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How to Score a Foreign Language Oscar Nomination

As the Oscar race slowly starts building up, so countries have been submitting their films for consideration into the best foreign language category.

South Africa hasn’t had a nominee in this category since Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi won it in 2006. This year, a film shot entirely in the language of Venda has been selected by the local committee, for consideration. It needs to make the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ long-list and then short-list to become one of the 5 nominees.

Elelwani (which means ‘to remember’ or ‘recall’) was made in 2012, but released in January 2014. It earned Florence Masebe, a well-known TV star taking on her first film feature role, a Best Actress win at the Africa Movie Academy Awards. Directed by Ntshavheni wa Lurulithe, the film is based on a book written by Dr Titus Ntsieni Maumela, who was a teacher in the 1950s.

There are already some strong contenders – from Argentina’s Wild Tales (made up of 5 impeccably-directed vignettes) to Sweden’s moral dramedy Force Majeure, which have become festival favourites. They were certainly among my most-enjoyed films from this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Mommy, which I saw at Toronto, by Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, is by far one of my best films of the year and has been selected by Canada for its submission. While also at Toronto last month, I kept hearing such positive things about Leviathan, which won Best Screenplay at Cannes earlier this year, and is Russia’s submission, even though its been reported the Russian Ministry of Culture, which funded the film, didn’t like its criticism of the current regime.

The deadline was October 1st, and in January next year, the long-list will be announced. After that, two committees, one in LA and one in New York, will vote to determine the five nods to be made public along with all the other nominees that will be announced come January 15th. For a more thorough look into the films, read Scott Weinberg’s column over at The Hollywood Reporter.

Last year the Academy chose Italy’s The Great Beauty as its winner – a well-deserving honour for a film that is breathtaking in its visual style yet edgy in its commentary about Italian culture at present. Perhaps not being too gentle on one’s home country helps in the Oscar race, and in turn, gaining a little sliver of the Hollywood spotlight for a local film industry.

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