By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 7, 2013 at 5:24PM
A record 76 countries have submitted films for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 86th Academy Awards.
Continuing highlights of Diaspora films submitted for consideration... Grigris, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's would-be noir/crime drama, is Chad's entry.
First introduced in 1956 (the 29th Academy Awards which were handed out in 1957), when a competitive Academy Award of Merit, known as the Best Foreign Language Film Award, was created for non-English speaking films, and has been given annually since then, prior to that year, the Academy presented Special/Honorary Awards to the best foreign language films released in the United States. However, they weren't handed out regularly, and it wasn't competitive, unlike other categories. Although in the very early years of the ceremony, probably until after WWII, there was really no separate recognition for foreign language films.
And the film that would win the first official Best Foreign Language Oscar was Federico Fellini's La Strada, beginning a trend that would go on to see European films dominate in terms of wins in that category, followed by Asian films, with African films, and films from Latin America, rounding out the list.
The number of African films that have won the Best Foreign Language Academy Award is very low, as you'd probably imagine.
Chad has submitted just one film for consideration in the entire history of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: In 2002, Abouna by the same filmmaker who directed the country's submission this year - Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. Chad isn't exactly overflowing with cinema output, and Haroun is one of, I'd say, 2 internationally-recognized filmmakers from the country - the other I'm most familiar with being Issa Serge Coelo.
Strangely enough, Haroun's last work, A Screaming Man (Un Homme Qui Crie) wasn't submitted for consideration 2 years ago, despite the wealth of praise and awards it received on the international cinema circuit. It was also released (limited) here in the USA. There might be a story there that I'm just not aware of. But research revealed nothing.
In July, Film Movement picked up North American rights to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Grigris, where it won the Vulcan Award for technical achievement.
The film, which received mixed reviews after its Cannes premiere, centers on Grisgris, a 25 year old young man with dreams of becoming a dancer despite his physical disability from the waist down. His dreams are shattered when his uncle falls seriously ill. To save him, he decides to go work for petrol traffickers.
It stars Soulémane Démé, Mariam Monory, Cyril Guei, Anaïs Monory and Marius Yelolo (who's worked with Haroun on at least 2 other past films).
Grisgris is produced by Florence Stern for Pili Films, with Chad's Goï Goï Productions and Frances 3 Cinéma.
Film Movement is aiming to release the film during the first half of 2014, in a limited opening, which will be followed by a national expansion.
Film Movement also released Haroun's last film, Un Homme Qui Crie (A Screaming Man), in 2012.
By the way, for those in the Atlanta (GA) area, or who will be in the Atlanta area during the weekend of November 9, presented in partnership with the BronzeLens Film Festival and Africa Atlanta, this year’s France-Atlanta at the BronzeLens will pay tribute to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, which will include a mini-retrospective of Haroun’s work, followed by a conversation with the internationally revered filmmaker, moderated by yours truly, Tambay A. Obenson.
Below is the trailer for Grisgris.
The final nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014, with the Academy Awards ceremony scheduled to take place on March 2, 2014 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.