The Cannes Film Festival always introduces a selection of ultimate foreign-language contenders for what is now called the Best International Feature Film Oscar. Last year’s final Oscar nominations were culled from 87 submissions from around the world.
Bong Joon-Ho (“Okja”) returned to Cannes with “Parasite” (Neon) and took home the Palme d’Or, the first Korean filmmaker to do so. The movie earned raves from critics and was the inevitable Oscar submission from South Korea, which has yet to score a foreign-language nomination. Neon is pushing the film in multiple categories, hoping for the range of Oscar nods scored by Netflix’s “Roma” and Amazon’s “Cold War” last year.
Winning Best Actor at Cannes was Antonio Banderas, star of Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar’s autobiographical “Pain & Glory” (October 4), who is long overdue for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Banderas gives a subtle, naturalistic performance unlike anything he has done as an aging Spanish arthouse director based on Almodóvar; Oscar winner Penélope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) is his mother. Sony Pictures Classics will resurface the film at the fall festivals; it’s Spain’s likely Oscar selection out of three finalists this year.
The French selection included two prize-winning Competition entries from women filmmakers: Screenplay and Queer-Palm winner Céline Sciamma’s stunning 18th-century drama “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (Neon/Hulu), a bodice-ripping lesbian romance inspired by Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” and Grand Prix winner “Atlantics” (Netflix), an atmospheric ghost story from rookie director Mati Diop, the first black woman director in competition. France could also choose “Les Misérables” (Amazon), the riveting feature debut of documentary filmmaker Ladj Ly, who shared the jury prize and was scooped up by CAA.
Unlike 2016 Cannes title “Aquarius,” this time Brazil included on its shortlist of 12 Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho’s western “Bacurau,” which won the Cannes jury prize. We’ll see what the final submission is. Surprisingly, Belgium did not submit for Oscar consideration Cannes Best Director winners Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardennes’ thriller “The Young Ahmed,” but rather, César Díaz’s Spanish-language “Our Mothers.”
Contenders are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until I have seen it.
“Parasite” (Bong Joon-Ho, South Korea)
“Everybody Changes” (Arturo Montenegro, Panama)
“Finding Farideh” (Kourosh Ataee, Azadeh Moussavi, Iran)
“Homeward” (Nariman Aliev, Ukraine)
“In the Life of Music” (Caylee So, Sok Visal, Cambodia)
“The Longest Night” (Gabriela Calvache, Ecuador)
“It Must Be Heaven” (Elia Suleiman, Palestine)
“Our Mothers” (César Díaz, Belgium)
“Papicha” (Mounia Meddour, Algeria)
“Shindisi” (Dito Tsintsadze, Georgia)
“System Crasher” (Nora Fingscheidt, Germany)
“Truth and Justice” (Tanel Toom, Estonia)
“Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey Into the Arms of a Shiksa” (Michael Steiner, Switzerland)