Pedro Almodovar's route to the Oscar podium came one step closer this morning as his All About My Mother ended a year of awards glory and won an Academy Award nomination for foreign language film of the year.
The film marks Spain's 18th foreign language film Oscar nomination and could be the country's third winner (after To Begin Again in 1982 and Belle Epoque in 1993). It is Almodovar's second nomination after Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown in 1988. United Artists Films sold international rights.
But insiders on the foreign language film committee suggested that at ballot time, only Nepal's Caravan and France's East-West were dead certs for nominations, implying that a statuette for Almodovar is not yet a sure thing.
The category is essentially owned by Sony Pictures Classics which has domestic rights to three of the nominees - All About My Mother, East West and Welsh entry Solomon And Gaenor which it picked up only last week.
Solomon And Gaenor, which was reportedly enormously popular with the foreign language committee, is the second UK/Wales nominee in Academy history after 1993's Hedd Wyn. Set in 1911, it is the story of a young Jewish man (Ioan Gruffudd) who falls in love with a young woman but only after she is pregnant does she learn of his ethnic background. Played in English, Welsh and Yiddish, the film was written and directed by Paul Morrison and produced by Apt Film And Television Company. Film Four International has international rights.
East-West - directed by Regis Wargnier, a winner in 1992 for Indochine - is France's 30th nomination and if it wins will tie France with Italy for most ever wins - ten awards. Italy took the lead last year with Life Is Beautiful. East-West is sold internationally by UGC International.
France also played a key part in producing the Nepalese entry Caravan directed by Frenchman Eric Valli. It's Valli's first film as a director and is a huge hit in France under its French name Himalaya - Enfance d'un Chef.
A four way co-production between France (Galatee Films, France 2 Cinema, Les Productions de la Gueville), Switzerland (Les Productions JMH), the UK (Antelope Ltd) and Nepal (National Studio Ltd), the movie is the inspirational story of a Tibetan herdsman journeying through the Himalayan mountains. President Films has foreign sales rights to Caravan; a US distribution deal has yet to be completed.
Sweden scored its 12th nomination with Under The Sun, directed by British-born Colin Nutley (House Of Angels). Produced and distributed (in Sweden and internationally) by Svensk Filmindustri, Under The Sun is an adaptation of HE Bates' short story The Little Farm and tells the story of a shy middle aged virgin (Rolf Lassgard) who falls in love with his new housekeeper (Helena Bergstrom). The film premiered at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and is Sweden's first nominee since All Things Fair in 1995.
Films which failed to make the final five include Bhutan's enormously popular The Cup, Mifune from Denmark, The Color Of Paradise from Iran, Three Seasons from Vietnam and the 1999 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner Rosetta from Belgium.