Entertainment & Arts

Oscars: Foreign language film contenders unveiled

Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet in Untouchable
Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet (seated) play the lead roles in Untouchable

A record 71 countries are in contention for next year's foreign language film Oscar - although Iran, recipient of this year's prize, is not among them.

The country, whose official submission A Separation took home the foreign film award in February, was not one of the entrants confirmed on Monday.

Last month Iranian authorities withdrew their candidate amid protests over an anti-Islam video made in the US.

Five of the entrants will be selected to compete for next year's award.

Their titles will be revealed when the full list of Academy Award nominations are announced on 10 January.

French title The Intouchables, released in the UK as Untouchable, is among the high-profile films in contention.

The film, about a quadriplegic millionaire and his immigrant carer, has been a huge hit in its native France and is expected to spawn an English language re-make.

Iran initially submitted family drama A Cube of Sugar in September, only to withdraw it one day later in protest over the amateur video The Innocence of Muslims.

The country's culture minister, Mohammad Hosseini, said it would "refrain from taking part" because "this film was made in America and the Oscars are held there".

Its decision, he said, was "in reaction to the intolerable insult to the Great Prophet of Islam".

Iran has been submitting films regularly since the 1990s, making the shortlist in 1998 - with family drama Children of Heaven - and again in 2012.

Amour (Love) is the latest film from Austria's Michael Haneke

A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadi, told of a couple grappling with the unforeseen consequences of a marital breakdown.

According to organisers, Kenya makes its first appearance on the long list with its submission, the crime drama Nairobi Half Life.

Other titles submitted include Austria's entry Amour (Love), winner of the Palme d'Or award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and the South Korean title Pieta, recipient of the Golden Lion at Venice.

Amour tells of an elderly couple - Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) - whose relationship is tested when the latter suffers a series of strokes.

Directed by Michael Haneke, the film will be screened this month at this year's London Film Festival along with 14 of the other long-listed titles.

Hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, the 85th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on 24 February.

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