Earlier this year, but before the Academy Award cermonies, I wrote about how the Best Foreign Language Film submission process works and how I think it should change. Now, in proposing changes I was vague but made the point that the system is kind of broke and needs fixing.
To further examine this hypothesis this Oscar year, I will write two pieces. In this one, I’ll propose specifics and examine logistics of the proposed changes. Now, the main tenet of my argument is that some countries should be afforded additional submissions. Those additional submissions I believe should be awarded on a merit-based system. Again, this goes back vaguely to a FIFA-inspired system. The allocation of spots for each continent in the World Cup is partially influenced by size of the continent, but is more influenced by past results.
So with each echelon achieved more submissions will be afforded. The system will explain itself as it goes.
Here is a breakdown of the Oscar histories of the nations who have submitted a film for consideration in this year’s awards:
0 Nominations (32 Nations)
Nominated (7 Nations)
Multiple Nominations (8 Nations)
Israel (10 Nominations)
Poland (9 Nominations)
Mexico (9 Nominations)
Belgium (6 Nominations)
Greece (5 Nominations)
Brazil (4 Nominations)
Norway (4 Nominations)
India (3 Nominations)
China (2 Nominations)
Hong Kong (2 Nominations)
1 Win (9 Nations)
Austria (38 – Vienna Before the Fall; One Additional Nomination)
Bosnia (No Man’s Land)
Canada (The Barbarian Invasions; 5 Additional Nominations)
Czech Republic (Kolya – 2 wins and 3 nominations as Czechoslovakia)
Hungary (Mephisto; 7 Additional Nominations)
Germany (The Tin Drum; 7 Additional Nominations)
Japan (Departures; 11 Additional Nominations; 3 Honorary Awards Prior to Inception of Category)
South Africa (Tsotsi; 1 Additional Nomination)
Taiwan (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; 2 Additional Nominations)
2 Wins (2 Nations)
Argentina (The Secret in their Eyes, The Official Story; 2 Additional Nominations)
Switzerland (Journey of Hope, First Love; 3 Additional Nominations)
3 Wins (4 Nations)
Denmark (Babette’s Feast, Pelle the Conqueror, In a Better World; 5 Additional Nominations)
Netherlands (Assault, Character, Antonia’s Line; 4 Additional Nominations)
Spain (The Sea Inside, All About My Mother, La Belle Epoque; 15 Additional Nominations)
Sweden (Fanny & Alexander, Through a Glass Darkly, The Virgin Spring, 10 Additional Nominations)
France (My Uncle, Black Orpheus [Brazilian story/Portuguese dialogue, French production], Sundays at Cybele, A Man and a Woman, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouisie, Day For Night, Madame Rosa, Get Out Your Handekerchiefs, Indochine, 25 Additional Nominations, Three Honorary Awards Prior to Inception of Category)
La Stada, Nights of Cabiria, 8 1/2, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion; The Garden of Finzi Continis; Amarcord; The Legend of the Holy Drinker; Mediterraneo; Life is Beautiful; 19 Additional Nominations; 3 Honorary Awards Before the Inception of the Category)
Russia (Since fall of Communism)
4 Nominations; 1 Win
6 Nominations; 3 Wins
Totals: 4 wins, 10 Nominations
With all that information, here is the breakdown of how I would award submissions.
Nation with No Nominations– 1 Film
Nation with a Nomination– 2 Films
Nation with Multiple Nominations– 3 Films
Nation with a Win– 4 Films
Nation with Multiple Wins– 5 Films
Now, history provides a few quirks, and being fundamentally a progressive, I will choose not to carry over wins and nominations from prior nations to current ones. Therefore, Russia is awarded their quota of films based on Russia’s submission history and is not buoyed by the USSR’s wins. The same goes for The Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Continental Divide
With those statistics in mind, and keeping in mind my proposal that more viewers be brought into the selection process and be divvied up by region, here is an example of the viewing load that each section would have to take on. Now, I have also sub-divided Europe owing to the fact that there are many nominated and winning countries in the continent. This was also done to try to equalize the viewings among groups.
North America (4 Submitting Nations)
The screening load based on Canada winning and Mexico having multiple nominations with this group would be 9 films.
South America (7 submitting nations)
If Brazil as a multiple nominee was allowed 3 films, Argentina as a multiple-winner was allowed 5, and Peru as a past nominee was allowed 2; the South American viewing group would still only be seeing 12 total films.
South Africa (4)
Africa’s viewing group would screen 9 films.
This viewing group would have 7 films.
This group would view 23 films.
Bosnia & Herzegovina (4)
Czech Republic (4)
75 Films maximum from Europe.
To alleviate viewer load geographical subdivisions would be necessary.
Scandanavia & Benelux (Sweden, Norway, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)- 19 Films
Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bosnia & Herzogovina, Slovenia)- 21 films
Western Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Iceland)- 16 Films
Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic)- 19 films
In spite of giving many nations additional submissions, the increase of films is not quite as drastic as expected. The 2012 submissions, if countries maximized their quotas, would be 125 as opposed 71. I fully expected to double the field.
I’d revamp the initial and final round scoring system. Films scoring above a 7.5 would be eligible for the next phase, and I’d also increase the scoring scale from 7 to 10 to 1 to 10. Only the highest scoring film from each nation with multiple submissions would be eligible for the next phase.
Let’s assume 2/3 of the field beats the score threshold, meaning about 83 films. Then assume that half those films are eliminated as multiples, you’re at 41 or 42 after the first phase.
At this point, I’d carry over the scores and have the remaining films screened for those who had not yet seen them. Scores could then be tabulated for the remaining candidates, and the shortlist would be determined.
Once the shortlist is determined, screeners go out the membership votes, and the nominees are decided based on that.
Is this system perfect? No, and there could be tweaks to the quotas and viewership logistics I’m sure I’m not considering. However, increasing the number for some countries above one can alleviate many issues in the selection process within those individual nations. What problems are those? I’ll get some support for my hypotheses regarding that in tomorrow’s post.
Wow, this is an amazing post. Really love the in depth analysis you’ve done, and the World Cup feel of this idea.
All in all, I think that it’s pretty fair, but too complicated of a system, to ever be adopted by the Academy.
Thanks for the kind words. I agree it’s very idealistic and radical, thus unlikely. But since I only did one vague post about it, offering only issues, I figured I’d get a little solution oriented with this one.