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How to Pick a Foreign Oscar Entry?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 6, 2014 at 12:41PM

Certain countries over the decades have done better with foreign Oscar nominations. Italy and France lead the field with the most Oscar wins.
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Oscars
Certain countries over the decades have done better with foreign language Oscar wins. Italy and France lead the field with the most Oscars. (Italy's "The Great Beauty" won this year, Austria's "Amour" the year before.) And they've landed the most nominations, too. (See chart below.)


The trick with getting nominated--the Oscar is prized around the world--is for the country to choose the right movie to appeal to Academy voters' tastes. But most Oscar entries are chosen by some government cultural body that is often concerned about representing the country, or gets caught in internal politics. Some make no attempt to worry about the outside world: Israel always submits the winner of its Academy Award-equivalent, the Ophirs.

Some have suggested changing the rules so that the Oscar submission for each country was the film that earned the most prizes at film festivals. By that measure India's "the Lunchbox"--which became an indie hit stateside--might have landed on the shortlist over official submission "The Good Road." But the Academy prefers to let each country submit their choice.

So will Russia, whose government has close ties to its film industry, submit critically-hailed Cannes best-screenplay winner "Leviathan," which is overtly critical of Russian government corruption? Poland will certainly go with critics' favorite and sleeper hit "Ida," which will certainly score with year-end critics' groups. Germany had three selections in the Cannes competition this year, including Grand Prix winner "The Wonders," but all were co-productions. Palme d'Or-winner "Winter Sleep," for example, will likely be submitted by director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's home country, Turkey. 

Here's how it works in Germany. Producers submit films for consideration as the German entry for Oscars. The official submission is chosen by an annually appointed selection committee of independent representatives from nine associations and institutions (see list below). This year the screenings of the selections for this independent jury are held in Munich on August 26 and 27th 2014, at which point they will pick the official German submission. (Missing from the list is Christian Petzold's anticipated follow-up to "Barbara," also starring Nina Hoss, "Phoenix," which premieres at Venice/Toronto but won't open within the eligible time frame.) 

The following titles were submitted by German producers:

 
  • HOME FROM HOME – CHRONICLE OF A VISION by Edgar Reitz (DE/FR, ERF Edgar Reitz Filmproduktion)
  • BELOVED SISTERS by Dominik Graf (Bavaria Filmverleih- und Produktion)
  • FINSTERWORLD by Frauke Finsterwalder (Walker + Worm Film)
  • HANNA'S JOURNEY by Julia von Heinz (DE/IL, 2 Pilots Filmproduction)
  • IM WEISSEN RÖSSL – WEHE DU SINGST by Christian Theede (Ziegler Film)
  • STATIONS OF THE CROSS by Dietrich Brüggemann (UFA Fiction)
  • RUN BOY RUN by Pepe Danquart (DE/FR, bittersuess pictures, A Company Filmproduktion, B.A. Produktion, Quinte Film)
  • THE LAST MENTSCH by Pierre-Henri Salfati (Elsani Film)
  • STEREO by Maximilian Erlenwein (Frisbeefilms, Kaissar Film, Wild Bunch Germany)
  • WEST by Christian Schwochow (zero one film, TERZ Film, öfilm, Senator Film Produktion)
  • WE’RE THE NEW PEOPLE by Ralf Westhoff (Ralf Westhoff Filmproduktion, DRIFE – Deyle & Richter Filmproduktion)
  • WHOAMI by Baran Bo Odar (Wiedemann & Berg Film)
  • WOLFSKINDER by Rick Ostermann (Zum Goldenen Lamm Filmproduktion)
  • AGE OF CANNIBALS by Johannes Naber (Studio.tv.film)
  • INBETWEEN WORLDS by Feo Aladag (Independent Artists Filmproduktion, Geißendörfer Film- und Fernsehproduktion)
By the following representatives:
 
  • Association of German Film Producers: Michel Morales
  • German Producers Alliance / Cinema Section: Peter Herrmann
  • Association of German Film Exporters: Philipp Menz
  • Association of German Film Distributors: Oliver Koppert
  • German Cinema Owners Association: Elisabeth Kuonen-Reich
  • German Film Critics Association: Dunja Bialas
  • German Society of Cinematographers: Jost Vacano
  • Bundesverband der Film- und Fernsehregisseure in Deutschland e.V.: Dagmar Hirtz
  • German Film Academy: Sherry Hormann

Which one will they pick? Our best guess: Germany's well-received Berlin entry, "Stations of the Cross," which won the Silver Bear for best screenplay. The announcement of the five foreign language films nominated for the Oscar will be made on 15 January 2015, with the awards show on February 22, 2015 in the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

The top ten countries for foreign language Oscar wins:

  1. Italy: 14 wins out of 31 nominations and 64 submissions
  2. France: 12 wins out of 39 nominations and 64 submissions
  3. Spain: 4 wins out of 19 nominations and 57 submissions
  4. Japan: 4 wins out of 12 nominations and 60 submissions
  5. Sweden: 3 wins out of 14nominations and 52 submissions
  6. Denmark: 3 wins out of 10 nominations and 51 submissions
  7. The Soviet Union: 3 wins out of 9 nominations and 24 submissions
  8. The Netherlands: 3 wins out 7 nominations and 46 submissions
  9. Germany: 2 wins out of 9 nominations and 23 submissions
  10. Czechoslovakia: 2 wins out of 6 nominations and 23 submissions
 

This article is related to: Oscars, Awards, Awards, Academy Awards, Festivals, Festivals, Cannes, Cannes Film Festival


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.