| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Jan 16 As Palestinian director Hany
Abu-Assad reflected on his second Oscar nomination for best
foreign language film while hiking in the hills near Los Angeles
on Thursday, he evoked the special sweetness the distinction
carries for filmmakers from small, developing corners of the
"It means a lot to me, personally," Abu-Assad said in a
telephone interview, "because it will give you more
opportunities to finance your projects and attract actors."
Abu-Assad's film "Omar" about friendship and betrayal after
three Palestinians murder an Israeli soldier, along with
Cambodia's Rithy Panh's "The Missing Picture" represented the
outsider countries nominated for best foreign language film,
vying for the honor against dramas from established film
industries in Italy, Denmark and Belgium.
"It's actually the same challenge as everywhere, financing
film," Abu-Assad said. "We don't have a real infrastructure for
cinema (in Palestine) because we're still under occupation; it's
not easy to move."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will
hand out the Academy Awards on March 2, winnowed down 76
competing foreign films to nine in the first phase of the
nomination process before announcing the final five.
"The toughest recognition to get is from the people who know
the business well," Abu-Assad said. "When you make a movie, you
want recognition that you made a good movie and such a
nomination gives you that recognition."
Each country can nominate one film each year. Last year's
winner, Austrian director Michael Haneke's austere
French-language drama "Amour," went beyond the foreign-language
category by scoring nominations for best picture, directing,
original screenplay and best actress.
STAR POWER, CLAY FIGURINES
This year's nominees include a film that features a Danish
actor best known for his work on U.S. television, another that
substitutes clay figurines for actors, and the winner of the
Golden Globe award for best foreign language film.
Denmark's "The Hunt," about a kindergarten teacher falsely
accused of molesting a student, is directed by Thomas Vinterberg
and stars Mads Mikkelsen, the lead actor of NBC television
series "Hannibal" who also starred in the last year's
Oscar-nominated Danish film, "A Royal Affair."
"I don't know the American situation well enough to know how
much this will help, but for us back here it means the world,"
Vinterberg told Reuters from Copenhagen. "It's an amazing pat on
the shoulder and we're very, very proud."
Vinterberg said he hoped that Mikkelsen will attract viewers
and Oscar voters to the film.
"What I can tell you is that he's done one of his best
performances ever," the director said of Mikkelsen, whose steely
looks often land him the roles of villains in Hollywood.
"I really wrote the character for him," Vinterberg added.
"The whole character was invented for Mads in particular. ... He
was so manly already, he's such a stallion, that I decided to
humble him and make him a schoolteacher, and make him more
Scandinavian and soft."
Belgium Flemish-language drama "The Broken Circle Breakdown"
by Felix Van Groeningen, about a bluegrass performer and his
girlfriend whose carefree life is upended when their young
daughter is stricken with cancer, is the country's seventh Oscar
"The Missing Picture," which landed Cambodia's first Oscar
nomination, eschews actors altogether for clay figurines as
stand-ins for the director Panh's family, whose lives were
destroyed in bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge government.
Drama "The Great Beauty" from Italy, which as a country has
won a record 13 best foreign picture Oscars, earned a nomination
after capturing the Golden Globe award on Sunday for best
The film, directed by Paolo Sorrentino and about an aging
journalist reflecting on his life in Rome, is considered a nod
to Federico Fellini's landmark 1960 film "La Dolce Vita."
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Marguerita Choy)