The best films don’t always win the top awards. Just ask Orson Welles. In 1941, ‘Citizen Kane’ got beaten to best film at the Oscars by ‘How Green was my Valley’, a movie currently residing in TCM’s ‘where are they now’ section. And ‘Vertigo’, another perennial nominee on top ten of all time lists, didn’t win either. It didn’t even get nominated.
Sadly Welles and Alfred Hitchcock aren’t around anymore, or otherwise Thomas Vinterberg and Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis, the directors of ‘Jagten’ (‘The Hunt’) and ‘Hvidsten Gruppen’ (‘The Village: One family’s sacrifice will let a country live’) respectively, would have requisitioned their shoulders to cry on following the news that neither of their highly-acclaimed films will be battling it out at the Oscars next February.
Instead, the three films on the shortlist for Denmark’s entry in the best foreign language film category, which are chosen by a committee handpicked by the Danish Film Institute, are Nikolaj Arcel’s ‘En kongelig affære’ (‘A Royal Affair’), Susanne Bier’s ‘Love Is All You Need’ (‘Den skaldede frisør’) and Bille August’s ‘Marie Krøyer’.
Henrik Bo Nielsen, the committee chairman and CEO of the Danish Film Institute, explained in a press release that despite there being many qualified candidates, the committee chose the films that they best believed had “great international potential”.
Supporters of ‘Hvidsten Gruppen’ will question whether international potential and domestic box office success are linked, given that the film has so far been seen by significantly more people in Denmark (764,041 vs 526,262) than ‘En kongelig affære’, despite the latter’s inclusion on the Biografklub Danmark list.
Nevertheless, ‘En kongelig affære’ has already been released in seven other countries (Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand), with further release dates slated in another eight: the Netherlands (August 23), Norway (Sep 14), Belgium (Sep 19), Poland (Sep 21), the US ( November 9), France (Nov 21) and Argentina (December 13). In contrast, ‘Hvidsten Gruppen’ has only been released in the Czech Republic.
Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten’, meanwhile, has been overlooked despite winning the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as well as the best actor award for Mads Mikkelsen, Denmark’s most internationally recognisable actor, which would appear to suggest ‘international potential’.
However, while it is scheduled to be released in eight countries this year, it won’t be released in Denmark until January, and like ‘Hvidsten Gruppen’, there is no current plan to release it in the US this year, although this is not part of the eligibility criteria as it is with other Oscar categories.
Cousin Cannes and Uncle Oscar are rare bedfellows, and perhaps the subject matter of ‘Jagten’, child sex abuse allegation and mob mentality, was too hot for the committee to handle, who instead opted for films about a court romance, a holiday romance and a romance between two artists.
Nielsen is confident the committee has chosen three directors who have already proven themselves on the international film scene. Among them is August, an Oscar winner with Pelle the Conqueror’ in 1988, who has not made a Danish-language film since then.
The committee will name the Danish candidate for the Oscar race on 18 September.