Last year, I had the great pleasure of attending the European Film Awards -- the continent's answer to the Oscars -- in Malta. As predicted by pretty much everyone, Michael Haneke's "Amour" cleaned up that night -- much as it did almost every Best Foreign Language Film prize on the awards circuit across the pond. This year, it seems a much more competitive field, as indicated by the longlist of 46 films for this year's EFAs.

Unveiled by the European Film Academy, the list is the combined result of national committee selection and outside adjudication: the 20 countries with the most EFA members each put forward one film to represent them, while a panel of experts, including festival programmers and critics, select the remain entries. From this list, the EFA's 2,900 voting members will determine the nominees, which will be announced on November 9.

Looking down the list, it's hard to identify a potential sweeper in the "Amour" vein, though plenty of worthy titles catch the eye. A film one might have assumed would be a slam-dunk for EFA glory -- France's Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" -- is absent from the list, ineligible by virtue of its late domestic release date. (Same deal with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.) It'll surely be a robust presence in next year's awards.

Meanwhile, the only two French productions on the list (not counting the country's participation in numerous international co-productions) are Alain Guiraudie's "Stranger by the Lake" and Francois Ozon's "In the House." I doubt the French selection committee would be so naively adventurous as to select Guiraudie's sexually explicit cruising-ground thriller to the Academy, so is this a sign that Ozon's deliciously black-hearted comedy of tale-telling could be the country's eventual Oscar entry? It might just be. (If you're wondering Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" is absent from the list, that's because eligibility is limited to films by European directors.)

A number of the shortlisted films are already in this year's foreign-language Oscar race, including Romania's "Child's Pose" (a sure bet to be EFA-nominated for its star Luminita Gheorghiu, at the very least), Bulgaria's "The Color of the Chameleon," Sweden's "Eat Sleep Die," Greece's "Boy Eating the Bird's Food," Serbia's "Circles" and Georgia's "In Bloom." Also in the running are Spain's "Blancanieves," Iceland's "The Deep," Israel's "Fill the Void," Norway's "Kon-Tiki" and Afghanistan's "The Patience Stone" (here by virtue of its European co-production status), all submissions for last year's Oscar.

Due to the continent-spanning remit of the awards, eligibility dates for the EFAs can be a bit elastic, meaning a number of what we might see as 2012 films are up for the awards this year -- among them such high-profile titles as Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" (sure to feature in the technical races) and Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible." The latter selection gives Hollywood a degree of rooting interest in the nominations, as does the unexpected inclusion of Nicolas Winding Refn's predominantly Danish production "Only God Forgives." The latter seems something of a long shot, though I'm all for any attempt to get Ryan Gosling to attend the December 7 ceremony in Berlin.

Meanwhile, with the caveat that there's plenty here I haven't seen, the six titles I'd most like to see up for the Best European Film award are: "Berberian Sound Studio" (UK), "Betrayal" (Russia), "Child's Pose" (Romania), "A Hijacking" (Denmark), "In the House" (France) and "The Selfish Giant" (UK). Oh, go on, throw in Ireland's "What Richard Did" as a seventh nominee. I won't complain.

The full longlist is on the next page. What are you rooting for?    

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