LONDON — Five movies about individuals and families confronting social and historical tumult are competing in the Academy Awards’ race for best foreign-language film.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s autobiographical masterpiece “Roma” and Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski’s 20th-century romance “Cold War” were among contenders announced Tuesday. They are up against German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s artist biopic “Never Look Away,” Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s’s subtle family story “Shoplifters” and “Capernaum,” a powerful neo-realist drama about a Syrian child refugee from Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki.
The winner will be announced at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 24.
“Roma” received 10 nominations in all, making it the Oscars front-runner alongside Yorgos Lanthimos’ pungent period drama “The Favourite.” Cuaron’s black-and-white film is up for trophies including best director and best picture.
“LONG LIVE ALFONSO!!” tweeted Cuaron’s compatriot, director Guillermo del Toro, while the Mexican Institute of Cinematography posted: “Feel the Mexican power!”
The awards-season success of the Netflix-produced “Roma,” which stars best-actress nominee Yalitza Aparicio as the nanny to an affluent Mexico City family, is a sign of the blurring lines between Hollywood movies and international fare.
“Human experience is one in the same, and it’s so gratifying that a black and white film about life in Mexico is being celebrated around the world,” Cuaron said in a statement. “We are living a great moment in cinema where diversity is embraced by audiences.”
Another black-and-white period drama is also a contender: “Cold War,” Pawlikowsi’s tale of romance between a singer and a musician across midcentury Europe.
The film, inspired by the director’s parents, was also nominated for Oscars in cinematography and directing.
“Cold War” cinematographer Lukasz Zal said he was “very touched, very happy” by the nomination, and “terribly happy that I could take part in this great adventure.”
Pawlikowski’s last film, “Ida,” won the foreign-language Oscar in 2015.
Von Donnersmarck, who won the foreign-language Oscar in 2007 for Cold War surveillance drama “The Lives of Others,” is nominated for “Never Look Away,” which follows an artist’s evolution in a traumatized post-World War II Germany.
It also received a cinematography nod for Caleb Deschanel.
“Never Look Away,” which explores the healing power and the limits of art, was inspired by the life of 86-year-old German artist Gerhard Richter.
Richter cooperated with the director for the project but has criticized the finished film, telling the New Yorker that it had managed to “abuse and grossly distort my biography.”
Kore-eda, who won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize with “Shoplifters,” said he never expected U.S. recognition for his tale of a family on the margins of Japanese society.
“(The) other four nominated titles in the category are absolutely amazing and strong, and I’m proud that Shoplifters is selected among them,” Kore-eda said in a statement.
Labaki, the only female director among the five, was celebrating Lebanon’s second-straight nomination, after Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” in 2018.
“We have always thought as Lebanese people that unfortunately nothing is possible because we always thought Lebanon is a very small country and we have always felt that we are almost invisible on the map,” she told The Associated Press.
Labaki, whose film follows a 12-year-old Syrian refugee struggling to survive on the streets of Lebanon, said she hoped its success would show that “anything is possible, it doesn’t matter where you come from, where you are born, what is your background.”
“Anything is possible. You just have to believe in your dream.”
Story: Jill Lawless