The FLFA Shortlist: 2018 and More

From mid-October to mid-December 2018, many of the world’s best dramatic feature films from 87 submitting countries were screened at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn and Linwood Dunn theaters. They were contending for the Foreign Language Film Award, which will be presented on the Feb. 24 Oscars telecast. 

On the afternoon of Dec. 17, the FLFA executive committee was informed of the six films that had been voted on by the general committee in its first phase of deliberations. Also advancing to the second-phase shortlist would be three additional films selected by the executive committee, rounding out the nine-film shortlist.

The nine films are:

Though the 87 films submitted for consideration in 2018 were not the largest number ever submitted — that would be 2017’s 93 submissions — there has been general agreement that they constitute the highest number of important submissions in some years, including several by filmmakers who have won this award previously.

All nine films have been screened theatrically for Academy members in San Francisco, New York and London, as well as streamed (for only the second year) to all foreign members outside the United States and England. And, for the first time in Los Angeles, from Jan. 7-11, the nine-film shortlist was screened for all Academy members who qualified in the first-phase voting.

The final list of the five nominated films will be announced the morning of Jan. 22, along with nominations in all the other categories. Several of the films, including Roma and Cold War, have already received theatrical distribution; several others are scheduled for imminent release.

Here are trailers for all nine of them:

Birds of Passage from Columbia. Cinematography by David Gallego.

The Guilty from Denmark. Cinematography by Jasper J. Spanning. 

Roma from Mexico. Cinematography by Alfonso Cuarón.

Ayka from Kazakhstan. Cinematography by Jola Dylewska.

Burning from South Korea. Cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong.

Cold War from Poland. Cinematography by Lukasz Zal. 

Shoplifters from Japan. Cinematography by Ryuto Kondo. 

Capernaum from Lebanon. Cinematography by Christopher Aoun.

Never Look Away from Germany. Cinematography by Caleb Deschanel.

These nine films cannot begin to reflect the treasure vault  of cinematic richness in the full roster of this year’s submitted films. Many on the committee agree that it would have been easy to select nine more films.

Here are trailers for three of the extraordinary films that were under strong discussion but did not make the final cut:

A Twelve-Year Night from Uruguay. Cinematography by Carlos Catalan.

The Heiresses from Paraguay. Cinematography by Luis Armando Arteaga.

The Wild Pear Tree from Turkey. Cinematography by Gökhun Tiryaki. 

Several of the cinematographers’ names are familiar. Preeminent, of course, is my fellow ASC colleague Caleb Deschanel. Also familiar is Lukasz Zal, who won an ASC Award for Ida, which, like Cold War, was filmed in black-and-white.

The Wild Pear Tree director Nuri Bilge Ceylan was the cinematographer on his early films, but since 2006, with Climates, Tiryaki has photographed all of Ceylan’s films, an extraordinary partnership that is evident in both Once Upon A Time in Anatolia andWinter Sleep.

Please look for theatrical screenings of these films. Today we are in another golden age of not only foreign films, but also cinematography. One of the abiding hallmarks of the FLFA submissions in recent years has been the extraordinarily high caliber of the cinematography, whether achieved with a Canon EOS 5D DSLR (2013’s An Episode in the Life of an Ironpicker) or an Arri Alexa XT with only two lookup tables applied after reference tests were made and printed on 35mm film (Cold War).

Even recent entries from countries without a significant filmmaking history, such as 2015’s Timbuktu, the first-ever submission from Mauritania, have luminous cinematography. (Timbuktu was photographed by Sofiane El Fani.)

At this time, as the Hollywood film community focuses on the year’s “best” feature films, which are almost always in English, it is worthwhile and rewarding to take a broader look and see the best of international cinema right on our own doorstep.

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