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The deadline for countries around the world to notify the Academy of their submission for this year’s best foreign language film Oscar race arrived on Wednesday. While some of those decisions have not yet been shared with the public — for instance, people are still anxiously waiting to learn what China entered — more than 60 have been. And looking over that list, one thing became strikingly clear: May’s Cannes Film Festival, which did not produce an awful lot of narrative Oscar contenders this year — really just Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner and The Homesman — did produce a stunning and possibly unprecedented number of foreign-language Oscar contenders.
Indeed, of the 38 films that screened on the Croisette in competition or as part of the Un Certain Regard section, many of which weren’t even in a language other than English, nine — Argentina’s Wild Tales, Belgium’s Two Days, One Night, Canada’s Mommy, France’s Saint Laurent, Hungary’s White God, Mauritania’s Timbuktu, Russia’s Leviathan, Sweden’s Force Majeure and Turkey’s Winter Sleep, all of which debuted at the fest — are now their nation’s official Oscar submission. That’s nearly one-quarter of the group! And if China ends up submitting Zhang Yimou‘s Coming Home (which screened at the fest out of competition), as it is widely expected to do, then it will be more than one-quarter!
How did this happen?
Well, Cannes does always get the pick of the litter: It is where just about every strong non-English-language film (not to mention many English-language films) hopes to premiere. Why? Because it’s the most prestigious and glamorous film festival in the world, to be sure, but also because the films that do get chosen to show there receive a huge amount of exposure, not having to compete with very many other films for the spotlight, and by their very association with the festival are regarded in a different light than they otherwise would be. Cannes also demands that the films it accepts in competition and in its Un Certain Regard section not screen anywhere else beforehand, which further increases the likelihood that top international films will first be seen along the Croisette.
But a Cannes premiere far from guarantees an Oscar submission (2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color was not submitted by France this year, when it was eligible) or Oscar success (two other recent Palme winners, Thailand’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, from 2010, and Romania’s Four Months, Three Weeks, 2 Days, from 2007, were submitted by their countries but not even nominated by the Academy).
All of which is to say that this year’s overlap is pretty remarkable.
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