With extended shutdowns and travel restrictions around the globe, movies, in a sense, have become a way to travel the world, albeit through a filmmaker’s lens. Fortunately, 2020 was an exciting year for films made outside the US, which is reflected in the Academy Awards’ shortlist for best foreign film, announced on February 9.
From Guatemala to Iran, 15 flicks from around the globe were selected to compete for the International Feature Film Academy Award, more commonly referred to as “best foreign film,” given to feature films produced outside of the US and primarily in a language that is not English.
On March 15, the final five contenders will be announced.
The award ceremony usually takes place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced that the broadcast would include live events in multiple locations. The ceremony is scheduled for April 25.
Also announced were shortlists in eight additional categories, including documentary feature, original song, original score, visual effects and makeup and hairstyling.
A year after ‘Parasite’ wrote Oscar history
In 2021, the best foreign film may generate a buzz after South Korean film Parasite by director Bong Joon-Ho became the big winner of the 2020 Academy Awards. The dark comedy not only took home the award for best foreign film, but also won top prizes in five additional categories typically reserved for American films, including best picture, best director and best original screenplay.
Although there are no South Korean films on this year’s shortlist, films from East Asia have made the cut, including Taiwanese crime drama A Sun by acclaimed director and cinematographer Chung Mong-hong. Entertainment magazine Variety named it the best film of 2020, yet it received little promotion on Netflix, where it can be streamed.
Starring Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, ‘Another Round’ is a dark comedy that’s already won awards in Europe
Another acclaimed pick is Danish film Another Round, starring stone-faced Mads Mikkelsen, best known internationally for playing a James Bond villain. In this somber and occasionally humorous film, a group of middle-aged friends who are high school teachers decide to conduct a study on the effects of drinking on the job — what could possibly go wrong? The film, which debuted at the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, was also nominated for a Golden Globe last week and won four European Film Prize awards, including best film.
Also contender is Netflix production I Am No Longer Here, the poignant story of a teenager from Mexico with a passion for cumbia music. When he and his family are targeted by local gangs, he flees to New York City where life is anything but easy.
Another shortlisted Spanish-language film, La Llorona, has hopes for a nomination — it’s a contemporary retelling of a folkloric myth that merges horror with political drama and could be Guatemala’s first nomination.
Other countries which have never before competed have also made the shortlist, including Romania and Tunisia. Submissions from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Czech Republic, Iran, Norway and Russia also hope to make the next round to ultimately become the top international feature film of 2020.
Germans in the running
While Germany was not among the shortlisted international films, two Germans can still hope for a prize from the Academy: filmmaker Max Lang and composer Volker Bertelmann.
Lang’s animated short film The Snail and the Whale was one of the 10 to make the list. He has twice been previously nominated for animated short films but has yet to take home the coveted golden statue.
Bertelmann, who goes by the artist name Hauschka, co-wrote the music for the love drama Ammonite together with the American musician Dustin O’Halloran. Their work has been shortlisted in the film music category for best original score. The pair were also shortlisted back in 2017 for the music to the film The Lion, but did not make the final cut.
Borat versus Eurovision
While there were certainly plenty of opportunities for tears, 2020 did bring some laughs in the film world, and some of the most talked-about comedies of the year will battle it out in the best original song category.
One contender is the latest movie by British comedian provocateur Sacha Baron Cohen: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm with his irreverent song “Wuhan Flu,” which his character writes with conspiracy theorists in the film.
It’s competing with the headlining original tune in the movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by American comedian Will Ferrell.
The documentary feature film ‘MLK/MBI’ tells the tale of the FBI’s investigation of the civil rights activist
The Academy may have difficulty whittling down the list of 15 documentary features, which were already selected from 238 entries.
They cover a diverse range of topics, from the highly-praised Welcome to Chechnya, which offers a horrifying, eye-opening look at the anti-LGTBQ efforts and torture in the Chechen Republic, to US production MLK/FBI about the FBI’s trailing of the iconic civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Another time-relevant pick is 76 Days, about the early pandemic in Wuhan, China.
The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast on ABC on April 25, much later than the original date of February 28 due to the pandemic.
This article has been updated to include new information about the April 25 broadcast.