikowski. His film “Ida” has been one of the most successful foreign-language films of the year at the box office, having brought in more than $3.7 million along with near-universally stellar reviews and recent appearances on top-10 lists. (Music Box Films, which distributed “Ida,” is also distributing the Israeli nominee, “Gett.”)

Pawlikowksi’s attitude was a less competitive one. In the film, a young girl (Agata Trzebuchowska) about to take her vows to become a nun, visits her aunt (Agata Kulesza), setting off a series of revelations regarding personal history and religious faith.

“I’m so happy for the film to have been seen by so many people that whatever happens now is great, it’s extra. I’m not going to break down if we’re not nominated for the Oscar,” he said by phone from Warsaw. “It’s never had that kind of ambition, a desire to conquer the world.”

Among Pawlikowski’s previous films was the English-language “My Summer of Love,” one of the earliest film roles for actress Emily Blunt, also nominated for a Globe on Thursday for “Into the Woods.”

Pawlikowski is as surprised as anyone that his recent film has become something of an art-house hit.

“I think people like to see something that precisely describes a very complicated and powerful emotional story,” Pawlikowski said. “When I see that in other films, that always makes me cry. Life is tragic and beautiful at the same time. There’s a Polish saying, 'A man shoots a gun and God carries the bullet.' So you have no idea."

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