Foreign Oscar nods celebrated

Austria's Michael Haneke leads Oscar's foreign-language film nominees, which includes films from Denmark, Canada, Norway and Chile.

Hollywood sent its love to Amour last week, giving the director Michael Haneke's (pictured) searing portrait of old age five Academy Award nominations including Best Foreign Film and, unexpectedly, Best Picture.

The film stars the octogenarian French acting greats Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as a loving Parisian couple whose world is devastated by the wife's serious illness.

Haneke said he was "very happy and gratified … that the voting members of the Academy have taken the film so strongly to their hearts".

The 85-year-old Riva said Haneke's talent for evoking reality on screen was key to the success of Amour. "That's why it touched the world," she said, adding: "It's the last stage of my life, so this nomination is a gift to me, a dream I could never had imagined."

Haneke, who won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film on Sunday, gives few interviews and makes few concessions to industry hype. But he said the nominations were "a joyous occasion".

"It is fulfilling to discover that a film has found the audience and critical acclaim that Amour has garnered," he said.

The other nominees are the 18th-century court saga A Royal Affair by Denmark's Nikolaj Arcel; the child soldier drama War Witch by Canada's Kim Nguyen; the seafaring adventure Kon-Tiki by Norway's Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg; and the dictator drama No by Chile's Pablo Larrain.

A Royal Affair stars the former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen. The film's director Arcel said the nomination made "one of the most exciting days in my life and career".

Kon-Tiki's director Roenning told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK: "My agent rang, and I howled and woke up the whole hotel."

Directed by the Montreal-born Nguyen and filmed in Congo, War Witch follows a 12-year-old girl abducted by a rebel army. Nguyen said the Oscar nod was "a great privilege and an honour".

"Things are going so badly in Congo and they need this. This really makes a difference," he said.

He conceded that Haneke was the front-runner to take the prize when winners are announced on February 24.

"We're clearly the underdog in all of this. Haneke has such a legacy," Nguyen said. Still, he added, "underdogs are appreciated in the United States".