Saudi Arabia's first ever candidate for the foreign language Oscar is among 76 movies on the Academy Award long-list announced Monday, while Pakistan has entered its first film in five decades.
Moldova and Montenegro have also submitted movies for the first time, among the hopefuls for the best foreign film at the 2014 Oscars, the climax of Hollywood's annual awards season next March.
The long list, which has a record number of movies up for Oscars glory, was initially expected to be announced last Friday, but was held up as Academy bigwigs checked that all of them meet the eligibility criteria, industry journal Variety reported.
The Saudi entry, "Wadjda" by Haifaa al-Mansour, is an avowedly feminist movie about a young girl's quest to own a bicycle in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom where women are deprived of many rights, among them driving.
Directed by Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker and shot entirely in the Gulf state, the film won best Arabic feature award at the Dubai Film Festival last year and picked up an award in Cannes in March.
For Pakistan, "Zinda Bhaag" ("Flee Alive") is the first Oscar entry for over 50 years. It is a comedy-thriller about three young men trying to escape the drudgery of their everyday lives through unconventional means.
The candidates are submitted by their individual countries, some of whom had already announced their choices.
Montenegro chose "Ace of Spades – Bad Destiny," as its first submission as an independent country, while Moldova selected "All God's Children."
France chose "Renoir" by Gilles Bourdos. The much-feted film "Blue is the Warmest Color," which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was not eligible because of its release date, but could in theory be submitted next year.
Some selections were unexpected: India chose "The Good Road" instead of "The Lunchbox," while Japan opted for "The Great Passage" instead of "Like Father, Like Son," decisions which prompted protests in both countries, Variety said.
The full list of foreign language films in competition can be seen at http://www.oscars.org/press/pressreleases/2013/20131007a.html.
The last foreign language Oscar winner was Austrian Michael Haneke's "Amour" ("Love") -- which had already won the Cannes Palme D'Or last year. Iran's "A Separation" took the category the year before that.
The shortlist of five foreign film nominees will be announced on January 16 next year, and the winner unveiled at the Academy Awards ceremony, to be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014.