Saudi, Pakistani films out of Oscar foreign award race

Oscar-winning Iranian director also fails to make cut.

NINE movies, including works by Palestinian, Danish and Hong Kong filmmakers, have been shortlisted for best foreign language Oscar, organisers announced on Dec 20.

But films left out included Saudi Arabia’s first ever candidate and Pakistan’s first entry in five decades, while an Oscar-winning Iranian director also failed to make the cut.

Films by Belgian, Bosnian, Cambodian, German, Hungarian and Italian directors are also on the shortlist.

The films were whittled down from a long list of 76 movies announced in October by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises Hollywood’s biggest annual awards fest.

They will be reduced to five nominees next month, before nominations in all Oscar categories are announced on Jan 16. The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2.

The nine shortlisted foreign language films are:

> The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium, director Felix van Groeningen.

> An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Bosnia and Herzegovina, director Danis Tanovic.

> The Missing Picture, Cambodia, director Rithy Panh.

> The Hunt, Denmark, director Thomas Vinterberg.

> Two Lives, Germany, director Georg Maas.

> The Grandmaster, Hong Kong, director Wong Kar-wai.

> The Notebook, Hungary, director Janos Szasz.

> The Great Beauty, Italy, director Paolo Sorrentino.

> Omar, Palestine, director Hany Abu-Assad.

The Saudi long-list candidate, Wadjda by Haifaa al-Mansour, is an avowedly feminist movie about a young girl’s quest to own a bicycle in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom where women are deprived of many rights, among them driving.

Directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker and shot entirely in the Gulf state, the film won best Arabic feature award at the Dubai Film Festival last year and picked up an award in Cannes in March.

For Pakistan, Zinda Bhaag (Flee Alive) was the first Oscar entry for over 50 years. It is a comedy-thriller about three young men trying to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives through unconventional means. – AFP Relaxnews

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