The US Academy’s 2024 international feature film shortlist of 15 titles includes many of the films most expected to appear on it, while also throwing in a few surprises.
Films considered to be leading contenders for this award are present and correct, including the four eligible titles from the Golden Globe nominations for best foreign-language picture: The Zone Of Interest (UK), Society Of The Snow (Spain), Fallen Leaves (Finland) and Io Capitano (Italy).
The Globes also nominated Anatomy Of A Fall and Past Lives, but France didn’t submit the former for the Oscar, and US film Past Lives is ineligible for the award.
Other leading contenders making this season’s Oscar shortlist are The Taste Of Things (France), Perfect Days (Japan), 20 Days In Mariupol (Ukraine), The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany) and The Promised Land (Denmark).
Registering as more of a surprise is the inclusion of Michael A Goorjian’s Amerikatsi – the first ever film from Armenia to make the Oscar shortlist. Notable also is the inclusion of two films from North Africa: documentary-drama hybrid Four Daughters and documentary The Mother Of All Lies, from Tunisia and Morocco respectively. Last year, only Morocco’s The Blue Caftan made the Oscar shortlist from Africa.
Latin America just has one film on the shortlist this time: Mexico’s Totem. That’s down from two last year, with favoured titles including Chile’s The Settlers and Argentina’s The Delinquents missing out this year.
Joining Perfect Days in flying the flag for Asia is The Monk And The Gun from Bhutan. The film is director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s follow-up to Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom, which ended up being nominated in the international feature category two years ago.
Europe once again dominates the shortlist, with nine of the 15 slots.
SOURCE: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
20 Days In Mariupol (Ukraine)
Dir. Mstyslav Chernov
Ukraine makes the international feature film Oscar shortlist for the first time, with its 16th attempt. Reporting for Associated Press, Kharkiv-born Chernov – whose career has spanned multiple spheres of war reporting with words and images – led the sole team reporting to the world from the besieged city of Mariupol during the first 20 days of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. This documentary, which is Chernov’s debut feature, had its world premiere at Sundance where it won the audience award in world cinema documentary, going on to further festival exposure including Sheffield DocFest where it picked up the Tim Hetherington award. A co-production between Associated Press and Frontline, the film also picked up five nominations at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, winning for best first documentary feature.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Dogwoof)
Dir. Michael A Goorjian
Armenia makes the international feature Oscar shortlist for the first time since it was introduced with the 2007 awards, having submitted nine times before during the shortlist era, and three times prior. (Two of Armenia’s 12 submissions prior to this year were disqualified.) Goorjian’s drama follows an Armenian-American who, after getting arrested upon his return to Armenia, becomes fascinated with a couple he can see from his prison cell. The film premiered at the 2022 Woodstock Film Festival where it picked up best narrative feature and later won the audience award at Hamburg. Goorjian wrote, directed and stars in Amerikatsi which is produced by People Of Ar Productions.
Fallen Leaves (Finland)
Dir. Aki Kaurismäki
This latest from veteran Finnish filmmaker Kaurismäki receives recognition from the US Academy, having already picked up two Golden Globe nominations (for foreign-language film and best actress in a musical or comedy for Alma Poysti) as well as five nominations at the European Film Awards. The comedy drama first bowed at Cannes where it topped Screen’s jury grid and picked up the festival’s jury prize. Poysti and Jussi Vatanen star as two lonely people who meet one night in Helsinki and try to fall in love. Kaurismäki previously secured Finland’s only international feature Oscar nomination in 2003 for The Man Without A Past although he refused to attend the ceremony in protest of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Finland was most recently on the Oscar shortlist for this award two years ago, with Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6 – but was not nominated on that occasion.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Mubi)
Four Daughters (Tunisia)
Dir. Kaouther Ben Hania
This documentary/drama hybrid debuted in Cannes Competition in May, where it won the Golden Eye best documentary prize alongside The Mother Of All Lies – which has likewise made the Oscar shortlist (see below) – before touring festivals including Sarajevo, Brussels, Munich and Toronto. The feature reconstructs the story of Tunisia’s Olfa Hamrouni and her daughters through interviews and re-enactments, to examine how the two eldest children were radicalised and disappeared. Two of the daughters are portayed by professional actresses, opposite Egyptian-Tunisian star Hend Sabri as Olfa. It marks a return to the international feature Oscars race for Ben Hania, whose The Man Who Sold His Skin delivered Tunisia’s first-ever Oscar nomination in 2021.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Modern Films)
Dir. Hlynur Palmason
Produced by Denmark’s Snowglobe and Iceland’s Join Motion Pictures, Godland was a potential Oscar submission for both countries a year ago, having premiered at Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2022 and going on to play Telluride and Toronto the same year. Denmark and Iceland instead respectively submitted Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider (which made the Oscar shortlist of 15 films) and Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s Beautiful Beings (which didn’t). A year later, Iceland selected this late-19th-century drama about a young Danish priest (Elliott Crosset Hove) who travels to a remote part of Iceland to build a church and photograph its people – but the deeper he goes into the unforgiving landscape, the more he strays from his purpose, his mission and morality. Palmason directed two previous features: Winter Brothers (2017) and A White, White Day (2019). The latter was Iceland’s submission to the 2020 Oscars but failed to make the shortlist.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Curzon)
Io Capitano (Italy)
Dir. Matteo Garrone
Garrone finally makes the Oscar shortlist for international feature after his films Gomorrah and Dogman were submitted by Italy to the 2009 and 2019 awards, both failing to make the cut. Premiering at Venice Film Festival in September, where it earned Garrone the best director Silver Lion and the best new actor prize for the film’s leading actor Seydou Sarr, this emotionally-charged story follows the harrowing journey of two Senegalese teenagers from Dakar to Italy. Told in Wolof and French, the contemporary odyssey sees its protagonists confront the dangers of the desert, the horrors of detention centres in Libya and the perils of the sea as they make their way to European shores. Already this awards season, Io Capitano has been Golden Globe-nominated for best foreign-language film and earned two nominations at the European Film Awards, for European film and director. Despite previously coming up short at Oscar, Garrone was Bafta-nominated for both Gomorrah and Dogman in the film not in English language category.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Altitude)
The Monk And The Gun (Bhutan)
Dir. Pawo Choyning Dorji
After achieving what many considered to be a surprise Oscar nomination in 2022 with Dorji’s Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom, the Himalayan territory of Bhutan is chasing Oscar glory again with the latest feature from the same director. The Monk And The Gun is set in 2006, when the Kingdom of Bhutan began its transition to democracy and staged a mock election to teach a somewhat reluctant population how to vote. This forms the backdrop of a story in which an American attempts to acquire a rare Civil War-era rifle in the country from a monk who wants something significant in return. The film premiered at Telluride and went on to screen at Toronto. Prior to the Lunana success, Bhutan had only entered the international feature Oscar category once before: in 2000 with Khyentse Norbu’s The Cup.
The Mother Of All Lies (Morocco)
Dir. Asmae El Moudir
This documentary reflects on the bread riots that shook the working-class Casablanca neighbourhood of director El Moudir in 1981, through the use of a workshop in which participants recall their experiences. The film premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, where it won the directing prize for the section and shared the Golden Eye documentary prize with Four Daughters (see above). The Mother Of All Lies marks the second feature by El Moudir after 2020’s The Postcard. Morocco has yet to secure a nomination but made the shortlist in 2012 with Roschdy Zem’s Omar Killed Me and last year with Maryam Touzani’s The Blue Caftan.
Perfect Days (Japan)
Dir. Wim Wenders
Japan’s selection of Perfect Days represents the first time the country has selected a non-Japanese director in more than 70 years of submissions to the Oscars. In so doing, Japan returns to the international feature shortlist after Chie Hayakawa’s Plan 75 failed to land there a year ago. In 2022, Japan won the Oscar with Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car – the country’s second win in the competitive era of the award. From veteran German filmmaker Wenders, Perfect Days follows a Tokyo toilet cleaner (Koji Yakusho) who seems utterly content going about his everyday routine as a series of unexpected encounters gradually reveal more of his past. Yakusho won best actor in Cannes, where the film premiered in Competition before travelling on to festivals including Toronto and Tokyo. Wenders previously directed three films that were submitted by Germany for the international feature Oscar – The American Friend in 1978, Wings Of Desire in 1988 and Pina in 2012 – of which only Pina made it as far as the shortlist, but was not nominated. However, Wenders has been Oscar-nominated in the documentary category with Buena Vista Social Club in 2000, Pina in 2012 and The Salt Of The Earth in 2015.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Mubi)
The Promised Land (Denmark)
Dir. Nikolaj Arcel
Arcel’s Nordic western premiered at Venice and stars Mads Mikkelsen as a retired army captain attempting to cultivate the barren Jutland heath in the mid-18th century – a goal that has eluded all who previously attempted it. Perils include lawless bandits, but more troublesome is the local landowner (Simon Bennebjerg) who believes the land belongs to himself and not the king. Four Danish films have won an Oscar in the international feature category, most recently Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round in 2021. The country has secured a further five nominations for this Oscar category in the past 11 years, including Arcel’s own A Royal Affair, which was nominated for the 2103 awards – losing to Michael Haneke’s Amour, which was Austria’s submission.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Icon)
Society Of The Snow (Spain)
Dir. JA Bayona
Spain missed out on the international feature Oscar shortlist last year with Carla Simon’s Berlin Golden Bear winner Alcarras, and now returns with this Netflix-backed true tale from a director who has pivoted between Spanish- and English-language, and whose films have spanned budgets and genres. Like Bayona’s Asian-tsunami drama The Impossible (2012), Society Of The Snow shows humans grappling with extreme real-life peril – in this case the 1972 plane crash of a Uruguayan university rugby team in the icy Andes. Previously made as the 1993 Frank Marshall film Alive starring Ethan Hawke, this tale of men making tough moral choices to survive is presented here with an emphasis on authenticity, reflected in a relatively unknown cast of mostly South American actors speaking in Spanish. Netflix won this category last year with All Quiet On The Western Front. Bayona last represented Spain in 2008 with The Orphanage, but his film did not make the Oscar shortlist. Spain has four wins and 16 nominations under its belt for this Oscar category, last winning in 2005 with Alejandro Amenabar’s The Sea Inside, and last securing a nomination in 2020 with Pedro Almodovar’s Pain And Glory.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Netflix)
The Taste Of Things (France)
Dir. Tran Anh Hung
Known as The Pot-au-Feu in some international markets and La Passion de Dodin Bouffant in France, this food-themed drama earned the French-Vietnamese filmmaker the best director prize in Cannes and was snapped up by IFC and Sapan Studio. Set in late-19th-century France, it stars Juliette Binoche as Eugenie, an esteemed cook who has been working for over 20 years for famed gourmet chef Dodin (Benoît Magimel). As the food in the kitchen simmers, so does their slow-burning romance. Selected by France over other options including Justine Triet’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Anatomy Of A Fall, Tran’s film sees France make the Oscar shortlist for a second year in a row – following inclusion last year for Alice Diop’s Saint Omer, and exclusion the year before for Julia Ducournau’s Titane. Hung’s The Scent Of Green Papaya was the first and only film from Vietnam to vie for the Oscar for best international feature (then known as best foreign-language film) in 1994, but lost to Regis Wargnier’s Indochine, the last time France won in the category. France was last nominated in 2020 for Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Picturehouse Entertainment)
The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany)
Dir. llker Çatak
Germany has enjoyed a strong track record at this award, winning last year with Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front, enjoying two further nominations in the previous decade (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away and Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann), as well as four further shortlist inclusions over the same period. Çatak’s tense drama sees a teacher (Leonie Benesch) facing pressure from all sides after accusing a colleague of theft, as the film explores issues including racism and cancel culture. The Teachers’ Lounge had its world premiere in the Panorama section of this year’s Berlinale, going on to win five Lolas at the 2023 German Film Awards – beating All Quiet On The Western Front to best film. Benesch was nominated for European actress at the European Film Awards, where Çatak picked up a nomination for European screenwriter.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (Curzon)
Dir. Lila Avilés
Avilés’ family drama premiered in Competition at this year’s Berlinale, winning the Ecumenical Jury Prize, and going on to screen at Telluride, San Sebastian and BFI London Film Festival. Totem centres on a seven-year-old girl preparing for her father’s surprise party who sees the bonds holding her large Mexican family together begin to shatter. Aviles’ previous film as a writer-director, 2018 drama The Chambermaid, was selected as Mexico’s international film Oscar entry for 2020 but failed to make the shortlist. Since then, Mexico made the shortlist every year – with I’m No Longer Here, Prayers For The Stolen and most recently with Bardo, False Chronicles Of A Handful Of Truths – and in 2019 won the award with Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. Sideshow and Janus release Totem in North America.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (New Wave)
The Zone Of Interest (UK)
Dir. Jonathan Glazer
The UK has enjoyed a distinctly patchy track record at the international feature Oscar, since of course most of its domestic films are produced in a language that is ineligible: English. The non-prolific Glazer’s first foreign-language film following his three earlier features Sexy Beast, Birth and Under The Skin is based on the 2014 novel by Martin Amis, and depicts the domestic life of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) who lives with his wife (Sandra Hüller) and family just next to the extermination camp. The Holocaust drama premiered in Competition at Cannes earlier this year where it won the grand prix and the Fipresci award. The film went on to screen at Toronto, Telluride, New York and BFI London Film Festival, and is distributed in North America by A24, which began the rollout on December 15. Accolades so far include six European Film Award nominations (winning for sound), three Golden Globe nominations, and best picture and director from the LA film critics circle. With The Zone Of Interest, the UK makes the international feature shortlist for the first time since it was introduced with the 2007 awards. The country was nominated twice before: for Paul Turner’s Welsh drama Hedd Wyn in 1994 and for Paul Morrison’s Welsh- and English-language romance Solomon And Gaenor in 2000.
Eligible for Bafta Film Awards (A24)