Where Cannes 2018 was light on red-carpet celebrities, the Official Selection offered many stars in the form of potential foreign-language award contenders. Each country has its own arcane rules for submitting films for the Foreign Language Oscar, but distributors scrambled to scoop up available titles and hope for the best.
Cate Blanchett’s jury had plenty of strong auteurs to assess, from Best Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to Oscar-winner “Ida,” the bittersweet period romance “Cold War” (Amazon Studios), starring incandescent breakout Joanna Kulig, and Kazakhstan’s “Ayka,” which won an acting award for Samal Yesyamova, to two poverty-row melodramas, Hirozaku Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” — which won the Palme d’Or and a Magnolia deal — and Nadine Labaki’s heart-tugging crowdpleaser “Capernaum” (Sony Pictures Classics), which scored the Jury Prize.
Italy will have to choose between “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” which won Marcello Fonte Best Actor, and Alice Rohrwacher’s elegantly moving best-screenplay winner, “Happy as Lazzaro” (Netflix).
Collecting no prizes were “The Wild Pear Tree,” which could mark Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s fifth Oscar submission from Turkey, rookie A.B. Shawky’s leper drama “Yomeddine,” a likely submission for Egypt, and opening-night title “Everybody Knows” (Focus Features), an entertaining family mystery featuring Oscar-winners Asghar Farhadi, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz. The movie played well in France after Cannes, and could be submitted by either Spain or Iran.
Other films made a mark, including Un Certain Regard prize-winner “Border” (Neon), a Swedish film directed by Iran-born Ali Abbasi; rookie Lukas Dhont’s transgender ballerina drama “Girl” (Netflix), which won the Un Certain Regard performance award and the Camera d’Or; Benedikt Erlingsson’s “Woman at War” (Iceland); Ukraine’s Best Director Sergei Loznitsa’s “Donbass,” and Colombia’s drug-cartel adventure “Birds of Passage” from Ciro Guerra, whose “Embrace of the Serpent” landed a surprise Oscar nomination.
Politics could intervene in several submissions, such as Wanuri Kahiu’s gay romance “Rafiki,” which was banned by Kenya, although the submitting committee could still choose it; and Iran did not allow Jafar Panahi to join his countryman Farhadi at the festival with his Competition film “Three Faces.”
Earlier in the year at Sundance, Danish filmmaker Gustav Möller’s “The Guilty” took home the Audience Award; Magnolia Pictures often handles Scandinavian Oscar nominees, from “A Royal Affair” and “The Hunt” to “The Square.” And out of Berlin, “The Heiresses” (Distrib FIlms) could be the Paraguay submission, as it won Best Actress, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear, while Germany could submit Christian Petzold’s “Transit” and Russia, which won no Cannes prizes, could go with Alexey German, Jr.’s portrait of a 70s writer, “Dovlatov” (Netflix).
Here’s a sampling of what could be in this year’s race. No film can be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.
“Capernaum” (Nadine Labaki, Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland)
“Everybody Knows” (Asghar Farhadi, Spain)
“Happy as Lazzaro” (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy)
“Shoplifters” (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)
“Ayka” (Sergei Devortsevoy, Kazakhstan)
“Birds of Passage” (Ciro Guerra, Colombia)
“Border” (Ali Abbassi, Sweden)
“Donbass” (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine)
“Girl” (Lukas Dhont, Belgium)
“The Wild Pear Tree” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
“Woman at War” (Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland)
“Yomeddine” (A.B. Shawky, Egypt)