The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the list of submissions to the 2019 Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category on Monday, marking the official beginning of the global race for the prestigious gold statues.
A total of 87 films from countries and regions around the globe have qualified for the foreign-language film category for the 91st Academy Awards, which includes Chinese cult director Jiang Wen's latest gangster film, "Hidden Man". This is the first time that Jiang has joined the heated race.
Featuring the theme of revenge, "Hidden Man" is adapted from a novel by Zhang Beihai, and tells the story of a young swordsman returning home to Beijing in the 1930s before the Japanese invasion to solve a murder case that happened five years ago.
The movie mixes high life and power grabs with old-time gangsters in the years of revolution and chaos, and pulled in 583 million yuan (around 84 million US dollars) at the box office.
The submissions of China's Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region and Taiwan were revealed days earlier, with action film master Dante Lam's "Operation Red Sea" and Huang Hsin-yao's debut feature "The Great Buddha+" being the contenders from the two Chinese regions respectively.
The former raked in 3.65 billion yuan (532 million US dollars) and has dominated China's film market in 2018 since its release in February. The latter is a dark comedy that focuses on the struggle and growth of people who eke out a living, and has won six prizes at Taipei Film Festival.
The 2018 race sees five less titles than last year's record of 92 entries, however, it is expected to be one of the most competitive in years thanks to a number of esteemed international filmmakers and acclaimed art pieces competing for the best foreign pictures.
Among the high-profile submissions are several award-winning films such as Mexico's "Roma" and Poland's "Cold War", both of which are clear front runners vying to earn nominations for best picture and more statues.
At the Oscar darling Alfonso Cuaron's helm, "Roma" is a critically acclaimed autobiographical film that depicts Cuaron's early upbringing in 1970s Mexico City and represents the beginning of a long transition in the country, and won the Golden Lion at the 75th Venice Film Festival.
And the Polish entry is directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, who has won the foreign-language Oscar three years ago for his last piece "Ida" and named the best director in May at Cannes for this new piece of "Cold War."
Other hopefuls include Japanese entry, Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Shoplifter" – the Palme d'Or winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival which observes a heart-touching and heart-wrenching story of a destitute Japanese family – and Lee Chang-dong's "Burning", the highest-scoring title in history of Screen's Cannes jury grid, which is very likely to become the first South Korean film ever to be nominated for foreign-language film Oscar.
It is also noteworthy that the two African countries of Malawi and the Niger submitted their films for Oscar's consideration for the first time.
The Academy sets to firstly select nine spots on the shortlist of this category. Five final nominations will be announced on January 22, 2019, and the big winner can only be known at the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on February 24.