Oscar 2011: Best Foreign-Language Film

Norway is hoping that the dark sex comedy Happy, Happy from first time director Anne Sewitsky will give it first Foreign Language Oscar nomination in 10 years. Norway’s Oscar committee picked Happy, Happy from a short list of three features – the others being Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31 and Sons of Norway from Jens Lien – to represent the country in the 2012 Oscar race.

The story of a simple country schoolteacher whose life gets turned upside down when a new couple from the city move in next door, Happy, Happy won the Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature at its debut in Sundance. Magnolia Pictures snatched up the film for U.S. release and will bow it stateside September 16. TrustNordisk has already sold Happy, Happy to more than 50 territories worldwide. You can read our review here.

Norway has never won a foreign language Oscar and has only been shortlisted four times, the last in 2002 for another dark comedy, Petter NaessElling.

The race for the 2012 Foreign Language Oscar is picking up pace ahead of the Academy’s Sept. 30 deadline for submissions. Greece, which had this year’s surprise nominee with the experimental Dogtooth, is again backing a dark horse: Attenberg from director Athina Rachel Tsangari. Read our review here. Unabashedly arthouse, the film examines, in a clinical manner similar to nature documentaries, the lives of four people living in a dreary apartment complex. Attenberg was produced by, and co-stars, Dogtooth director Giorgos Lanthimos.

Morocco, which has never received an Oscar nom, is putting forward the prison drama Omar Killed Me from actor turned director Roschdy Zem. Rachid Bouchareb, whose Algerian period drama Outside the Law received an Oscar nom this year, helped adapt the screenplay for Omar Killed Me, the true story of a Moroccan immigrant imprisoned for murder in France.

Romania, another country repeatedly snubbed by the Academy, is trying a different tack with its 2012 candidate. After a slew of critically-acclaimed existential dramas – 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Police, Adjective, If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle – failed to get nominated, Romanian has picked a more conventional title, the quirky immigrant road movie Morgen from director Marian Crisan.

Poland is ticking many of the classic Foreign Oscar boxes with its entry, the Holocaust drama In Darkness from Emmy and Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland while Venezuela is hoping its first Oscar nom will come with The Rumble of the Stones from director Alejandro Bellame Palacios.

Other Foreign Language Oscar contenders submitted to the Academy include Austria’s Breathing directed by Karl Markovics, the star of 2008 Oscar winner The Counterfeiters; and Jang Hoon’s war drama The Front Line, which will represent South Korea.