Disputes About Eligibility. Category name changes. The management committee “saves” allowed. The executive committee “saves” rejected. Introducing a list of nine participants. Expansion to 10. Then to 15… and so on. There is no Academy Award category with more frequency and irregularities than that for Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Language Feature Film).
And so, to the overriding question shortlisted for 15 titles yesterday (previously 10; no 9): where all the adjustments worth it? Finally, maybe even randomly, have we found the precise combination of variables that make the selection bulletproof? For the 93rd Academy Awards, with its numerological kismet of 93 international film entries (equal to last year’s record), and the reigning champion “Parasite” who is also the winner of the best picture for the first time in history, I would certainly do. Now is a good time to declare this most faulty category “fixed”.
Let’s not rush, but this list of 15 is actually quite encouraging, especially when you measure the category’s progress based on how much has passed through moldy old habits. It is particularly exciting to note that this year more than half of the shortlist comes from regions other than Europe. This is in stark contrast to last year when South Korea’s victory somewhat obscured the fact that it was the only nomination outside the euro, and one of only two on the list of ten candidates.
This year’s shortlist will include eight of the 15 from outside Europe, two of which will be shortlisted for the first time for their respective countries. Tunisia has performed seven times, but “The Man Who Sold His Skin” is the first to make progress. And the critically acclaimed “La Llorona” from Guatemala (photo) is only his third entry (but the second, curiously enough, from director Jayro Bustamante).
Female directors have also outperformed in the past, if not surprisingly (submissions are chosen by the countries themselves, so this is a diversity metric over which the Academy has less control). Five of the 15 films have female directors; last year there were only 2 out of 10: Mati Diop for “Atlantics” and Tamara Kotevska, co-director of “Honeyland” from Macedonia.
Speaking of “Honeyland,” that film was the first to garner nominations in both the international and documentary categories. This year, two films could potentially repeat that feat, with Chili’s “The Mole Agent” and Romania’s “Collective” also shortlisted for documentaries. It’s encouraging to see general global warming towards documentaries in this category, but it’s also surprising to note that if “Collective” were nominated here, it would be the first nod to a country that long was considered a superpower in world cinema. Of the 36 entries in total, Romania was shortlisted only once and has not been converted.
There are, of course, other factors that influenced the selection. The Golden Globe nomination for “Two of Us” and “La Llorona” in France may have accelerated these titles. But while the Globes’ recognition of “Another Round” in Denmark certainly didn’t hurt, in that case, the popularity and Hollywood profile of star Mads Mikkelsen probably had a lot to do with it.
Clearly, there are omissions. “Preparing to be together for an unknown period” from Hungary, “Apples” from Greece, “Never Gonna Snow Again” from Poland, and “Notturno” from Italy may feel more rightly disadvantaged by their close, but not pure, status. But again, these are all European titles, and in general, the move towards Eurocentrism is to be welcomed.
In the rest of the world, those expecting an eternally underrepresented story of homeless people in Africa, with Lesotho’s first presentation of “This is not a funeral, this is a resurrection”, or Sudan with “You will die at twenty” were also disappointed . . , while the legitimately crazy “Jallikattu” from India would have been a lively addition. Japan’s “real mothers” have been largely overlooked, though largely the kind of humanist drama traditionally favored here.
It is less surprising that “Beginning” from Georgia, “Vitalina Varela” from Portugal, and “Atlantis” from Ukraine did not complete this round. Challenging, provocative, and formally austere films have always been a hard sell, at least if it isn’t about the Holocaust. One of them could have received a “salvo” from the Executive Committee had that practice not been delayed. But if some great but tough movies were missed, it has also had significant benefits in entrusting a larger selection from the shortlist to a wider group of (recently expanded and diversified) Academy members.
No one expects that this year’s double victory of “Parasite” will be repeated. But there was some hope, certainly a few months ago when we could all still hope that the halo effect of the destruction of their category would win, as well as a room-limited Academy, and venture further out of comfort zones into the desperate quest. to distraction. , would contribute to a fresher line-up. In general, that’s happened, and if we’re going to argue about individual exclusions and inclusions, that’s just bringing international films, long the most structurally problematic Oscar arena, a little more into line with all the others. Academy Award Categories.