A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium.

But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum.

The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

A Separation (Iran)

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi

Written by: Asghar Farhadi

Starring: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami

Review of A Separation

Bullhead (Belgium)

Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam

Written by: Michaël R. Roskam

Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Barbara Sarafian

Review of Bullhead

Footnote (Israel)

Directed by: Joseph Cedar

Written by: Joseph Cedar

Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Shlomo Bar-Aba, Yuval Scharf

In Darkness (Poland)

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Written by: David F. Shamoon (from the book by Robert Marshall)

Starring: Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader

Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

Directed by: Philippe Falardeau

Written by: Philippe Falardeau (from the play by Évelyne de la Chenelière)

Starring: Fellag, Danielle Proulx,

Omar Killed Me (Morocco)

Directed by: Roschdy Zem

Written by: Roschdy Zem & Rachid Bouchared & Olivier Gorce & Olivier Lorelle (from the book by Jean-Marie Rouart)

Starring: Sami Bouajila

Note: No subtitles on this one, friends.

Pina (Germany)

Directed by: Wim Wenders

Written by: Wim Wenders

Starring: The choreography of Pina Bausch and a bunch of dancers

SuperClásico (Denmark)

Directed by: Ole Christian Madsen

Written by: Ole Christian Madsen & Anders Frithiof August

Starring: Paprika Steen, Anders W. Berthelsen

Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Taiwan)

Directed by: Te-Sheng Wei

Written by: Te-Sheng Wei

Starring: Umin Boya, Masanobu Ando, Landy Wen, Irene Luo, Vivian Hsu


Of the shortlist, only Taiwan, Denmark, Canada and Germany have ever won before (Denmark leads that group with 3 wins); Morocco has never even been nominated; and Israel leads with most nominations without a win (9). Despite a noteworthy career, this is also Wim Wenders’s first nomination in this category. His only other Oscar nomination was for Best Documentary in 2000 with Buena Vista Social Club.

It’s also important to note that this is another year without France or Italy in the running. France has an ebb and flow to its nominations and wins, but even though Italy leads with the most wins ever (13), it hasn’t won since 1998’s Life is Beautiful, and it’s only had one nominee (Don’t Tell) since then.

The lesson from this year’s shortlist? World cinema, or at least the United States’ relationship to it, is changing, and new players are emerging to deliver some incredible movies.

Which five will make the cut?


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