Oscars: How to find ‘A Separation,’ other foreign-language films

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With Oscar nominations less than a week away, specific academy members invited to review the nine films on the foreign-language shortlist will have a very busy weekend, narrowing the list down to five movies ahead of Tuesday’s nominations.

While Mark Johnson, chair of the foreign-language film award executive committee, declined to reveal who is part of this year’s Phase 2 selection committee, last year’s final selection committee included such high-profile academy members as Anne Hathaway, Julian Schnabel and Richard LaGravenese in New York and Ryan Gosling, Michael Cera and Michael Mann in Los Angeles, among many others. ‘In the second phase, we really do represent every branch of the academy,’ said Johnson.

He added, ‘I’m very proud of this list. I love the plurality of the list. I love that we have a documentary in it. I think we have some major filmmakers represented here. I’m quite pleased.’


And though he wishes that the shortlist featured 15 films, rather than 9, his committee left off a fair number of presumed sure things, including Lebanon’s ‘Where Do We Go Now?,’ from director Nadine Labaki, which landed the Toronto International Film Festival Audience Award; Zhang Yimou’s war film ‘The Flowers of War,’ starring Christian Bale; Hungary’s official choice ‘The Turin Horse’ from respected art-house director Bela Tarr; and Turkey’s murder-mystery ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,’ among others.

Southern California moviegoers can see only four of the films currently on the shortlist, and some of those not until February or March. Currently in theaters in limited release is Iran’s official entry, ‘A Separation’ from director Asghar Farhadi. The film, which nabbed a Golden Globe, centers on a couple who must decide whether to leave Iran to offer their child a better life, or stay to take care of an ailing parent. The film has been universally embraced by critics: It currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You can check out Kenneth Turan’s review here.

Wim Wenders’ 3-D documentary on German choreographer Pina Bausch also has opened in limited release. The dance film follows the legendary Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch ensemble and has generated equally positive reviews since it opened at the end of December. Turan’s review is accessible here.

Audiences will have to wait a bit longer for Israel’s film ‘Footnote,’ which scored well with critics when it bowed at the Toronto and Cannes film festivals last year. The film, from director Joseph Cedar, tells the story of father-and-son Talmudic scholars in Israel and the rivalry that sprouts up between them. Sony Pictures Classics will release the film in March. SPC also will release ‘In Darkness’ in February. The Polish film, from director Agnieszka Holland, centers on Nazi-occupied Poland and one man’s efforts to hide a group of Jews in the sewer. It played for a one-week awards qualifying run last year.

Drafthouse Films will release Belgium’s ‘Bullhead’ later this year, while Canada’s “Monsieur Lazhar” will be released by Music Box Films in April, or possibly earlier should the film go on to earn an Oscar nomination. Taiwan’s ‘Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale’ will be released by Well Go USA this April.

The other two films, Denmark’s ‘SuperClasico,’ and Morocco’s ‘Omar Killed Me’ do not have U.S. distribution, and it’s not clear if they will secure deals to open in American theaters in the next few months.

[For the Record: 3:20 p.m. Jan. 18: An earlier version of this post said that neither “Bullhead,’ ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ nor ‘Warriors of the Rainbow’ had distribution deals in place.]


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--Nicole Sperling