Oscars: France Selects 'Les Miserables' for International Feature Film Category

Les Misérables - TIFF - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of TIFF

Ladj Ly's drama, a modern-day update of the French classic, won the Jury Prize in Cannes.

France has selected Ladj Ly's Les Miserables, as its official submission for the Best International Feature category to the 92nd Academy Awards.

The modern-day update of the Victor Hugo classic, Les Miserables premiered in Cannes this year, where it won the Jury Prize. The film beat out the other two titles on France's Oscar shortlist this year: Celine Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which won the Best Screenplay award in Cannes, and Alice Winocour's Proxima, starring Eva Green and Matt Dillon, which just premiered in Toronto.

Oscar-winner Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Spy was conspicuously left of the list, despite winning the Silver Lion in Venice earlier this month. But it boosts the chances of the French submission advancing through the nomination process, as it would be unlikely for the Academy to select the controversial director. Polanski, who was convicted of statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1978 but fled the country before sentencing, was expelled from the Academy last year and cannot travel to the U.S. He is currently suing the Academy over his expulsion.

This year's committee consisted of its three permanent members Cannes head Thierry Fremaux, UniFrance president Serge Toubiana, and French Academy president Alain Terzian, who were joined by industry insiders producers Rosalie Varda and Jean Brehat, sales agents Agathe Valentin and Muriel Sauzay, and directors Daniele Thompson (Avenue Montagne) and Pierre Salvadori (The Trouble With You). It marked the first year the committee expanded to nine with more industry representation, up from the previous six.

To qualify for selection, the films needed to have a French theatrical release between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019. However, a new rule, instituted this year, allowed for special seven-day qualifying screenings to count toward eligibility.

France is one of the most successful nations at the Oscars in what used to be called the Best Foreign Language category. It has a record 40 Oscar nominations and a total of 11 wins in the category, topped only by Italy's 14 Oscars (from 31 nominations). Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist won the Oscar for best picture in 2012, but was not submitted in the foreign-language category.

The last French Oscar nominee was Deniz Gamze Erguven's Mustang in 2015. But the last time the country took home the best foreign-language trophy was with the Catherine Deneuve-starrer Indochine 25 years ago.

The 92nd Academy Awards will be announced Feb. 9, 2020.