Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2015 Oscar Foreign Language Film Submissions Facts - Update 1

Update: We already know that there were a record 83 submissions to Oscars foreign language film category as AMPAS published the list with six more countries that didn't made public announcements until after AMPAS list appeared. I'm almost sure that Academy administrative personnel HAVE NOT seen the 83 movies, much less Academy members, so in the next few months we can get some news about disqualified films due to reasons related to not fulfilling the rules (too much English, not enough film ownership from country that submitted, not locally screened before deadline or screened less than 7 days, etc).

The six new films increase the number of female directors to 14 out of 83 which maintains the same proportion of 17%. There are three more festival films (Berlinale, Biennale and Karlovy Vary) that when we add them to the previous 35, we have 38 festival films out of the 83 submitted or 45% which also does not change what it's said below.

This year was reading a lot about newcomers to the category race with most commenting how "exciting" -and different in a positive way- is to follow the category from the very beginning when the first submissions are announced. Absolutely agree and you know that I always believe that the list this award generates does have some of the BEST films from the world and yes, from Great Cinema. The task is always trying to see as much as you can and well, you have a year before a new list generates.

Perhaps the most interesting suggestion I read this year is one category fan "requesting" AMPAS to have another category: Foreign Language Documentary!!! Gosh, that's too much as many countries film industry have a hard time to produce feature films, so imagine documentaries. Then you have to consider that for many countries sending one film is very expensive, two will be financially impossible. But it is an interesting idea that definitively could promote more documentary films.

What I definitively agree with many is that this year the category has become very competitive and consequently, more interesting than in previous years. Still my annual problem arises when I consider -always unpredictable- Academy members as it is really hard to guess what they have in their minds and how they will vote. Still, yes will play the guessing game from different points of view.  My predictions will come ... soon.

Eight days after the submission deadline we have announcements from seventy-seven (77) countries which surpasses by one last year record; but it is only when AMPAS publishes the accepted submissions that we will learn if there is a new record, if record is kept or if this year there are less films. Still, like some cinema pundits, if you wish you can start to celebrate a new record.

For the very first time the Academy will acknowledge the winning film director as before the Oscar statuette had the name of the movie only but from the 87th edition on, the name of the director will be along the name of the foreign language winning film. I like the decision to recognize the director -more than the producers- as truly believe that what makes a huge difference in a movie is what the director does for good or not-so-good consequences.

Will be after AMPAS list publication that I will dare to predict something about this category. This is not the easiest to predict category as there are too many choices that are as diverse as world cinema can be; but will select a list of nine (9) films that I wish could make the next stage plus a more realistic prediction of what I think AMPAS foreign language committee members could select.

We can't forget that the average age of Academy members is 63-years-old and seems that foreign language committee average age has been even higher, so we can estimate that their taste in cinema is more "conventional" than anything else and their first choices will be nothing short of conventional. That is why I wonder -for example- if they will be willing to invest 196 minutes of their life to watch the 2014 Cannes Palme d'Or winner submitted by Turkey. Probably not. That is where what I wish and what could happen start to go further apart.

For those that do not recall the selection process that will start as soon as the official list of accepted films is published, here are the highlights:

-The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members, screened the original submissions in the category between mid-October and mid-December. The group's top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy's Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist of nine (9).

-The shortlist will be winnowed down to the five nominees by specially invited committees in New York and Los Angeles. They will spend three days between the announcements (shortlist and nominations) viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

Let's talk about some facts that the list clearly shows.

Cannes 2014

This year Cannes Film Festival is a major supplier of films submitted to Oscar foreign language film category as twelve (12) come from the Official Selection or the sidebars. Submissions include the Palme d'Or winner, Jury Prize winner, Best Screenplay winner, Un Certain Regard Prize winner, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, Un Certain Regard Best Actor award winner, Ecumenical Jury Award winner, Francois Chalais prix winner and yes, the Palm Dog winner!

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Hungary, Israel, Mauritania, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey submitted films from Cannes 2014; only Philippines submission is from 2013.

There are two omissions that I really regret, both were highly expected and surprised many -if not everyone- when the announcement was made. Ukraine and China decided to not send their highly acclaimed Cannes entries, The Tribe and Coming Home. Sigh.

Not often Cannes honored films and Oscar collide, still the last time was with Cannes Palme d'Or winner  Amour and this year some are predicting that most of the list of nine films will come from Cannes.  Not sure if will happen, but at least know that one spot will not as there is one film that did not came from Cannes but many, including me, are expecting will make the list of 9 and later get a nomination. The film? Ida.

Festival Films

World Festivals -besides Cannes- also are a good source for Oscar entries with Berlin, Venice, Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Sarajevo, Pula, Tallinn Black Nights, Goteborg, Shanghai, Montreal, London, and San Sebastian Film Festivals having films sent to 2015 Oscar. There are twenty-three (23) films from world festivals that were submitted.

Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and Taiwan sent films that won awards or were part of the official selection at renown world festivals.

When we add 23 world festival films plus 12 Cannes films we get a total of 35 out of 76 (45%) films that came from world festivals which is almost half submission being fest films . Somehow I have the impression that festivals not always provide high possibilities of winning an Oscar nomination or an Oscar award and perhaps this year we could find one or two films making the shortlist of 9 and getting a nod.  Besides Poland, perhaps Georgia or Switzerland could make it.

Women Directors

Out of the 77 submissions, thirteen (13) are films directed by women which gives us a 17% representation and is lower than the more usual 20-25% of film festivals. There are three films by female directors that have won the category Oscar before, Antonia's Line by Marleen Gorris, Nowhere in Africa by Caroline Link, and In a Better World by Susanne Bier. Will current edition bring to four the Oscar winning foreign language films directed by female directors? I do not know but there are some really strong contenders in the list.

Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Pakistan, and Palestine submitted films directed by female directors.

French Productions

This year is particularly remarkable as there are 13 films that have French money; two were done with 100% French money and 11 are French co productions. Indeed there is a high probability that French money will get an Oscar nomination!

Belgium, Chile, China, Colombia, France (100%), Georgia, Israel, Italy, Mauritania (100%), Norway, Palestine, Sweden and Turkey sent films made with French money.  There is some early-predicting with the winning film among these thirteen films, so as it has happen -lately quite often- French money could get an Academy Award, again.

LGBT story/scenes

Brazil, Canada, France, Portugal, and Switzerland submitted films with stories clearly gay plus Finland's entry has some gay interest scenes.

The most celebrated lesbian interest film was not submitted this year even when qualified as France chose to send gay interest Saint Laurent instead of 2013 Cannes Palme d'Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color; many were VERY disappointed  -including me- as a submission would have meant a new life for a great film and yes, it is the kind of movie that Academy members could like, after all we cannot forget that Cannes 2013 Jury President is a good representative of the average Academy member. Sigh.

Nevertheless there area a couple of films that could advance to next stage, especially submissions from Canada and Switzerland.  Still we can't be oblivious that Finland's submission has been winning all kinds of accolades in the "cold" countries but I wonder if film success will transfer to "warmer" countries as have seen the movie and I find it not-easy-to-watch.
Soon (next week?) the Academy will publish the official list of submitted films that were accepted and we will find if a couple of  still unclear submissions were accepted or not plus later will publish my "predictions". To check the list of all films submitted to Oscars 2015 please go here.

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