While we revel in the scope of international movies selected to screen at the Festival, a different kind of selection process is going on in over 50 countries around the world. The question: which film will represent that country in the race for the best foreign language film Academy Award'
While the foreign-language Oscar might seem a marginal category in the Hollywood-centric telecast, it represents enormous prestige for the five nominated films in their home countries, and potentially elevates them from local to worldwide recognition. Last year, Indian epic Lagaan not only secured an Oscar nomination but, on the back of it, got a distribution deal through Sony Pictures Classics and threw a spotlight on Bollywood cinema which has been burning brightly ever since.
So what has that got to do with Toronto' Well, even though the names of films submitted from each country are not revealed until December, chances are that most of them are screening at this Festival. Last year, the Oscar winner, No Man's Land, nominees Amelie, Lagaan and Elling and numerous submissions were on show here. This year, likewise, expect to get an early glimpse at the foreign movies to watch. For example, what's the betting that Fernando Meirelles's mesmerising crime epic City of God will be the Brazilian submission and an Oscar nominee' It helps that the film has already been acquired by Oscar-hungry Miramax, which will be pushing the movie all the way as it did last year with Amelie.
From Germany, expect Caroline Link's award-winning Nowhere In Africa to be selected; from Finland, Aki Kaurismaki has delivered one of his best yet with The Man Without A Past; from Italy, Emanuele Crialese's smouldering Respiro competes with Roberta Torre's highly-touted Angela. From Spain, PedroAlmodovar is back with his latest picture Talk To Her, already a huge hit in Europe, and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's intriguing Intacto also stands a good chance.South Korea, the subject of a special section at the Festival, will most likely opt for Lee Jung hyang's crowd-pleasing The Way Home or the latest from master Im Kwaon-taek, Chihwaseon.
And watch out for Lukas Moodysson's latest, Lilja 4-Ever, from Sweden (although whether it will be eligible, since all the dialogue is Russian, is yet to be determined), the Dardenne brothers' Le Fils from Belgium and Carlos Reygadas' Japon from Mexico. As for that prolific movie producer France, 22 new films are on show here, although few could match the sheer razzle-dazzle of Francois Ozon's 8 Femmes, a glittering showcase of female stars that has Oscar nomination written all over it. Perhaps most exciting of all is a new wave of breakout films from Russia spearheaded by Valery Todorovsky's The Lover, Alexander Rogozhkin's The Cuckoo, Alexei Muradov's The Kite and Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark.
Let the countdown begin!