The three are Israel's entry "Beaufort," Austria's "The Counterfeiters" and Brazil's "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation."
Next Tuesday (Jan. 22), the shortlist will be winnowed down to five finalists and the winner will be announced at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24. "Beaufort," directed by Joseph Cedar, is a wrenching war movie depicting the final action of the first Lebanon War, when a small Israeli unit evacuated the medieval Beaufort fortress.
In "the Counterfeiters" by Stefan Ruzowitzky, the Nazis round up a hundred skilled Jewish craftsmen from concentration camps to create perfect counterfeits of British and U.S. currency, in a last-ditch ploy to wreck the economies of the two allies.
The Brazilian entry is the story of a half-Jewish boy suddenly thrown into an Orthodox environment when his parents flee the 1970 military dictatorship. The director, Cao Hamburger, is the grandson of Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany.
Also shortlisted are films from Canada, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia and Serbia.
Poland's entry is "Katyn" by Andrzej Wajda, which dramatizes the massacre of some 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviets in 1940. To the surprise of most film critics, the Romanian entry, "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" didn't make the cut. The film on the tribulations of getting an abortion in Communist Romania had won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival and top honors at the European Film Awards.