Organisers of cinema's top awards have announced that director Saw Teong Hin's tragic romance, the most expensive film to be made in the Southeast Asian nation, had been accepted to compete for a nomination.

The five nominees in the coveted category will be announced in Beverly Hills on 25 January, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences said.
 
Among the 49 countries battling it out are Afghanistan, Brazil, last year's winner Canada, China, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Palestine, the Philippines, South Korea Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela.

The official entries for the 77th Academy Awards were picked from among submissions from 89 nations that were asked to put in films for consideration as best foreign language film.

Malaysia is the only country on this year's list of entrants never to have vied for the famed golden Oscar statuette, which will be handed out in Hollywood on 27 February.
 
The film A Legendary Love is the tragic love story of a princess and a Malay warrior, and was well received at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year.

Afghan entry

Afghanistan's entry is director Atiq Rahimi's film Earth and Ashes, a wrenching drama about life during the country's intractable civil war.

Afghanistan's entry is a drama
about life during civil war

China's House of Flying Daggers, from director Zhang Yimou, will represent the world's most populous nation at the Oscars.

The film, which premiered at the Cannes Film festival, is a highly-acclaimed martial arts epic that follows Zhang's film The Hero, which has been a major hit in the United States this year.

Nobody Knows, from filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, was selected as Japan's entry, and is the moving story of four children who are forced to rely on one another after they were abandoned by their mother.
 
Spain's entry, Alejandro Amenabar's Mar Adentro (Out to Sea), about a paralysed man who wants to commit suicide, won the jury grand prize Silver Lion award at the Venice film festival.

France's submission, Les Choristes by Christophe Barratier, tells the story of a group of reform schoolboys having their lives in post-war France changed by a choir-master, and was a major hit in its home country.

Low budget

Le Chiave di Casa (The House Keys) by director Gianni Amelio is Italy's hopeful for the best foreign language film gong, telling of a young father meeting his 15-year-old handicapped son Paolo for the first time.

India's official entry is Sandeep Sawant's low-budget Shwaas,which cost just $76,500 to make, and was picked to compete after beating out big budget Bollywood films.

Six movies in the past have won both the best foreign language film Oscar and another Academy Award, including the 2000 Chinese-language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won four Oscars.

Italy's Life Is Beautiful, also won the best actor Oscar for its star Roberto Benigni and the Oscar for best original score in 1998.