The Danish Film Institute has announced a shortlist of three films in the running to become the Scandinavian country’s official Oscar entry in the Best Foreign Language category. But this is not an ordinary selection of films and there is also not a clear favorite despite what might seem like an obvious choice.
Each of these films includes some of the most important talents within the Danish film industry today and as a group they showcase an impressive range of subjects and styles. Their selection also represents a decisive position on the part of the Danish Film Institute to focus on creators with unique perspectives in a year that saw films from two of the nation’s most successful filmmakers. Susanne Bier
’s divisive “A Second Chance
” and Bille August
“Silent Heart” could have easily occupied two of the slots in the shortlist. Both directors have won the Academy Award and have established careers abroad, yet this year those outstanding qualifications were overlooked in favor of new daring visions.Joshua Oppenheimer
's "The Look of Silence
," Tobias Lindholm
's "A War," and Anders Thomas Jensenn "Men and Chicken," form this impressive trio that will surely make the decision-making process a challenging one because this is a fantastic lineup to choose from.
The Danish Film Institute will announce its final selection on September 23.
Here’s a closer look at the Danish candidates
"Men and Chicken" (Mænd & høns)
Dir. Anders Thomas Jensen
U.S. Distribution: Drafthouse Films
Oscar-winner Anders Thomas Jensen
focused on writing screenplays for an entire decade putting his directorial abilities aside during that time. Jensen has penned the screenplays for some of the most acclaimed Danish film in recent memory as part of his close relationship with Susanne Bier
: “Brothers,” “After the Wedding,” “In a Better World
,” and her latest, “A Second Chance
.” But the fact that he is behind all of these morally complex dramas doesn’t mean he can’t be as successful in the comedic realm. Dark comedy “Men Chicken” is his first effort behind the camera since 2005 and appears to be a promising return. This film centers on two brothers discovering their family’s disturbing secret and exposing their true colors. It stars Dane superstar Mads Mikkelsen
, which is of course a marvelous asset. “Men and Chicken” has just been picked up by Drafthouse Films out of Tiff
"A War" (Krigen
Dir. Tobias Lindholm
U.S. Distribution: Magnolia Pictures
With his sophomore effort, “A Hijacking,” Tobias Lindholm
demonstrated an extraordinary ability for crafting searing tension and compelling human drama. And while that film propelled his career as a director, the talented filmmaker had already made a name for himself as a close collaborator of another Danish auteur: Thomas Vinterberg
. Lindholm co-wrote “Submarino
,” the Oscar-nominated “The Hunt
,” and the upcoming film “The Commune.” Following a troubled Danish soldier in Afghanistan, his third feature “A War,” was well received by critics after premiering in Venice last week, and has just opened theatrically in its homeland. Like Lindholm’s previous work, his latest will also be distributed in the U.S. by Magnolia Pictures
. “A War's” relevant themes, Lindholm’s dominance of intimate tragedy in the midst of greater conflict, and Pilou Asbæk
presence make it a fascinating option.
"The Look of Silence
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer
U.S. Distribution: Drafthouse Films
With scores of awards and unanimously considered a masterpiece, Joshua Oppenheimer
’s companion piece to the “The Act of Killing
” could be considered the frontrunner among these three films. Despite being a documentary about a terrifying chapter in Indonesian history directed by an American filmmaker, the film qualifies because it’s a Danish production, and, while not in Danish, it’s in a language other that English. “The Look of Silence
” is one of the best films of the year and should take all the honors dedicated to documentaries - including the Academy Award, which Oppenheimer also deserved for “The Act of Killing
” - but the road in the Best Foreign Language Film category could be much harder. Documentaries rarely get nominated for that award even though multiple countries select a non-fiction piece as their submission every year. The last documentary to achieve such feat was “The Missing Picture."
Read More: 12 Things Joshua Oppenheimer
Wants You to Know About 'The Look of Silence