Similar to the first installment of this piece there was one nation where I got a more rounded, abundant reaction. However, I still didn’t have near the sample size as I did with Brazil. Therefore, I wanted to test the waters and get samples from around the world about the foreign film submissions from my Twitter friends’ respective countries. Even with fewer reactions, and fewer characters with which to glean and convey information, I still got some interesting insights that furthers my hypothesis that limiting a nation to one film submission to the Oscars for consideration can cause issues. Some of these reactions point to aforementioned stumbling blocks, some are new. As is the case with Brazil’s selection, I have not had the chance to see the films that have been submitted on behalf of the nations listed below. I will attempt to see as many of them as I can. Also, I realize that some of these opinions may venture into more perception than reality, but that’s kind of the point. There is a threshold where perception becomes reality and behind every cynicism is some truth, so these opinions do highlight flaws in the system.
Sweden’s is a case I alluded to in my prior commentary and review about Simon and the Oaks, so I was glad to get the kind of feedback I did there. Sweden’s official selection is The Hypnotist by Lasse Hallström. The general reaction I got from the handful of people who ended up commenting was that it was a weak choice. In fact, the notion I had in mind when formulating the “reputation of the director” question was echoed here. What prompted me to write that question was the conventional wisdom of ‘Oh, well, so-and-so directed it so it has to be selected.” The reactions to the the film itself were mixed to negative, as was the perception of its choice, and chances of making a dent on the nominees list. I also saw in this selection a reflection of a common theme with a award shows in the US, wherein the film was submitted to the Academy but hadn’t premiered, which is not dissimilar from press screenings of late-December releases that are up for awards before a vast majority of moviegoers have gotten a chance to see it. If these comments are any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Brazil or Sweden missing out on the shortlist. More tellingly they seem to play out scenarios and ill-feelings that would be alleviated by additional selections.
Canada, and the next section, are in this list for a few reasons. So far as Canada goes, I have a lot of Twitter contacts there, and it’s important to note that none I asked had seen War Witch at the time I asked. Quite a few heard of it and wanted to, some went on to learn of its fairly impressive festival run to date. So again you have, at least based on a small sampling, an underseen film, which would benefit from Oscar attention. I don’t necessarily think that it represents a language barrier (That is, however, a selection concern for many nations where multiple languages and/or dialects are spoken), as the film was only playing in Vancouver when I asked.
The difference between the answers I got from two contacts in Chile and the myriad I have in Canada is that the Chileans were both well aware of No, it has been well-received and they intended on seeing it.
When asking a contact in France I got very interesting and honest feedback regarding The Intouchables, which I missed over the summer. He believed it a worthy selection for many reasons, but also added that it was “the most Weinsteinable,” which, of course, refers to the Weinstein Company who are not only Award forces but purveyors of ‘gateway’ foreign film selections.
Lastly, I asked a huge foreign film watcher my question. The answer was qualified by not having seen sufficient titles from any country to make definitive statements, but he did cite both France and Denmark as countries that had stronger films in his estimation that could’ve been submitted. In the end, the point of this exercise is not to definitively approve or condemn a film selection. It has been to gather information from those who have seen said film(s) and are familiar with the machinations of their nation’s film industry. In doing so I hoped and think I have illustrated that there are issues with the system at current that would be alleviated by allowing for additional submissions. If you were to introvert the Oscar screening process, that is to say, were I to only stick to Oscar nominees I never would’ve discovered Le Grand chemin, and if it wasn’t self-evident by now, my personal awards (The BAM Awards) do not have a limiter. However, as I’ve stated with many synonyms this plan is an interesting academic exercise, somewhat impractical, and unlikely to be implemented in any way shape or form. Therefore, what can we take from all this? If nothing else, it’s that whether there’s a cinema that we’re close to personally, either through relations or by aesthetic appreciation, we should try to get to know it more fully. Rather than just debating and griping about the film it submits to the Oscars, have another immediately in mind, or better yet know and appreciate that cinema well enough to not care what the submission is, but just think of that as a bonus. Should the country you call home, home away from home, or whose films you enjoy gets nominated; that’s great. If it does not, you can still watch all its other great films.
I think the entire process is flawed beyond hope. There’s just too much local and global politics involved for this category to be a true competition of the best. Add to that the fact that there has only been one winner since La vita e bella in 1998 that I agree with, and that was last year’s A Separation. But I still find it to be an enjoyable yearly exercise. Especially with regards to seeing the various entries from countries that don’t have significant film industries.