- Associated Press - Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Danish drama “In a Better World” won the best foreign language film Oscar, an honor for both the acclaimed filmmaker Susanne Bier and for Denmark cinema.

“I am so truly honored and grateful and happy,” said Bier, whose previous films include the Oscar-nominated “After the Wedding” and “Things We Lost in the Fire.”

“In a Better World” is the third Danish film to take the honor. The other two were “Babette’s Feast” in 1987 and “Pelle the Conqueror” in 1988.

The other nominees were Mexico’s “Biutiful,” Greece’s “Dogtooth,” Canada’s “Incendies” and Algeria’s “Outside the Law.”

“In a Better World,” which will be released in the U.S. on April 1 by Sony Classics, is about a separated couple (Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm) that stretches across a small Danish town and a Sudanese refugee camp. Their family is further stressed when a feud between their teen son (Markus Rygaard) and a school bully turns violent.

It also won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film.

The Academy Awards foreign language winner was whittled down from 66 submissions, with countries allowed one submission each. It’s a process that has frequently come under fire, most notably for snubbing films like “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Volver” and “Gomorrah” of even a nomination.

Partly to correct such oversights, a 20-member executive committee was formed to safeguard the selection of nominees.

That didn’t necessarily stop criticism. Some were angry that the French film about Trappist monks standing up to Islamic fundamentalism, “Of Gods and Men,” wasn’t among this year’s nominees (or even the shortlist of nine films). Others missed the Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” from Thailand.

But the win for “In a Better World” is likely to engender applause for the Academy’s pick. It follows last year’s winner, the Argentine thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes” in the award.

The 2011 Oscars also included the rare nomination for a foreign language performance. Javier Bardem, who won for best supporting actor in 2008 for “No Country for Old Men,” was nominated for best actor for his much-lauded performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Biutiful.”