To be eligible for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film Award, a film must have been released in its country of origin for at least seven days and is defined by predominantly non-English dialogue.
Written and directed by Warwick Thornton and produced by Kath Shelper, Samson & Delilah is shot predominantly in the Aboriginal language Warlpiri. It stars Marissa Gibson as Delilah and Rowan McNamara as Samson.
The only other possibility was Jonathan Auf Der Heide's Van Diemen's Land and let's just be thankful they didn't choose that one! The only other contender I could think of was Granaz Moussavi's My Tehran for Sale, but it's release hasn't been confirmed so it probably didn't make the initial eligibility cut. There's always next year for that film.
I was actually worried that Samson & Delilah wouldn't qualify since there is English language dialogue in the film, and I couldn't recall what percentage it was. It doesn't help that large amounts of the film are dialogue-free, which made it hard to gauge. However, it has passed the test and is in the running so congratulations to everyone involved. Now, we've just got to hope that the Academy sees the film for the stunning achievement that it is!
A nomination would make Samson & Delilah the first Australian film ever nominated for the foreign language Oscar, despite several attempts. Clara Law's Floating Life (1996), Steve Jacobs' La Spagnola (2001), Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes (2006) and Tony Ayres' The Home Song Stories (2007) were all submitted in years prior, but failed to receive nominations (Ten Canoes being the only real disappointing snub of the three).
An Oscar nomination would cap a near perfect run for the film. A box office hit, rapturous critical reception, the Camera d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival, European commercial release and a surefire AFI magnet (note to self: AFI awards are made of glass, HMMMmm). I can't say I'm confident at it receiving a nomination, but I'm more confident than in years passed. It has universal praise, which to be honest doesn't mean much in the world of Oscar's foreign language category, but it would be a shame if it got pushed aside purely because it doesn't have a high profile director like Haneke attached or because it's not about WWII.