BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Montreal-born Kim Nguyen was "ecstatic" Friday after learning that his war-torn drama Rebelle is one step closer to an Oscar nomination.
The film -- called War Witch in English -- made a nine film short list announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"I'm just in a surreal mode right now realizing that I'm on the list with such great filmmakers as Michael Haneke (who directed the shortlisted Austrian film Amour," Nguyen said during a conference call with journalists.
"It's been a really amazing ride for the last year, travelling to almost three countries a month (to screen and promote the movie), just recently going around the world from India to L.A. to Montreal."
The final five nominees will be announced Jan. 10.
"Rebelle" is a grim drama about the lives of child soldiers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nguyen penned the story over the course of a decade, inspired by an article about nine-year-old Burmese twin brothers who led an army of rebels.
He shot it in Congo with a cast that included several local first-time actors, including then 14-year-old Rachel Mwanza, who plays a young female soldier who is forced into becoming a sex slave for a rebel commander. Her performance won prizes at the Tribeca and Berlin film festivals.
The Oscars, to be hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, take place Feb. 24.