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What Will Make the Oscar Shortlists in Documentary and International Categories?

Monday is the start of five days of voting to determine shortlists in the nine Oscar categories that narrow down the field before the start of nomination balloting. In the Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film categories, 238 and 93 films, respectively, will be reduced to 15 semifinalists.

In each of those categories, voters must see a minimum number of entries, drawn from a “required viewing” list sent to each member, in order to vote. Documentary voters must see more than 30 films, international voters must see 12. Shortlists in all categories will be announced on Feb. 9.

Here are our thoughts on these contests; on Tuesday, we’ll look at the below-the-line categories that also use shortlists.

Also Read: Oscars Reveal Record-Breaking Lists of Contenders in Documentary, International Categories

‘Time’ / Amazon Studios

Ever since the Documentary Branch rules were changed to do away with the small committees that previously viewed films in the preliminary round of voting, the documentary shortlists have invariably contained almost all of the films that received the most buzz and the most precursor awards.

Front-runners: Garrett Bradley’s “Time,” the most honored nonfiction film of 2020, is all but certain to make the shortlist. Also in good shape for recognition: “Collective,” “Gunda,” “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” “Crip Camp” and “Welcome to Chechnya,” all of which have scored multiple honors from the International Documentary Association, Cinema Eye Honors, Critics Choice Documentary Awards, Gotham Award and DOC NYC.

Other contenders: Beyond those films, “The Truffle Hunters,” “Boys State,” “76 Days” and “MLK/FBI” all have high profiles, while Stacey Abrams’ work on the U.S. Senate elections in Georgia no doubt gave a huge boost to the documentary in which she is prominent, “All In: The Fight for Democracy.”

Plenty of other movies are in the running for the other slots, among them “A Thousand Cuts,” “The Mole Agent,” “On the Record,” “City Hall,” “Acasa, My Home,” “The Painter and the Thief,” “The Dissident,” “My Octopus Teacher,” “Totally Under Control,” “Rebuilding Paradise,” “The Fight,” “The Reason I Jump,” “The Way I See It” and “John Lewis: Good Trouble.” But that’s just a start; with a record 238 films in the running, 68 more than the previous high of 170, there are dozens of other serious contenders.

Also Read: 'Time' Director Garrett Bradley Explains How She Exposed Mass Incarceration Via One Woman's Fight

Can we suggest? For voters looking to catch up on a few more movies before casting their ballots, we’d like to lobby for the power and visual poetry of “Notturno,” the wrenching personal story of “Rewind” and, if voters are in the market for something a bit more raucous, Julien Temple’s music doc “Crock of Gold – A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan.”

‘La Llorona’ / Shudder

The decision by the Academy’s Board of Governors to expand this year’s international shortlist from 10 to 15 films was very good news for a lot of movies contending for those spots. But at the same time, it made another decision to eliminate the executive committee “saves” that would allow a select group to choose three films for the shortlist regardless of how they fared in the general vote. And that decision is very bad news for several artistic but challenging films that were likely relying on the executive committee to put them through. Among those hit hardest by that decision are the entries from Portugal (“Vitalina Varela”), Georgia (“Beginning”), Ukraine (“Atlantis”) and maybe Guatemala (“La Llorona”), though with 15 slots “La Llorona” seems likely to score high enough to advance.

Front-runners: Denmark’s “Another Round” is the closest thing to a favorite in a wide-open field, though it’s not an obvious winner. The Romanian documentary “Collective” feels like another sure thing for the shortlist, as does Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here.”

Also Read: Director Fernando Frias de la Parra Celebrates Youth Subculture in 'I'm No Longer Here'

Other contenders: Films in the next tier may include “La Llorona,” the Ivory Coast’s “Night of the Kings,” France’s “Two of Us,” Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and Russia’s “Dear Comrades!” A decade after a near-revolt on the general committee over the executive committee’s save of “Dogtooth,” that film’s A.D., Christos Nikou, might actually get enough support from general voters for the film he directed, “Apples,” which had the advantage of emotion to go with its oddness and the vocal support of executive producer Cate Blanchett.

Films that feel substantial enough to gain support include Taiwan’s “A Sun,” Spain’s “The Endless Trench,” Germany’s “And Tomorrow the Entire World,” Switzerland’s “My Little Sister” and the Czech Republic’s “Charlatan,” while more crowd-pleasing titles include Chile’s “The Mole Agent” and Poland’s “Never Gonna Snow Again.”

Potential dark horses could include Bulgaria’s “The Father,” Norway’s “Hope,” Slovakia’s “The Auschwitz Report” and the craziest film in the race, India’s “Jallikattu.”

Can we suggest? Remember what we said about “Notturno?” It’s eligible in this category, too. Israel’s “Asia” is an intimate story brought to life by exquisite performances from Shira Haas and Alena Yiv, and Canada’s “14 Days, 12 Nights” is another quiet duet for Leanna Chea. Lesotho’s “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” is mysterious and evocative and could have used the help of the executive committee. And while “Vitalina Varela” doesn’t have much chance in the absence of that committee, one can dream.

For the record: The original version of this story said that the Oscars also compiled a shortlist in the Best Animated Feature category. It does not. It uses a shortlist in Best Animated Short, but not Best Animated Feature.


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Oscars International Race Breaks Record With 93 Entries

The Academy on Friday unveiled to its voters a record 93 films will compete in the Best International Feature Film category — which will no doubt leading to a busy four weeks of viewing before first-round voting begins on Feb. 1.

Helped by COVID-inspired rules that relaxed the usual entry requirements, the films topped the record of 92 entries set in 2017, as TheWrap suggested they likely would in December. The films include a record 34 female directors, seven more than the previous high of 27 set last year.

This is not the official list of qualifying films, which is expected to be released by the Academy later in January. But these 93 films are all in the members-only online screening room devoted to the category, and each of them has been put on a “required viewing” list for one-fourth of the voters. It is unlikely that any of the films will be disqualified at this point, although last year two films were deemed ineligible even after the list of contenders had been announced, dropping the number of 2019 contenders from 93 to 91.

Also Read: Oscars International Entries, 2020: The Complete List So Far

This year, at least three films — Canada’s “Funny Boy,” Portugal’s “Listen” and Belarus’ “Persian Lessons” — were submitted but turned down by the Academy, the first two for containing too much English dialogue and the Belarus entry for not having enough creative input from that country. Canada and Portugal submitted alternate films prior to the deadline. Additional problems caused submissions from Bhutan and Uzbekistan to be ineligible, while Algeria submitted “Heliopolis” but later withdrew it.

Among the films that made the cut are Denmark’s “Another Round,” Romania’s documentary “Collective,” Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here,” the Ivory Coast’s “Night of the Kings,” Switzerland’s “My Little Sister,” Poland’s “Never Gonna Snow Again,” France’s “Two of Us,” Netherlands’ “Bulado,” Bosnia & Herzegovina’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and Russia’s “Dear Comrades,” which could receive support from the general voters that choose seven of the films on a shortlist that will be announced on Feb. 9; and Guatemala’s “La Llorona,” Portugal’s “Vitalina Varela,” Ukraine’s “Atlantis,” Taiwan’s “A Sun,” Georgia’s “Beginning” and Lesotho’s “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection,” which could find favor with the executive committee that will fill the final three spots on the shortlist.

But in a year with few slam-dunk choices on the order of recent nominees “Parasite,” “Roma,” “Cold War,” “Les Miserables” and “Pain and Glory,” the battle for the nomination may be more wide-open than usual.

Also Read: After 'Parasite' and 'Roma,' What Can the Oscars International Race Do for an Encore?

It’s also more uncertain when it comes to who will vote. First-round balloting is open to all Academy members for the first time ever, which could shift the balance of power away from the Los Angeles-based members who have attended special screenings and determined the bulk of the shortlist for years. But members are receiving their lists of “required viewing” only three-and-a-half weeks before phase-one voting begins, and exactly four weeks before it ends on Feb. 5. And in order for votes to count, members must see a minimum of 12 films from their required-viewing lists, which consist of 23 films (Groups 1, 2 and 3) or 24 films (Group 4).

For members who have been watching the films since they began to be placed in the category’s online screening room, those numbers are within reach, assuming that enough of the movies they’ve seen are on the required-viewing list. But if voters have waited to receive those lists so they know which films to focus on — a situation that anecdotal evidence suggests some have done — they are now faced with watching four or five international movies a week for the rest of January, a prospect that could result in less-motivated participants dropping out.

TheWrap has compiled a list of the eligible films, with descriptions and links to trailers.

Here are the films that have been placed in the Academy screening room and assigned to voters in the category:

Albania: “Open Door”
Argentina: “The Sleepwalkers”
Armenia: “Songs of Solomon”
Austria: “What We Wanted”
Bangladesh: “Sincerely Yours, Dhaka”
Belgium: “Working Girls”
Bolivia: “Chaco”
Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
Brazil: “Babenco – Tell Me When I Die”
Bulgaria: “The Father”
Cambodia: “Fathers”
Cameroon: “The Fisherman’s Diary”
Canada: “14 Days, 12 Nights”
Chile: “The Mole Agent”
China: “Leap”
Colombia: “Memories of My Father”
Costa Rica: “Land of Ashes”
Croatia: “Extracurricular”
Cuba: “Buscando a Casal”
Czech Republic: “Charlatan”
Denmark: “Another Round”
Dominican Republic: “A State of Madness”
Ecuador: “Emptiness”
Egypt: “When We’re Born”
Estonia: “The Last Ones”
Finland: “Tove”
France: “Two of Us”
Georgia: “Beginning”?Germany: “And Tomorrow the Entire World”
Greece: “Apples”
Guatemala: “La Llorona”
Honduras: “Days of Light”
Hong Kong: “Better Days”
Hungary: “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”
Iceland: “Agnes Joy”
India: “Jallikattu”
Indonesia: “Impetigore”
Iran: “Sun Children”
Ireland: “Arracht”
Israel: “Asia”
Italy: “Notturno”
Ivory Coast: “Night of the Kings”
Japan: “True Mothers”
Jordan: 200 Meters”
Kazakhstan: “The Crying Steppe”
Kenya: “The Letter”
Kosovo: “Exile”
Kyrgyzstan: “Running to the Sky”
Latvia: “Blizzard of Souls”
Lebanon: “Broken Keys”
Lesotho: “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”
Lithuania: “Nova Lituania”
Luxembourg: “River Tales”
Malaysia: “Roh”
Mexico: “I’m No Longer Here”
Mongolia: “Veins of the World”
Montenegro: “Breasts”
Morocco: “The Unknown Saint”
Netherlands: “Bulado”
Nigeria: “The Milkmaid”
North Macedonia: “Willow”
Norway: “Hope”
Pakistan: “Circus of Life”
Palestine: “Gaza, Mon Amour”
Panama: “Operation Just Cause”
Paraguay: “Killing the Dead”
Peru: “Song Without a Name”
Philippines: “Mindanao”
Poland: “Never Gonna Snow Again”
Portugal: “Vitalina Varela”
Romania: “Collective”
Russia: “Dear Comrades!”
Saudi Arabia: “Scales”
Senegal: “Nafi’s Father”
Serbia: “Dara of Jasenovac”
Singapore: “Wet Season”
Slovakia: “The Auschwitz Report”
Slovenia: “Stories From the Chestnut Woods”
South Africa: “Toorbos”
South Korea: “The Man Standing Next”
Spain: “The Endless Trench”
Sudan: “You Will Die at Twenty”
Suriname: “Wired”
Sweden: “Charter”
Switzerland: “My Little Sister”
Taiwan: “A Sun”
Thailand: “Happy Old Year”
Tunisia: “The Man Who Sold His Skin”
Turkey: “Miracle in Cell No. 7”
Ukraine: “Atlantis”
Uruguay: “Aleli”
Venezuela: “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela”
Vietnam: “Dreamy Eyes”

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Oscars International Entries Are Close to New Record, But Voters Can’t See Them All Yet

Even in a year in which worldwide theater closings made releasing movies difficult if not impossible, the Oscars race for Best International Feature Film is close to achieving a record number of entries.

With the deadline for submissions passing on Dec. 1, 90 countries have either announced their Oscar submissions or had those submissions reported in the press. One additional film, from Saudi Arabia, is in the Academy screening room devoted to the category.

The 91 entries would be one shy of the record 92 films that competed in what was then called the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2017.

But we don’t know if additional countries beyond those 91 have submitted films but not made their selections public. Typically, a handful of countries fall into that category; nations that have entered films in at least four of the last five years but have not announced submissions this year are Afghanistan, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal and the United Kingdom.

Also Read: Oscars International Entries, 2020: The Complete List So Far

Last year, Afghanistan’s entry was deemed ineligible because of questions about the legitimacy of the committee that submitted it. It’s also possible that some of this year’s 90 announced films will end up not qualifying, though the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee may well be unlikely to disqualify anything in a year of rule changes designed to accommodate the difficulty of releasing movies during a pandemic. (Still, there are submitted films with questions about release dates or the amount of English dialogue they contain.)

Normally, the Academy releases the list of qualifying films about a week after the submission deadline. But it was embarrassed last year when it unveiled a record list of 93 contenders and then had to backtrack when the Nigerian and Austrian entries were found not to qualify because their dialogue was more than 50% English.

This year, AMPAS will likely wait until late January, after the submissions have been fully vetted, to reveal the list of qualifying films. And while it would normally have contacted voters by now with a calendar of screenings for all the eligible films, with pandemic restrictions those screenings can’t take place. And as of mid-December, the Academy had only made 30 of the 90 films available in the members-only online screening room devoted to the international category, so those 30 are the only ones that have been officially announced.

“Additional films are currently being tested by our Quality Assurance team and will be released throughout the month of December,” said a Dec. 11 email from AMPAS to members who had volunteered to take place in phase-one voting. At that point, 16 films were in the screening room; on Dec. 17, an additional 14 were added.

Also Read: After 'Parasite' and 'Roma,' What Can the Oscars International Race Do for an Encore?

Films that are so far missing from the international screening room include some of the most high-profile contenders, among them Greece’s “Apples,” Italy’s “Notturno,” Spain’s “The Endless Trench,” France’s “Two of Us” and Israel’s “Asia.”

In contrast to previous years in which first-round voting was restricted to Los Angeles-based members who attended screenings, this year’s initial round is open to all members anywhere in the world who view enough of the eligible films in the Academy screening room. (Last year, you had to see 12 to vote.)

Theoretically, that could enable far more people to vote in a category thought to have low participation, and it could skew the votes toward international voters rather than L.A.-based ones. But the lack of physical screenings, which doubled as social events and helped spread the buzz that would drive voters to see certain films, could depress voting among the SoCal stalwarts who made up the “general committee” and whose ballots choose seven of the 10 films on the category’s shortlist.

Also Read: Oscars International Race Heats Up as Heavy Hitters Enter the Race

And with the full slate of eligible films appearing in the screening room on a staggered basis, will voters stick to a steady schedule of viewing even if the films they want to see aren’t on the platform yet? (Granted, the availability of films was even more spread out when they could only be seen at screenings.)

When the shortlist is announced on Feb. 9, sharp-eyed watchers of the category will probably be able to surmise whether the usual L.A. committee dominated the balloting or whether international voters took charge — but we won’t know whether the number of voters has increased or decreased in this unusual year, because the Academy doesn’t reveal that kind of thing.

Here is the list of films whose countries have announced their submissions. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee that a film will be deemed eligible, though in most years all but one or two make the cut. And while this list falls two shy of tying the record, it’s definitely possible that some stealth candidates will help 2020 set a new high.

TheWrap’s list of Best International Features Film contenders, with descriptions and links to trailers, is here.

Films that are in the AMPAS International Feature Film screening room are in bold.

Albania: Open Door
Algeria: Heliopolis
Argentina: The Sleepwalkers
Armenia: Songs of Solomon
Austria: What We Wanted
Bangladesh: Sincerely Yours, Dhaka
Belarus: Persian Lessons
Belgium: Working Girls
Bhutan: Luanana: A Yak in the Classroom
Bolivia: Chaco
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Quo Vadis, Aida?
Brazil: Babenco: Tell Me When I Die
Bulgaria: The Father
Canada: Funny Boy
Chile: The Mole Agent
China: Leap
Colombia: Forgotten We’ll Be
Costa Rica: Land of Ashes
Croatia: Extracurricular
Czech Republic: Charlatan
Denmark: Another Round
Dominican Republic: A State of Madness
Ecuador: Emptiness
Egypt: When We’re Born
Estonia: The Last Ones
Finland: Tove
France: Two of Us
Georgia: Beginning
Germany: And Tomorrow the Entire World
Greece: Apples
Guatemala: La Llorona
Hong Kong: Better Days
Hungary: Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Iceland: Agnes Joy
India: Jallikattu
Indonesia: Impetiogore
Iran: Sun Children
Ireland: Arracht
Israel: Asia
Italy: Notturno
Ivory Coast: Night of the Kings
Japan: True Mothers
Jordan: 200 Meters
Kazakhstan: The Crying Steppe
Kenya: The Letter
Kosovo: Exile
Kyrgyzstan: Running to the Sky
Latvia: Blizzard of Souls
Lebanon: Broken Keys
Lesotho: This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
Lithuania: Nova Lituania
Luxembourg: River Tales
Malaysia: Roh
Mexico: I’m No Longer Here
Montenegro: Breasts
Morocco: The Unknown Saint
Netherlands: Bulado
Nigeria: The Milkmaid
North Macedonia: Willow
Norway: Hope
Pakistan: Zingagi Tamasha
Palestine: Gaza, Mon Amour
Panama: Causa Justa
Paraguay: Killing the Dead
Peru: Song Without a Name
Philippines: Mindanao
Poland: Never Gonna Snow Again
Portugal: Listen
Romania: Collective
Russia: Dear Comrades!
Saudi Arabia: Scales

Serbia: Dara in Jasenovac
Singapore: Wet Season
Slovakia: The Auschwitz Report
Slovenia: Stories From the Chestnut Woods
South Africa: Toorbos
South Korea: The Man Standing Next
Spain: The Endless Trench
Sudan: You Will Die at 20
Suriname: Wiren
Sweden: Charter
Switzerland: My Little Sister
Taiwan: A Sun
Thailand: Happy Old Year
Tunisia: The Man Who Sold His Skin
Turkey: Miracle in Cell No. 7
Ukraine: Atlantis
Uruguay: Alell
Uzbekistan: 2000 Songs of Farida
Venezuela: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
Vietnam: Dreamy Eyes

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Oscars International Race Heats Up as Heavy Hitters Enter the Race

With less than two weeks to go until the Academy’s Dec. 1 deadline for submissions, the Oscars race in the Best International Feature Film category doesn’t appear to be suffering any slowdown because of the coronavirus.

As of Thursday, more than 60 different countries had announced their Oscar submissions in the category. That’s more than the 58 that had announced last year at the same point in the Oscar calendar. (With no pandemic to delay the Oscars for two months, the 2019 deadline was Oct. 1, not Dec. 1.)

Last year’s field was initially announced as a record 93 submissions, though two subsequent disqualifications lowered the final total to 91.

Also Read: Oscars International Entries, 2020: The Complete List So Far

While this year’s race does not have any prohibitive favorites like last year’s “Parasite” or 2018’s “Roma,” a number of the most recent submissions appear to be serious contenders. Denmark’s “Another Round,” for instance, stars Mads Mikkelsen and is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, whose 2013 film “The Hunt” was a nominee in this category. Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here,” directed by Fernando Frias de la Parra, beat out another strong contender in Michel Franco’s “New Order,” in part because of vocal support from Oscar-winning Mexican directors Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro. And France, which is always a strong contender and has more nominations in the category than any other country, chose Filippo Meneghetti’s “Two of Us,” a love story between two older women, over a slew of strong options (including Maïmouna Doucouré’s high-profile Netflix drama “Cuties”).

The race should get another major contender next week when Italy makes its choice. The Italian submission committee previously narrowed the field to a hefty 25 films, including Gianfranco Rosi’s acclaimed documentary “Notturno” and Edoardo Ponti’s Netflix release “The Life Ahead,” featuring the first onscreen performance in a decade from Ponti’s mother, legendary actress Sophia Loren.

Among the countries that have submitted so far this year are three African countries that have never before entered the Oscar race: Lesotho, with the spiritual reverie “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”; Sudan, with “You Will Die at 20”; and Suriname, with “Wiren.”

Also Read: After 'Parasite' and 'Roma,' What Can the Oscars International Race Do for an Encore?

An additional 38 countries that participated in the race last year have yet to announce their submissions this year. Those include Afghanistan, Australia, Bolivia, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

So far, five countries have submitted documentaries, a larger-than-usual total that was likely inspired by the fact that the doc “Honeyland” was nominated in this category (and in Best Documentary Feature) at last year’s Oscars. The nonfiction contenders include Romania’s “Collective,” a story of investigative journalists uncovering government corruption, and Chile’s “The Mole Agent,” an unlikely tale of espionage set in a retirement home.

Academy-approved submission committees in each country have until Dec. 1 to choose their entries, one per country. There is no requirement to publicly announce the names of submissions once they are made, but most countries do. Being announced does not guarantee that a film will meet the requirements and be accepted as a contender; last year, Austria and Nigeria had both announced their submissions, but those films were later disqualified for being predominantly in English.

The Academy generally announces the names of all submissions within a week of the deadline, but it is expected to delay that announcement this year. Most likely, it will only reveal the names of the competitors after they’ve all been vetted, to prevent the embarrassment of announcing films and later revealing that they weren’t eligible after all.

Here is the complete list of films that have been submitted and announced to date, with descriptions and links to trailers.

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