It turns out the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film is a slightly misleading category. In fact, as the recent controversy over the status of Puerto Rico has made clear, the “foreign language” part actually has very little to do with the award. As it turns out, the Academy does not allow films made by American citizens to compete in the Foreign Language category and Puerto Ricans are, you guessed it, American citizens. To further confuse things, it turns out the Oscar is technically bestowed upon the submitting country and not the film’s creators. Until last year’s ceremony, a winning Foreign Language director’s name wasn’t even carved into the famous Oscar statuette.
However, all this does make a little more sense when considering the methodology employed in the nominations. Indeed, for the Foreign Language category it is up to each country to nominate the film it would like to represent it for awards consideration. Some of the more typical powerhouse countries like Italy might submit every year, while smaller countries like Panama may only be submitting their first ever title for consideration this year.
Of course, once a film has been submitted the real dogfight begins. Just ask Portugal, which over the years has submitted a total of 30 films and received a whopping 0 nominations. With a record-breaking 76 countries up for consideration this year, it will be tougher than ever to make the coveted short list. Let’s just hope the judges give some of the worthy films from Latin America their due consideration. Make sure to keep an eye out for the shortlist to be released towards the end of the year (narrowed down to nine films) and then nominations are announced on January 15, 2015.
Here’s the final list of Latin American submissions for the 2015 edition of the Academy Awards:
Director: Alberto Arvelo
Starring Edgar Ramírez (Carlos, Zero Dark Thirty), this biopic follows the life and times of one of Latin America’s great revolutionary heroes, Simon Bolivar.
Director: Leticia Tonos
Country: Dominican Republic
A retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Cristo Rey takes place in the violent slum of the same name, where two half-brothers — one Haitian, the other Dominican — vie for the love of Jocelyn against the backdrop of Santo Domingo’s complex social and political context.
Matar a un hombre
To Kill a Man
Director: Alejandro Fernández Almendras
After his family is terrorized by a local street thug, a working class man takes matters into his own hands, and must deal with the psychological consequences of his actions.
El evangelio de la carne
The Gospel and the Flesh
Director: Eduardo Mendoza de Echave
The intersecting stories of three men in search of redemption on the streets of Lima: Gamarra, an undercover cop, tries desperately to save his wife from a mysterious illness; Felix, a long-distance bus driver, tries to be accepted into the brotherhood of the Señor de los Milagros; and Narciso, attempts to free his younger brother from juvenile lock up before he is transferred to an adult prison.
Director: Sebastián del Amo
This biopic of the Mexican comedy superstar focuses on the fortuitous encounter of Cantinflas and the Broadway producer Mike Todd, who together would make the Oscar-winning Around the World in 80 Days.
Director: Carlos Bolado
Starring Damián Alcázar, this Bolivian super-production takes a look back at Operation Condor and the brutal military dictatorship that plagued the nation throughout the 1970s.
Director: Abner Benaim
An exploration of the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, known as Operation Just Cause, told through reenactments and first hand accounts.
Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho
The Way He Looks
Director: Daniel Ribeiro
A blind teenager searching for independence has his life changed completely with the arrival of Gabriel.
Director: Maria Gamboa
Mateo lives in a violent, impoverished neighborhood and collects extortion money on behalf of his uncle. One day he is asked to infiltrate a local theater troupe in order to report on their political activities, but finds himself enchanted by the troupe’s bohemian lifestyle.
Director: Álvaro Brechner
A elderly Jewish man refuses to accept his age and attempts to capture an unassuming German business-owner whom he is convinced is a runaway Nazi.
Silencio en la tierra de los sueños
Silence in Dreamland
Director: Tito Molina
An elderly widow escapes her daily solitude through dreams, until a stray dog comes to her door.
Director: Damián Szifrón
A story about the violence that lies within us all, about characters seduced by the abyss, and the undeniable pleasure of losing control.
Director: Laura Astorga
Country: Costa Rica
A coming of age story about two sisters who flee Nicaragua for Costa Rica with their Sanidinista parents. When their mother betrays the cause and leaves for Miami with the movement’s money, their father is let to balance paternal duties with revolutionary responsibility.
Director: Ernesto Daranas
Chala is 11 years old and lives a difficult life in Centro Habana. When his beloved schoolteacher becomes sick, a new teacher takes over and — finding it difficult to understand Chala’s behavior — sends him to a reform school.