Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest film Leviathan is one of nine films which made it onto the Oscar shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film category, the Academy announced on Friday.
September’s announcement that Zvyagintsev’s film was chosen by Russia’s Oscar Selection committee to compete in the race surprised many, who saw it as an unusual choice by a committee accustomed to putting forward government-backed patriotic cinema for the foreign language entry.
Leviathan‘s entry was not without its controversies. Producers of Russian film Now a Kiss! challenged the decision of Russia’s Oscar selection committee, requesting that Leviathan be withdrawn from the race due to violating Oscar regulations. “According to the regulations of the American Academy, each country has the right to nominate one film released from between 1 October 2013 and 20 September 2014 and shown for a period of no less than seven days,” their complaint read. “Leviathan only meets the conditions formally: its week-long distribution in a single Russian cinema was organised specially for the Oscar race.”
In July this year, fears that the film would be banned from Russian cinemas altogether following the recently introduced “anti-profanity in the arts” law were allayed, when Leviathan was issued with an 18+ certificate from Russia’s Ministry of Culture.
The film was in the main competition programme for the Cannes Film Festival this year, where it won a prize for best screenplay.
Leviathan joins Mauritania’s Timbuktu, Estonia’s Tangerines, Georgia’s Corn Island and Argentina’s Wild Tales, which also made it onto the shortlist.