Sunday, October 25, 2015

#Oscars2016 Foreign-Language Submissions Facts

Current edition missed by 2 films the submission record established last year of 83 submissions; still, 81 submissions is a huge amount of cinema to be considered and distilled into a short list of 9 films. AMPAS foreign-language committee members have once again the annual hard and uphill task of watching films from many places in the world, some with high quality and others with not so-much-so quality.

From the 81 countries that submitted a film, only one, Paraguay, is a newcomer with it's first submission ever; all other 80 countries have submitted before. Most interesting is to consider that this year there are some submissions in languages that usually are not represented in the Oscars like, for example, Welsh in UK's submission, Warao in Venezuela's submission, Basque in Spain's submission, and Kaqchikel in Guatemala's submission.

As every year do not dare to predict the movies that could be honored as there are too-many that I haven't seen yet and film buzz depends on the language is written; so, as usual, will comment on what I wish or consider more than what I could predict.

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 has to be more "conventional" than anything else and their first choices will be nothing short of conventional.

For those that do not recall the selection process, which started as soon as the official list of accepted films was published, here are the highlights:

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

By now some films have been seen but surely most have still to be seen, so let's review some interesting facts about the list that you can find here.

Oscar and Film Festivals

From the 81 countries that submitted a film to the foreign-language category fifty-eight (58) came from a world's film festival, which represents a huge 71.6%; then a bit more than half, thirty (30) came from one of the three major film festivals, which represents 37% of the 81 and 51.7% of the 58 submitted films. As happens every year, this Oscar edition is no exception when the three major festivals provide most of the country's submissions.

Cannes leads the pack with 11 submissions but it's closely followed by the Berlinale with 10 and the Biennale with 9. Then we have Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary with 8, Spain's San Sebastian and Canada's Toronto with 4 each, and Japan's Tokyo with 2. There are ten (10) more films that came from other film festivals like Locarno, Moscow, Telluride, etc. Have to mention that Toronto fest has more films in the submissions list but most where premiered at other festivals, the four in Toronto's list had no previous festival screening; the same applies to film festivals in the others section of the appendix.

Cannes 2015

Cannes leads the pack but when we only consider 2015 films, tally goes down to 9 films as two came from 2014 Cannes. Unlike what happened in 2014 this year the Palme d'Or winner was not submitted perhaps due to the fact that a French movie won, which is what also happened in 2013 when another French film won the Cannes top award. Seems that a Palm d'Or winner will most likely have more chances to be submitted when is NOT a French production, sigh.

Nevertheless, this year the Grand Prix, Best Director, Un Certain Regard Prize, and Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winners were submitted by Hungary, Taiwan, Iceland and Croatia. From the parallel sections Colombia submitted the CICAE Arte Cinema Prize and France the Label Europa Cinema Prize, both came from the Director's Fortnight section. Seems we could have a "new" tradition as this year the Palm Dog winner was also submitted -in 2014 was submitted-, yes Portugal submission won the infamous award.

Of course I regret that Jacques Audiard's Dheepan was not submitted by France as he is one of my very favorite directors in the world but have to say that there is no other Cannes film that I wished was submitted to Oscars, as other interesting award winning films were not eligible as they are in English.

Not often Cannes honored films and Oscar collide, still the last time was with Cannes Palme d'Or winner Amour sent by Austria; this year some are predicting that two or three Cannes films could make the shortlist of 9 films and perhaps even grab a spot in the 5 nominations. Believe that Hungary and France submissions could make it but not clear if any other film has a chance. As a matter of fact the Oscar foreign-language buzz favorite come from Cannes as many -if not most- believe that Hungary's submission could win the award; me, I'm not as sure as I was last year with Poland's Ida, but yes believe that Son of Saul has the right story and credentials to make it to the shortlist of 9, get a nomination and most likely win an Oscar.

At the post bottom there is an appendix that lists the eleven films that came from Cannes, as well as from the other festivals in the world.

Berlin 2015

Germany's Berlinale has become a major supplier to Oscar submission, second only to Cannes and this year there are 10 films that came from this festival. As a matter of fact if we discount films with 2014 participation, Berlin fest comes as #1 as all 10 films are from the 2015 edition, while Cannes has only nine.

Among the ten films there are three Silver Bear winners (Chile, Guatemala and Romania) as well as the first feature award winner (Mexico); there are no more top award winners as for obvious reasons there was no possibility to have the Golden Bear winner as a submission from Iran and other films were in English or were ineligible for having too-much English, like Silver Bear winner Germany's Victoria that seems was the submission of choice but AMPAS declined to do an exception.

Not sure if films from this festival will make it to the shortlist of 9 or grab a nomination but hope Guatemala's Ixcanul makes it as has the right story and production values plus add quite large American press buzz and big American prestigious film festivals presence. The only thing this film doesn't have is TWC (lol!) American distribution, which as we know could assure a nomination. If we take into consideration American press reactions, then other films that have good possibilities are Chile's The Club and Brazil's The Second Mother.

Biennale 2015

Venice Film Festival is another supplier of films to Oscar foreign-language category and this year there are nine (9) films that come from Venezia72 and Venezia71 editions. The reason why fest has many last year edition films is because the date of the festival as from the three major fests this is the one closer to AMPAS category submission deadline of October 1st, which leaves not much time to local country release.

Unlike Cannes and Berlinale, Biennale's top award, the Golden Lion, 2014 Venezia71 winner (Sweden) was submitted as well as the Special Jury Prize (Turkey), Orizzonti Best Film winner (India) and Orizzonti Best Director winner (Jordan). But most surprisingly due to to their fast release is the presence of 2015 Venezia72 Best Director award winner (Argentina) and perhaps the film with more collateral awards wins (Italy).

I highly enjoy Roy Andersson films but know that they are not for all audiences, so expect his Golden Lion film will not make it to the shortlist as film is as strange as are his wonderful previous two installments of the "Living" trilogy. Not sure about the other films but somehow imagine that Argentina's The Clan could have possibilities as well as perhaps Austria's Goodnight Mommy which strongly recalls the unsettling style of another Austrian director, great Michael Haneke.

Karlovy Vary 2015

Will not deny that is a surprise to find that the fourth film festival with more submissions is this Czech festival (8) instead of other more "famous" like San Sebastian (4) or Locarno (1); perhaps I should write more often about this fest but I always had the impression that its coverage was more about Eastern Europe than anything else; still this year there is one notorious exception when Paraguay's submission come from this fest.

Among the films in this fest we find the 2015 Best Director Award winner (Kosovo) and the Best Actress award winner (Czech Republic) that also won the Europa Cinema Label Award. Unless there is a huge unexpected surprise, believe that none of this fest films will make it to the shortlist of nine.

Other Film Festivals

Most of the films in Cannes, Berlinale and Biennale go after to many other world film festivals either in or out of competition and/or most likely becoming their showcase films; this is one of the reasons why I read about those festivals but do not go into depth coverage as usually "new" films in the festivals tend to be of the not-so-interesting kind.

Other film festivals send twenty (20) films, excluding Karlovy Vary, and most interesting is the fact that none -but one (Palestine)- has win a major award at the festival were was screened.  One has a special mention (Latvia) while other have audience award (Serbia) but the rest have no honor besides being screened at the festival.

Somehow my gut feeling tells me that unless there is a major surprise, none of the films will make it to the shortlist of nine.

Other Interesting Facts

French Co Productions. There is no other country with more co productions than France as there is a list with thirteen productions or co productions (Belgium, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Kosovo, Lithuania, Malaysia, Peru, Portugal, Romania and Sweden) but I counted two more with French money (Albania and Taiwan). All co productions are minority with the exception of one very obvious France submission, which is a majority production (otherwise would have been ineligible to be France submission). Yes, odds are high for a French co production in the shortlist of nine and getting a nomination; not that sure if will make it to win the award.  Most notorious news came from a French co production that was early announced by the director and producers as China submission, afterwards China's news dispatches confirmed; but when the official list was released China submission was another film and unfortunately was not Jia Zhang-ke's most honored film, sigh.

LGBT Interest Films. There are five (5) films with some LGBT interest and as always, most have gay interest (Thailand, Ireland and Greece) while only two (Lithuania and Dominican Republic) have lesbian interest. No, do not foresee any of the five films making it to the shortlist of 9, even when I wish Lithuania could grab a spot -sigh. Believe that when we learn nominations for other Oscar categories, the 88th edition could be the most LGBT interest ever, but we have to wait and see if great films make it or not.


Cannes (11)
Belgium: The Brand New Testament by Jaco van Dormael - Quinzaine
Colombia: Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra - CICAE Arte Cinema Prize winner
Croatia: The High Sun by Dalibor Matanic - Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner
Ethiopia: Lamb by Yared Zeleke - Un Certain Regard
France: Mustang by Deniz Gamze Erguven - Quinzaine Label Europa Cinemas Prize winner
Greece: Xenia by Panos H Koutras - 2014 Un Certain Regard
Hungary: Son of Saul by Laszlo Nemes - Grand Prix winner
Iceland: Rams by Grimur Hakonarson - Un Certain Regard Prize winner
Ivory Coast: Run by Philippe Lacote - 2014 Un Certain Regard
Portugal: Arabian Nights: Volume 2 The Desolate by Miguel Gomes - Directors Fortnight Palm Dog winner
Taiwan: The Assassin by Hou Hsiao-Hsien - Best Director Award winner

Berlinale (10)
Brazil: The Second Mother by Anna Muylaert - CICAE Panorama and Panorama Audience Award first place winner
Chile: The Club by Pablo Larrain - Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize winner
Guatemala: Ixcanul by Jayro Bustamante - Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Award winner
Lithuania: The Summer of Sangaile by Alante Kavaite - Panorama
Mexico: 600 Miles by Gabriel Ripstein - Best First Feature Award winner
Romania: Aferim! by Radu Jude - Silver Bear for Best Director winner
Slovakia: Goat by Ivan Ostrochovsky - Forum
Switzerland: Iraqi Odyssey by Samir - Panorama Documentary Audience Award Third Place winner
Thailand: How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) by Josh Kim - Panorama
Venezuela: Gone with the River - NATIVe

Biennale (9)
Argentina: El Clan by Pablo Trapero- Venezia72 Silver Lion Best Director winner
Austria: Goodnight Mommy by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz - Venezia71 Orizzonti
Denmark: A War by Tobias Lindholm, Venezia72 Orizzonti
India: Court by Chaitanya Tamhane - Venezia71 Orizzonti Best Film winner
Italy: Don't Be Bad by Claudio Caligari - Multiple Collateral Awards winner
Jordan: Wolf by Naji Abu Nowar - Venezia71 Orizzonti Best Director Award winner
Poland: 11 Minutes by Jerzy Skolimowski - Venezia72
Sweden: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence by Roy Andersson - Venezia71 Golden Lion winner
Turkey: Sivas by Kaan Mujdeci - Venezia71 Special Jury Prize winner

Other Festivals (28)

Karlovy Vary (8)
Albania: Bota by Iris Elezi and Thomas Logoreci - 2014 Karlovy Vary FEDEORA Best Film Award winner
Czech Republic: Home Care by Slavek Horak - Karlovy Vary Best Actress Award winner Europa Cinema Label Award winner
Iraq: Memories on Stone by Sewket Emin Korki - Karlovy Vary
Kosovo: Father by Visar Morina - Karlovy Vary Best Director Award winner
Kyrgyzstan: Heavenly Nomadic by Miriam Abdykalykov - Karlovy Vary FEDEORA Best Film award winner
Montenegro: You Carry Me by Ivona Juka - Karlovy Vary
Paraguay: Cloudy Times by Arami Ullon - Karlovy Vary
Slovenia: The Tree by Sonja Prosenc - 2014 Karlovy Vary

San Sebastian (4)
Canada: Felix and Meira by Maxime Giroux - 2014 San Sebastian
Georgia: Moira by Levan Tutberidze - San Sebastian
Latvia: Modris by Juris Kursietis - 2014 San Sebastian Kusta-New Directors Special Mention
Uruguay: A Moonless NIght by German Tejeira - 2014 San Sebastian

Toronto (4)
Dominican Republic: Sand Dollars by Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman - Toronto IFF
Germany: Labyrinth of Lies by Giulio Ricciarelli - Toronto IFF
Israel: Father John by Yuval Delshad - Toronto IFF
Netherlands: Paradise Suite by Joost van Ginkel - Toronto IFF

Tokyo (2)
Cambodia: The Last Reel by Kulikar Sotho - 2014 Tokyo IFF
Japan: 100 Yen Love by Masaharu Take - 2014 Tokyo IFF

Other (10)
Palestine: The Wanted 18 by Paul Cowan and Amer Shomali - Abu Dhabi IFF Documentary Award winner
Malaysia: Men Who Save the World by Seng Tat Liew - 2014 Locarno
Iran: Muhammad the Messenger of God by Majid Majidi - Montreal IFF
Serbia: Enclave by Goran Radovanovic - Moscow IFF Audience Award winner
Peru: NN by Hector Galvez - Palm Springs
Bangladesh: Jalal's Story by Abu Shahed Emon - 2014 Pusan IFF
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Our Everyday Life by Ines Tanovic - Sarajevo IFF
Russia: Sunstroke by Nikita Mikhalkov - Shanghai IFF
Luxemburg: Baby (A)lone by Donato Rotunno - Stockholm IFF
Ireland: Viva by Paddy Breathnach - Telluride
Bulgaria: The Judgement by Stephan Komandarev - 2014 Warsaw IFF

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