Austrian director Michael Haneke poses during a photocall prior to the premiere screening of his movie "Amour"

Michael Haneke ... the Austrian director poses prior to the premiere screening of his movie Amour. Photo: AFP

THE road to the Oscars is a drawn-out journey, and one of the many stops along the way is the announcement of short-lists in certain categories. Nine finalists have been announced for the best foreign film for 2013.

Australia had a chance with Cate Shortland's Lore (mainly in German). Despite being considered a strong candidate, it did not make the list.

A frontrunner is Michael Haneke's Amour, which is Austria's entry despite being shot in France, in French, and starring two greats of French cinema, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, as an elderly couple whose relationship transforms when the wife suffers a stroke.

Amour has already won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and has been on many critics' top-10 lists. It opens in Australia on February 28.

France is represented by a rather more feel-good contender, the worldwide box-office hit The Intouchables, a comedy drama directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. It's a buddy movie about a wealthy quadriplegic man and his carer and is screening in Sydney.

Australian audiences have also seen another shortlisted title, A Royal Affair, a period drama set in Denmark during the Enlightenment and starring Mads Mikkelsen, which is still in cinemas.

A few other films on the shortlist are slated for local release. They include Chile's No, directed by Pablo Larrain and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, about an advertising executive in charge of a campaign for the ''No'' vote in a plebiscite on the presidency of Augusto Pinochet,

and Kon-Tiki, Norway's entry directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, about Thor Heyerdahl's legendary voyage across the Pacific on a raft.

Foreign Language Academy Award Short-List (with country and director)

Austria, Amour, Michael Haneke
Canada, War Witch, Kim Nguyen
Chile, No, Pablo Larraín
Denmark, A Royal Affair, Nikolaj Arcel
France, The Intouchables, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Iceland, The Deep, Baltasar Kormákur
Norway, Kon-Tiki, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Romania, Beyond the Hills, Cristian Mungiu
Switzerland, Sister, Ursula Meier