The foreign language Oscar competition this year will be wider than it ever has been before.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday that a record 73 countries, plus Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Palestinian territories, have submitted their entries to the Academy Awards.
The acclaimed Wadjda from Saudi Arabia, about an 11-year-old girl's quest to obtain a bicycle, is the country's first submission. All God's Children is also the first entry from Moldova. Montenegro, previously a part of Yugoslavia, submitted a film for the first time as an independent country: Ace of Spades.
Canada's official entry is Louise Archambault’s sophomore feature film Gabrielle, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The drama follows a developmentally challenged woman’s desire for sexual freedom and independence.
Entries are restricted to one per country and some nations' choices were at odds with the film community.
China opted to submit the patriotic drama Back to 1942 rather than Jia Zhang-ke's festival favourite A Touch of Sin. The latter film, which depicts inequality in contemporary China, won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Two other well-received films, Japan's Like Father, Like Son and India's The Lunchbox, weren't chosen by their respective home countries. Japan instead opted for The Great Passage, while India chose The Good Road.
Last year, Michael Haneke's French-language Amour, an entry from Austria, won the Oscar best foreign-language film. Haneke's drama was the overwhelming front runner, but this year's competition is considered wide open. Notables include Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt (Denmark), Asghar Farhadi's The Past (Iran), Amat Escalante's Heli (Mexico) and Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (Italy).
The entries will be whittled down to a shortlist in January before the Oscars on March 2.
The foreign language category voting process has often been criticized, particularly for its practice of allowing the initial choices to be made by national selection committees. In an effort to smooth out the final selection, all academy members will for the first time be allowed to vote on the foreign language film category.
Previously, voting was limited to members who viewed all five nominees in a theatre. DVD screeners of the nominees will be sent to members this year.