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Dead Lands killed off in Oscar cull

Toa Fraser’s The Dead Lands was one of 74 foreign language features whose hopes of Oscar glory came to an end on Saturday.

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The end of The Dead Lands’ campaign is hardly a surprise. The category attracted a record 83 entries this year and the Academy is not big on martial arts movies, with the exception of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000.

The news hasn’t been all bad for the team behind the The Dead Lands of late. The title is the third NZ film this year to earn more than $1 million at the local box office and picked up three Moas at the recent NZFA. The team of director Fraser, producer Matthew Metcalfe and writer Glenn Standring were offered production investment for an untitled feature from the year’s final NZFC board meeting.

The Academy’s shortlist does include the recent major winners of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Leviathan) and European Film Awards (Ida). Six of the nine titles going forward are European and two South American. The outlier, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Cannes-premiered Timbuktu, is Mauritania’s first-ever submission in the foreign language category.

In contrast to its willingness to consider commercial fare in the rest of its award categoriesthe Academy loves arthouse, especially European arthouse, when it comes to the Oscar’s foreign language category. In the last half century, only five foreign language awards have gone to non-European titles. Despite that, a couple of major European arthouse contenders didn’t survive the first cut this time around.

Neither Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep nor Two Days, One Night, the latter already a winner of various US critics’ awards, were named on the shortlist.

The shortlist will be cut to five nominees after view and vote sessions in London, Los Angeles and New York in early January. The Oscars will name the 2015 nominees on Friday 16 January, with the awards to be presented Monday 23 February (all times NZ).

The films advancing, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

Wild Tales, Damián Szifrón, Argentina
Tangerines, Zaza Urushadze, Estonia
Corn Island, George Ovashvili, Georgia
Timbuktu, Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania
Accused, Paula van der Oest, Netherlands
Ida, Paweł Pawlikowski, Poland
Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia
Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund, Sweden
The Liberator, Alberto Arvelo, Venezuela

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