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‘Burning’ shortlisted for foreign language Oscars, first for Korean film

Lee Chang-dong’s thriller “Burning” joined Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” as one of nine contenders for the Academy Awards, becoming the first Korean movie to make the short list for one of cinema’s most prestigious awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the list Monday, which also included “Birds of Passage” from Colombia, “The Guilty” from Denmark, “Never Look Away” from Germany, “Shoplifters” from Japan, “Ayka” from Kazakhstan,” “Capernaum” from Lebanon and “Cold War” from Poland.

'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)
'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)
'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)
'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)

Despite so many critically acclaimed foreign films making the cut, there were surprise snubs like Lukas Dhont’s “Girl” and Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” which competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and won best actor.

The nine contenders for foreign language film had been winnowed down by the executive committee in the film academy, and will be further narrowed down to the final five in contention for the Oscar on Jan. 22.

While Cuaron’s “Roma” is considered to be the front-runner for the award, Lee’s mystery drama has already made history by becoming the country’s first-ever on the shortlist. Korea has never had a film in the running for the Oscars, and the closest a Korean came to the trophy was when film star Lee Byung-hun was selected to present an award at the 2016 ceremony.

“Burning,” loosely based on Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and received the Fipresci International Critics’ Prize in the main competition.
'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)
'Burning’ (CGV Arthouse)

Despite failing to impress at the local box office, the film received a shower of praise from critics.

It was deemed a “visually stunning film and an emotionally complex comment on contemporary society” by the Fipresci jury, led by France’s Michel Ciment.

The film, starring Steven Yeun and Yoo Ah-in, has also been nominated for best foreign language film at the 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards. It won the best foreign language film award given by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

At Monday’s announcement, the academy also announced short lists for categories of visual effects, makeup and hairstyling, documentary features, original song, original score, live action short film and documentary short subject.

Among the notable contenders in other categories included Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG,” Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t You be My Neighbor,” music from “A Star is Born” and a superhero bonanza in visual effects categories, including “Black Panther,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

By Yoon Min-sik (