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Monday, January 30, 2012

Guide to Oscar: Best Foreign Language Film

No category is ever a greater lightning rod for controversy than the Foreign Language category. Introduced in 1947, it has undergone numerous alterations to its eligibility rules to arrive at the current system.

As it is now, every country is invited to submit a film for consideration to be nominated. The submitted films are all screened by a committee of Academy members and whittled down to a nine film short-list - 6 films chosen by the committe and 3 films chosen by an Executive Committee, whose job is basically to make sure that the committee (which consists mostly of older and retired Academy members, as they have the time to sit through all those long-listed films) can't completely embarass AMPAS by passing over particularly challenging films, as consistently happened in the years prior to 2008, when the Executive Committee was formed.

The nine short-listed films are then screened for a select group of Academy members, who go on to choose the five nominees.

This year's nominees:

Bullhead (Belgium)

Director: Michael R. Roskam

"The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky's past, set in motion a chain of events with farreaching consequences."

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Footnote (Israel)

Director: Joseph Cedar

"Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak."

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In Darkness (Poland)

Director: Agnieszka Holland

"A dramatization of one man's rescue of Jewish refugees in the Nazi-occupied Polish city of Lvov."

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Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)

Director: Philippe Falardeau

"An Algerian immigrant is hired to replace an elementary school teacher who died tragically."

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A Separation

Director: Asghar Farhadi

"A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers."

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