Taiwan’s Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Language Film is an unusual choice—and not just because it’s a documentary: Small Talk, which won a Teddy at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, explores director Huang Hui-Chen’s relationship with her absentee mother, A-nu, a Taoist priestess. And a lesbian.
Depictions of LGBT life are still rare in Taiwan, so it’s noteworthy that a real-life narrative is being put forward on such a high-profile stage. But Small Talk is hardly the only queer film in the Best Foreign Language category: Norway has submitted Thelma, a supernatural thriller about a young lesbian experiencing disturbing seizures and strange powers, while Finland is banking on Tom of Finland, a biopic about the iconic gay artist.
France is hoping for a win with BPM, director Robin Campillo’s drama based on his experiences with ACT UP Paris in the early ’90s. The film won the Grand Prix at Cannes and is expected to be nominated for Best Film and Best Director at the César Awards.
One of the most fascinating queer entries, though, comes from Chile: In A Fantastic Woman, Marina, a transgender woman, must fight accusations she murdered her older male lover.
The film, which has garnered critical acclaim, marks one of the few times a trans actress (newcomer Daniela Vega) has played a lead character in a film—and there’s chatter about Vega getting a Best Actress nomination.
Never has the Foreign Language category been so queer. Call it the Moonlight effect: Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama broke new ground at the Oscars last year—and signaled that the Academy was, at least for now, interested in LGBT films.
So when Oscar nominations are announced on January 23, we’ll have our fingers crossed for Call Me By Your Name and Battle of the Sexes. But the real money is in the Foreign Film category. Start getting used to subtitles.