‘Holy Spider’ and Other Interesting Updates to the Best International Feature Film – Blog
by Nathaniel R.
Many things to tell you today in the race for the best international feature film. We are only six days away from the deadline for countries to submit their representative film to the upcoming Oscars but we know one country that will not submit and that is Russia since they are boycotting us given which side we are on fall in their war against Ukraine.
We usually know most of the roster before this deadline due to press releases from around the world. But not at all. There are usually around 90 entries and we have 70 announced so far. You may recall that last year the Academy abandoned its (very good and transparent) tradition of releasing the full official list of submissions in early October. If they continue this year we won’t have an exact count for a while which is pretty sad because these movies need all the attention they can get and they only have a short window to get it since all but 10 of them will be shot down. December 21 when the shortlist is announced. Additionally, we thrive on stats and facts when we obsess over this niche window on world cinema and you can’t without the exact list. AGAIN, sorry for all the minutiae. There are quite a few new submissions/interesting facts to share with you after the jump…
🇩🇰 🇸🇪 HOLY SPIDER (Ali Abassi) / SKY BOY (Tarik Saleh)
Denmark (14 nominations, 4 wins and 2 additional finalists out of 59 submissions)
Sweden (16 nominations, 3 wins and 3 additional finalists out of 62 submissions)
Denmark and Sweden chose films set in the Middle East. holy spider (tested in Cannes) is about a journalist and a serial killer who preys on sex workers in Iran. sky boy (review at Cannes) is about a power struggle in an Islamic school. Ali Abassi, who had previously been submitted by Sweden for the 2018 film Border, was born in Iran but moved to Sweden in 2002. He is now submitted by Denmark for reasons we can only assume related to funding and team ? Tarik Saleh is Swedish but his father is Egyptian. Both submissions are a reminder of how Sweden and Denmark have changed culturally with their relatively welcoming borders over the decades. Before anyone gets mad, please note the word “relatively”. It’s all relative, of course, and like every country in the world, there are divisive policies around immigration everywhere, as well as swings of the pendulum in public opinion on these issues.
Utopia will come out holy spider in the United States but sky boy does not yet have distribution in the United States. Lots more about Denmark and Oscar here (Statistically speaking, it’s Oscar’s favorite country right now.)
🇦🇷 ARGENTINA, 1985
Argentina (7 nominations and 2 wins out of 49 submissions)
We once made a list that we are now trying to find in the archives of actors who have been in the most films submitted to this category from their home country. Ricardo Dárin would surely place now! This is Argentina’s 8th submission he has played in, including the nominees wild tales (2014), son of the bride (2001) and winner The secret in their eyes (2009). Elisa reviewed this in Venice and thinks it’s a crowd pleaser, but wasn’t personally impressed. This movie is coming soon to Amazon Prime.
🇬🇧 SAINT OMER (Alice Diop)
France (38 nominations, 9 wins and 3 additional finalists out of 68 submissions)
With this submission Alice Diop becomes the first black director submitted by France. On a totally different note, it’s worth noting that soon after France changed its bid committee to avoid Cannes having too much of a pull (after the committee chose to challenge the winner of the Palme Titanium on the accessible but also brilliant Event) they went with a Venice hit that’s shaping up to be a critical darling but might not be accessible enough for voters (just like last year). We don’t yet know how the Academy will react to this academically slow-moving courtroom drama about a heartbreaking infanticide case. But if Oscar does not kiss him, you will surely hear grumbling that France should have chosen the most accessible critical hit A nice morning, which they were also considering, instead. Still, having too many worthwhile films to choose from each year is a good problem to have and France almost always has it. Reviewed at TIFF by Abe and in Venice by Elisa. Saint Omer will be published by Super in the United States, although no date has yet been announced.
FEMALE DIRECTORS AND FRANCE. This is the second year in a row that they have chosen a female director to represent the country. Additionally, in the past two years, the two likely finalists were also women. Although they never sent their most famous female authors Claire Denis and Agnès Varda, they did a better job than many countries of honoring the women behind the camera. France sent a director for the first time in 1975 with Marguerite Duras India songand earned their first nomination for a female director with Diane Kurys Between us in 1983. Their other submissions in this regard were Funny and Sexy by Josiane Balasko French twist (1995), by Agnès Jaoui The taste of the others (2000, nominated), Daniele Thompson’s Mountain Avenue (2006, finalist), the magnificent animated adaptation by Marjane Satrapi Persepolis (2007), the restless inventive memoirs of Valérie Donzelli Declaration of war (2011), the excellent one by Denis Gamze Erguven Mustang (2015, nominated), and the strange and captivating by Julia Ducournau Titanium (2021)
🇭🇰WHERE THE WIND BLOWS (Philip Yung)
Hong Kong (3 nominations and 1 additional finalist out of 41 submissions)
TFE’s favorite Asian (male) movie star Aaron Kwok and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai headline this true-story crime drama about two corrupt cops in the 1960s. Oscar ignored Hong Kong is alarmingly influential, as the come drink with methe masterpiece love mood, and Hellish Affairs a mainstream success so gripping it inspired a Best Picture-winning remake, The dead and won Best Picture. We haven’t seen this one yet, but hopefully it’s a worthy submission.
Luxembourg (no results yet on 19 submissions)
Here is a very interesting statistic to conclude. 2022 erased a record in terms of the number of anime films submitted. Usually there is one… there may have been 2 in a year (it’s possible I forgot). This year, there are already four! Two animated documentaries (Armenia’s Aurora Sunrise and Canada eternal spring) and two narrative animated feature films with the image of the Kenyan superhero TeraStorm and this film based on Luxembourg’s Greek mythology.
Updated predictions here. In addition to the six films listed above, the following countries have also announced in recent days: Bangladesh, Bulgaria (they have changed horses), Estonia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Macedonia North, Norway and Peru.