Saturday, March 2, 2024

Predicting The 2023 Best International Feature Film Oscar Shortlist

Tomorrow, we will hear which fifteen international films have been selected to be shortlisted for Oscar voters to choose the eventual Academy Award nominees for Best International Feature Film. Films from 88 countries have been submitted, and there are so many great titles this year that whittling it down to fifteen already feels like a disservice. But let’s take a look at what those potential fifteen films could be…

This first batch of films should be considered “locks” for the shortlist, and they are vying for a final spot at the Oscars to win the category and maybe even pick up Oscar nominations in additional categories on top of Best International Feature Film.

1. The Zone of Interest (United Kingdom)
The odds-on favorite currently to win Best International Feature at the Oscars, this haunting film will also look to pick up nominations for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Sound, and Original Score nominations. It has won the Grand Prix from Cannes and the European Film Awards for Sound and is a Golden Globe, Indie Spirit, and Critics Choice nominee. Unless something genuinely disastrous occurs, the “The Zone Of Interest” is a lock to make the shortlist.

2. The Taste of Things (France)
The Taste of Things” is “The Zone Of Interest’s” biggest challenger for the Best International Feature Oscar win at this year’s Academy Awards. Frances’s submission does come with a bit of contention, having taken “Anatomy of a Fall’s” spot which many disagreed with. However, the IFC film has played very well to audiences and could be in contention for Best Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress (Juliette Binoche) Oscar nominations. With a Best Director win at Cannes and a nomination at Critics Choice, “The Taste of Things” is the next closest lock to making the shortlist.

3. Society of the Snow (Spain)
Netflix’s big international player this year will be one of the more widely seen contenders when it comes to the streaming platform later this week. “Society Of The Snow” may not reach the heights of “All Quiet On The Western Front” last year, but with Netflix’s backing, expect it to do very well. It has already been nominated at the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and the GOYA Awards (Spanish Academy Awards). It is also a potential tech player looking to pick up Best Visual Effects, Sound, Makeup & Hairstyling, and Original Score nominations. Should it make additional shortlists alongside Best International Feature Film, it will only help elevate it to lock status as well and put it in as a substantial challenger to win the Oscar.

4. Perfect Days (Japan)
NEON knows its way around the awards season, which will help push Wim Wedners’ “Perfect Days” onto the shortlist and potentially make it a dark horse to win the category. With a few wins already under its belt (Cannes Best Actor award, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards) and a Critics Choice nomination, “Perfect Days” has been considered a pretty good bet since its debut at Cannes but now feels more assured than ever.

5. Fallen Leaves (Finland)
The final “lock” spot could go to a few different films, but with a Jury Prize win at Cannes, an NBR selection, and two Golden Globe nominations to its name, Aki Kaurismäki’s “Fallen Leaves” looks like a good bet to make the shortlist and contend for the Oscar. It certainly helps that it’s one of the more uplifting, sweet films in contention, thus helping it to stand out from some of the more dour choices.

This next crop of films will have a challenging time making the final five at the Oscars but are still considered strong contenders to make the shortlist.

6. The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany)
The Teachers’ Lounge” could be considered in the top tier category and could easily push itself into the final five. No one should ever underestimate how effectively Sony Pictures Classics can campaign toward a specific Academy Award voter’s tastes. The German film has won at the German Film Awards and was an NBR selection in their top ten foreign language films of the year list. Expect to see this one on the shortlist come Thursday.

7. The Promised Land (Denmark)
Surprisingly, this epic crowdpleaser from the director-actor duo that gave us the Academy Award-nominated “A Royal Affair” has been floating a little under the radar so far, with most of its wins and nominations going toward Mads Mikkelsen. Given his star power, he could be why “The Promised Land” film makes the shortlist. A well-respected international actor with broad appeal could be what pushes it over the hump and onto the shortlist. It also helps that the movie is pretty damn good.

8. About Dry Grasses (Turkey)
Another film that could be pushed in on the back of an acting performance (Best Actress Winner, Cannes), with a revered filmmaker who has previously won the Palme d’Or and has yet to have any of his films nominated for Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. Janus Films has been quietly pushing “About Dry Grasses” for several months now, and although it’s not predicted by many, there’s a high chance it could show up tomorrow.

9. Io Capitano (Italy)
Director Matteo Garrone is well respected internationally with multiple BAFTA nominations and consistent Palme d’Or contending films at Cannes. His latest has shown up at the European Film Awards and Golden Globes, and he competed for the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion while winning the Silver Lion for Best Director. It’s a title, like “About Dry Grasses,” that few are actually predicting, but “Io Capitano” has an excellent case to make the shortlist given its performance so far.

10. Totem (Mexico)
The little engine that could, “Totem,” has always been an underdog in this year’s Oscar race, but it has now cemented itself as a shortlist contender and potential sleeper to crack the final five at the Oscars. With an NBR top ten selection, Indie Spirit nomination, and becoming the runner-up for Best International Feature Film behind “The Zone Of Interest” at LAFCA, this tiny film from Mexico has been winning over people’s hearts, and we expect that to continue after it makes the shortlist.

These final five films are fighting to get on the shortlist and could surprise much like how “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” did a few years ago. Don’t underestimate these potential contenders.

11. 20 Days in Mariupol (Ukraine)
Also eligible for the Best Documentary Feature category, “20 Days in Mariupol” could sneak onto both lists, which makes it a potent combo to be nominated. It is a very timely documentary, with nominations at the PGA, Gotham Awards, and the Critics Choice Documentary Awards. It could very well be this year’s “Honeyland.”

12. Four Daughters (Tunisia)
But another film that could also be this year’s “Honeyland” is “Four Daughters,” another potential double shortlist film in both documentary and international feature categories. Kaouther Ben Hania’s previous film, “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” was nominated for Best International Feature Film in 2020. Considering her documentary has already won prizes from Cannes and the Gotham Awards and has been nominated at the European Film and Indie Spirit Awards, it too could land on the shortlist.

13. The Monk and The Gun (Bhutan)
Speaking of “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” Bhutan and director Pawo Choyning Dorji are back with “The Monk and The Gun,” a visually dazzling comedy-drama about Bhutan’s transition towards democracy. With an Audience Award from the Vancouver Film Festival and a Special Jury prize from the Rome Film Festival, look for Bhutan to crash the party again and make the shortlist.

14. Concrete Utopia (South Korea)
South Korea has been doing better with the Academy in recent years, with “Burning” and “Decision To Leave” landing on the shortlist and, of course, “Parasite” making history to go on to become the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The country looks to continue this trend with “Concrete Utopia,” which was a big winner at the Grand Bell Awards (South Korea’s Academy Awards). Look for this epic political disaster film to keep South Korea in the mix once again.

15. The Peasants (Poland)
The final shortlisted film comes from Poland—another potential double shortlist nominee in Animated and International Feature Film. “The Peasants” is a remarkable achievement in animation, surpassing the breathtaking work directors DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman accomplished with the Oscar-nominated “Loving Vincent.” Although it hasn’t had a strong presence in the Oscar race yet, watch out for “The Peasants” to grab that final shortlist spot.

A few other potential sleeper contenders:
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (Romania)
Housekeeping For Beginners (North Macedonia)
Omen (Belgium)
The Settlers (Chile)
Shayda (Australia)

What do you think will make the shortlist for Best International Feature Film tomorrow? What do you think will be the shocking omission this year? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Also, please check out their latest Oscar predictions here and the 2023 precursor awards tally here.

You can follow Kaleb and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @kflee208

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