Germany, Iran, Scandinavia, Australia get foreign Oscar nods
A father-daughter comedy from Germany, a psychological thriller from Iran, a Danish film about German prisoners of war, a dark Swedish comedy about a grumpy man, and an Australian film about tribal love on a remote South Pacific island are this year's Oscar nominees for best foreign film.
One of the best known of the nominees announced Tuesday is "Toni Erdmann," a generational-divide comedy from German writer-director Maren Ade that was a sensation at Cannes in May. The film, almost three hours long, also touches on themes of political and social conflict.
"I cannot tell you how proud I am and how incredible this feels!" Ade said in a statement. "It was a very long journey to make this film — we all never thought anything like this could happen. Thank you for making me such a fortunate filmmaker."
Co-producer Jonas Dornbach, speaking from Berlin, said the film has been well received because almost everyone can find something that resonates with them personally. "This film speaks about the family and the father-daughter relationship, and everyone has a family, everyone has a certain role in the family, so everyone can really connect," he said.
Also nominated in the category is a previous Oscar winner — Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, with "The Salesman." Farhadi's much-admired "A Separation" won the category in 2012.
"The Salesman" is a psychological thriller about a young couple in Tehran involved in a production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." They move into a new apartment, where a violent act connected to a former tenant changes their lives.
"The greatest consequence of this event is that a greater number of people will see this film and as a result my world will grow," Farhadi said in a telephone interview from Tehran. And he added: "This is really a two-way phenomenon. Just as my world grows, so does that of the audience."
He noted that it was a sad time in Tehran because of last week's deadly fire and collapse of a high-rise building. "But I hope this news will be a little bit uplifting for everyone," he said.
The recent Golden Globe winner for foreign film, Paul Verhoeven's "Elle," was not nominated for an Oscar. But its luminous star, Isabelle Huppert, was nominated in the best actress category for her French-speaking role.
Speaking in Paris, Huppert — who also won the Globe for best actress in a drama — noted how difficult it is to earn an Oscar acting nod in a foreign language.
"You know that a film produced in a foreign language (has) additional difficulty to reach the heart of a public that does not speak the language," she said. "So for all these reasons, it's really extraordinary to have received all these distinctions."
Martin Zandvliet, director of the Danish film "Land of Mine," at first planned to stay home on Tuesday, believing it would be bad karma to go out, but changed his mind and went to Nordisk Film studio in Copenhagen to wait for the nominations with others. When the movie was listed first, "we screamed," he said, calling the nomination "fantastic."
The film, inspired by real events, tells the story of German prisoners of war sent to clear mines in Denmark after World War II.
The Swedish film "A Man Called Ove" also earned a nod. Based on a novel of the same name, the dark comedy tells the story of a grumpy old man who seeks to end it all, when new acquaintances change his life.
"It is absolutely amazing," actor Rolf Lassgard, who stars, told Swedish broadcaster SVT. "We had never in our wildest dreams ever imagined this."
Rounding out the nominees was "Tanna," the first ever foreign-language nominee from Australia. A story of tribal love, the film was shot on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, in the Nauvhal language, with an amateur cast of villagers. Filmmakers Martin Butler and Bentley Dean lived on Tanna for months to tell the story.
"It was just fabulous news and a little bit hard to believe," Dean said in a telephone interview. "Given how it all started, I think it makes it a bit more improbable."
The fact that "Tanna" is the first Australian movie to be nominated in the foreign language film category makes it even more special, Dean said.
"I think it's the most exciting category to have a film in," he said. "It's a real celebration of cinema, no matter who you are, where you come from."