Oscars International Entries Are Close to New Record, But Voters Can't See Them All Yet

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Oscars International Entries Are Close to New Record, But Voters Can’t See Them All Yet


91 different countries are known to have made submissions in the category, but at the moment only 30 of those films are available to voters in the Academy screening room

Even in a year in which worldwide theater closings made releasing movies difficult if not impossible, the Oscars race for Best International Feature Film is close to achieving a record number of entries.

With the deadline for submissions passing on Dec. 1, 90 countries have either announced their Oscar submissions or had those submissions reported in the press. One additional film, from Saudi Arabia, is in the Academy screening room devoted to the category.

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The 91 entries would be one shy of the record 92 films that competed in what was then called the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2017.

But we don’t know if additional countries beyond those 91 have submitted films but not made their selections public. Typically, a handful of countries fall into that category; nations that have entered films in at least four of the last five years but have not announced submissions this year are Afghanistan, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal and the United Kingdom.

Last year, Afghanistan’s entry was deemed ineligible because of questions about the legitimacy of the committee that submitted it. It’s also possible that some of this year’s 90 announced films will end up not qualifying, though the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee may well be unlikely to disqualify anything in a year of rule changes designed to accommodate the difficulty of releasing movies during a pandemic. (Still, there are submitted films with questions about release dates or the amount of English dialogue they contain.)

Normally, the Academy releases the list of qualifying films about a week after the submission deadline. But it was embarrassed last year when it unveiled a record list of 93 contenders and then had to backtrack when the Nigerian and Austrian entries were found not to qualify because their dialogue was more than 50% English.

This year, AMPAS will likely wait until late January, after the submissions have been fully vetted, to reveal the list of qualifying films. And while it would normally have contacted voters by now with a calendar of screenings for all the eligible films, with pandemic restrictions those screenings can’t take place. And as of mid-December, the Academy had only made 30 of the 90 films available in the members-only online screening room devoted to the international category, so those 30 are the only ones that have been officially announced.

“Additional films are currently being tested by our Quality Assurance team and will be released throughout the month of December,” said a Dec. 11 email from AMPAS to members who had volunteered to take place in phase-one voting. At that point, 16 films were in the screening room; on Dec. 17, an additional 14 were added.

Films that are so far missing from the international screening room include some of the most high-profile contenders, among them Greece’s “Apples,” Italy’s “Notturno,” Spain’s “The Endless Trench,” France’s “Two of Us” and Israel’s “Asia.”

In contrast to previous years in which first-round voting was restricted to Los Angeles-based members who attended screenings, this year’s initial round is open to all members anywhere in the world who view enough of the eligible films in the Academy screening room. (Last year, you had to see 12 to vote.)

Theoretically, that could enable far more people to vote in a category thought to have low participation, and it could skew the votes toward international voters rather than L.A.-based ones. But the lack of physical screenings, which doubled as social events and helped spread the buzz that would drive voters to see certain films, could depress voting among the SoCal stalwarts who made up the “general committee” and whose ballots choose seven of the 10 films on the category’s shortlist.

And with the full slate of eligible films appearing in the screening room on a staggered basis, will voters stick to a steady schedule of viewing even if the films they want to see aren’t on the platform yet? (Granted, the availability of films was even more spread out when they could only be seen at screenings.)

When the shortlist is announced on Feb. 9, sharp-eyed watchers of the category will probably be able to surmise whether the usual L.A. committee dominated the balloting or whether international voters took charge — but we won’t know whether the number of voters has increased or decreased in this unusual year, because the Academy doesn’t reveal that kind of thing.

Here is the list of films whose countries have announced their submissions. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee that a film will be deemed eligible, though in most years all but one or two make the cut. And while this list falls two shy of tying the record, it’s definitely possible that some stealth candidates will help 2020 set a new high.

TheWrap’s list of Best International Features Film contenders, with descriptions and links to trailers, is here.

Films that are in the AMPAS International Feature Film screening room are in bold.

Albania: Open Door
Algeria: Heliopolis
Argentina: The Sleepwalkers
Armenia: Songs of Solomon
Austria: What We Wanted
Bangladesh: Sincerely Yours, Dhaka
Belarus: Persian Lessons
Belgium: Working Girls
Bhutan: Luanana: A Yak in the Classroom
Bolivia: Chaco
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Quo Vadis, Aida?
Brazil: Babenco: Tell Me When I Die
Bulgaria: The Father
Canada: Funny Boy
Chile: The Mole Agent
China: Leap
Colombia: Forgotten We’ll Be
Costa Rica: Land of Ashes
Croatia: Extracurricular
Czech Republic: Charlatan
Denmark: Another Round
Dominican Republic: A State of Madness
Ecuador: Emptiness
Egypt: When We’re Born
Estonia: The Last Ones
Finland: Tove
France: Two of Us
Georgia: Beginning
Germany: And Tomorrow the Entire World
Greece: Apples
Guatemala: La Llorona
Hong Kong: Better Days
Hungary: Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Iceland: Agnes Joy
India: Jallikattu
Indonesia: Impetiogore
Iran: Sun Children
Ireland: Arracht
Israel: Asia
Italy: Notturno
Ivory Coast: Night of the Kings
Japan: True Mothers
Jordan: 200 Meters
Kazakhstan: The Crying Steppe
Kenya: The Letter
Kosovo: Exile
Kyrgyzstan: Running to the Sky
Latvia: Blizzard of Souls
Lebanon: Broken Keys
Lesotho: This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
Lithuania: Nova Lituania
Luxembourg: River Tales
Malaysia: Roh
Mexico: I’m No Longer Here
Montenegro: Breasts
Morocco: The Unknown Saint
Netherlands: Bulado
Nigeria: The Milkmaid
North Macedonia: Willow
Norway: Hope
Pakistan: Zingagi Tamasha
Palestine: Gaza, Mon Amour
Panama: Causa Justa
Paraguay: Killing the Dead
Peru: Song Without a Name
Philippines: Mindanao
Poland: Never Gonna Snow Again
Portugal: Listen
Romania: Collective
Russia: Dear Comrades!
Saudi Arabia: title TBD

Serbia: Dara in Jasenovac
Singapore: Wet Season
Slovakia: The Auschwitz Report
Slovenia: Stories From the Chestnut Woods
South Africa: Toorbos
South Korea: The Man Standing Next
Spain: The Endless Trench
Sudan: You Will Die at 20
Suriname: Wiren
Sweden: Charter
Switzerland: My Little Sister
Taiwan: A Sun
Thailand: Happy Old Year
Tunisia: The Man Who Sold His Skin
Turkey: Miracle in Cell No. 7
Ukraine: Atlantis
Uruguay: Alell
Uzbekistan: 2000 Songs of Farida
Venezuela: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
Vietnam: Dreamy Eyes

Steve Pond