While it’s only the middle of September, the 2014 awards race is already starting to take shape. One part of the process includes vying for the Best Foreign-Language Oscar. Each country is allowed one film to compete, and two major players of the 2014 festival circuit have just been added to the 2014 official roster– Xavier Dolan’s Mommy will be Canada’s official submission and the Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night will represent Belgium. Both films had their world premieres at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and have earned widespread acclaim, marking themselves as legitimate hopefuls to be shortlisted.
Mommy, which won the Jury Prize (third place, tied with Jean-Luc Goddard’s Goodbye to Language) at Cannes was considered a frontrunner to represent Canada given the acclaim it received, and director Dolan’s ever increasing profile. After premiering at Cannes, the film boosted its profile with rave reviews at the recent Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
The movie follows the increasingly hostile relationship between a troubled young man (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and his widowed mother (Anne Dorval.) Mommy was picked up by Roadside Attractions following its debut at Cannes. However, as of now no U.S. release has been announced, a fact that may be determined by its awards season success. Said Dolan, “If we can make it all the way to the Oscars, it’s my honor and duty to give everything and all my energy to this campaign.”
Mommy marks the second time the 26-year-old Dolan has been in the Oscar fray– his 2009 debut feature I Killed My Mother was Canada’s official selection that year but wasn’t nominated in the end. Canada has done particularly well in recent years, winning the Foreign Language Oscar for the 2003 drama The Barbarian Invasions (from director Denys Arcand) and garnering nominations four out of the last five years.
Two Days, One Night will represent Belgium. The film stars Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) in a story about contemporary working class struggles. Cotillard plays a beleaguered woman fighting against time trying to persuade her co-workers to give up their respective bonuses in order to save her job over one very stressful weekend. The film also earned raves at Cannes this year, before playing both Telluride and Toronto, and will next play the New York Film Festival. Sundance Selects will release the film in the U.S. on December 24th.
While the directors of Two Days, One Night, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, are among the most regarded in international cinema (although Two Days, One Night failed to win anything at Cannes this year, the sibling filmmakers have earned seven awards from the festival in recent years, including two Palme D’Or prizes for the 1999 film Rosetta and 2005’s L’enfant), they have never had a film nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
So far 43 countries have made announcements of their official entries, with the October 1st deadline a mere week-and-a-half away. Academy guidelines stipulate that in order for a film to be included to compete on this years’ Oscar roster it must have been released in their native country between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014 (this ruling prohibited the 2013 French hit Blue is the Warmest Color‘s Oscar chances. Mommy and Two Days, One Night join a list that already includes some of the most critically acclaimed features of the year like White God (Hungary), Force Majeur (Sweden) and the 2014 Palme D’Or winner Winter Sleep (Turkey), the acclaimed Polish period drama Ida, the latest film from Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love). You can see a full list of current submissions here, and a wider commentary courtesy of Nathanial Rogers at The Film Experience.