The nine films that will move on to the next stage of competition for the Oscar for best foreign-language film were revealed on Wednesday, and as is typical, there were surprises – and snubs. The highly regarded French submission, “Of Gods and Men,” about Christian monks trying to keep their monastery going amid Islamist conflict in Algeria, was left off the list, but an Algerian film about that country’s struggle to break free from French rule, “Outside the Law,” was included. So were two other films that address cultural conflicts between the West and Islam: Canada’s “Incendies” and Denmark’s “In a Better World,” which won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film last weekend.
Two dramas about families with different kinds of bizarre lives, “Dogtooth,” from Greece, and “Confessions,” from Japan, also made the list, which was heavily weighted toward European films. A South African film about the impact of AIDS on a small community, “Life, Above All,” also made the initial cut. The list of nine, which will be winnowed down to five next week, includes only one comedy, Sweden’s “Simple Simon,” (pictured) and even that film tackles a weighty subject, since its title character suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome.
The nine films selected from the 65 submissions, listed in alphabetical order by country and with their directors, are:
Algeria: “Outside the Law”, Rachid Bouchareb
Canada: “Incendies,” Denis Villeneuve
Denmark: “In a Better World,” Susanne Bier
Greece: “Dogtooth,” Yorgos Lanthimos
Japan: “Confessions,” Tetsuya Nakashima
Mexico: “Biutiful,” Alejandro González Iñárritu
South Africa: “Life, Above All,” Oliver Schmitz
Spain: “Even the Rain,” Icíar Bollaín
Sweden: “Simple Simon,” Andreas Ohman
Here's information from Screen Daily about "Simple Simon" from Sept. 7:
Swedish director Andreas Öhman’s feature debut, Simple Simon (I rymden finns inga känslor), has entered the race for an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign-Language Feature.
The Swedish Film Institute’s 14-member Oscar committee chose its candidate today (Sept 7) only four days after its domestic release through SF Film; so far it has reached about 32,000 admissions from 52 35mm and 52 digital prints.
The team of Öhman, Jonathan Sjöberg and Bonnie Skoog Feeney has previously collaborated on TV series, shorts and novella films. In the Simple Simon case, Öhman co-wrote and directed, Sjöberg co-wrote and co-produced, and Feeney produced.
Starring Bill Skarsgård, Martin Wallström and Cecilia Forss, the film follows Simon, who lives with his older brother Sam and his girlfriend, Frida. Simon suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and doesn’t like changes. Frida finds it difficult to adjust to Simon’s need of rock-solid routines and decides to leave them. Simon wants things as they used to be; when he realises Frida is not coming back, he sets out to find Sam a new girlfriend.
Produced by Naive Film, Simple Simon was originally set up for a package of novella films instigated by Swedish public broadcaster SVT and the Swedish Film Institute. But Ôhman & Co decided 30 minutes were not enough for the story, and made a feature-long version, too.
Most recently they have developed a pilot, JC, for America’s Comedy Central, an animated programme of Jesus trying to adapt to contemporary life in New York, while God has lost interest in what he once created.
Swedish films have been nominated for the Foreign-Language Oscar 15 times, most recently Kay Pollak’s As in Heaven (Så som i himmelen/2004). Four – including three Ingmar Bergman titles – have won it.