The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its short list of foreign films being considered for Oscar nominations this year, and it includes a few shocking omissions, notably that of Israel’s award-winning Bethlehem.
Yuval Adler’s emotional drama of the relationship between a Shin Bet agent and teenaged Palestinian informant was widely tipped to grab a coveted Oscar nomination after being submitted as Israel’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film this year, but it failed to make the cut after the Academy whittled down their record-breaking 76 submissions to a mere nine.
Of those nine films remaining on the shortlist, the Academy will select five to receive official Oscar nominations on Jan. 16.
Also left off the shortlist, which was announced Friday, was Saudi Arabian contender Wadjda, from director Haifaa Al-Mansour. That film, Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Oscar submission, received unprecedented critical acclaim on the festival circuit for both its excellent storytelling and the bravery of its female director, who was forced by Saudi Arabia’s archaic laws to shoot all its outdoors scenes via walkie-talkie while sequestered inside a trailer.
Another shocking omission on this year’s list is Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose A Separation beat out Israel’s Footnote at the 2012 Oscars to take home the coveted gold statue. Farhadi’s newest film, The Past, received a Golden Globe nomination and was a critic’s favorite.
Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar, a sweeping love story set in the West Bank, did make the list, capping off an excellent few weeks for the Nazareth-born Abu-Assad, who also won the top prize at this month’s Dubai International Film Festival. If Omar makes the final cut of nominees on Jan. 16, it will be the second nomination for Abu-Assad, whose Paradise Now was nominated in 2006.
The other remaining contenders for this year’s Foreign Film Oscar are from Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary and Italy. The 86th Academy Awards will be held March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.