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Small countries highlight Oscars' top foreign film short list

A scene from the Canadian film "War Witch" is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Tribeca Films
A scene from the Canadian film "War Witch" is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Tribeca Films

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Films from Cambodia, Palestine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina made the short list of candidates vying for the best foreign language film Oscar nomination, the Academy Awards organizer said on Friday.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences winnowed down 76 foreign films to nine in the first phase of the nomination process. The five nominees for the Oscar award will be announced on January 16.

Cambodia's French-language documentary "The Missing Picture," which uses clay figurines to tell the story of the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge government, made the list, taking a step closer to becoming the country's first film to score an Oscar nomination.

Director Hany Abu-Assad, whose 2005 film "Paradise Now" earned Palestine's only Oscar foreign-language nomination, made the list with thriller "Omar."

Bosnia and Herzegovina, which won the Oscar statuette in 2002 for "No Man's Land" in the only instance it earned a nomination, made the short list with the drama "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker."

Drama "The Great Beauty" from Italy, which has won a record 13 best foreign picture Oscars as a country, and Danish drama "The Hunt" starring Mads Mikkelsen also made the list a week after both films picked up Golden Globe award nominations for best foreign language film.

Belgian Flemish-language drama "The Broken Circle Breakdown," German thriller "Two Lives" and Hungarian drama "The Notebook" also made the short list.

Acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's ode to Kung Fu, "The Grandmaster," made the list. The art house director, considered one of the world's top filmmakers and best-known for dramas "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," has never had a film nominated for an Oscar.

Notably absent from the list was Iranian domestic drama "The Past" starring French actress Berenice Bejo and directed by Asghar Farhadi, whose 2011 drama "A Separation" won the best foreign language Oscar.

France's coming-of-age lesbian love story "Blue Is the Warmest Color" was also absent as its release in France did not make the September 30 deadline to be eligible for submission.

The annual Academy Awards, Hollywood's top film honors, will be handed out on March 2.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Patricia Reaney and Matthew Lewis)

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