How a More International Oscars Could Change Awards Season

Following multiple nominations for “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest,” industry insiders are excited for more “international” Academy Awards.

“The Oscars have been opening up to international filmmakers in recent years. I am happy to be one of them,” says Kaouther Ben Hania, nominated for doc “Four Daughters.”

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“The Academy has made efforts to diversify its membership and nominations, leading to increased recognition for films from around the world. The expansion of categories like international feature film — formerly foreign-language film — and the inclusion of more international voices in other categories demonstrate a growing appreciation for global cinema,” Ben Hania adds.

“Let’s hope this becomes a trend, as audiovisual productions are increasingly global not only in their themes but also in their production models, which involve various countries for financing, artistic talents and technical expertise,” says Gabriela Sandoval, producer and president of Chile’s Assn. of Film and Television Producers. She cites Pablo Larraín’s “El Conde,” which landed a cinematography nomination, and “Society of the Snow,” which landed an international feature nom and a makeup and hairstyling nomination, as examples.

“I don’t think it’s a ‘trend’ — at least, I hope so,” says Ben Hania, stressing it’s “crucial” for the Academy, and the film community, to continue advocating for diverse voices and perspectives, ensuring the Oscars remain open to international filmmakers for years to come. “With a more diverse membership, they can better reflect the global landscape of filmmaking and recognize a broader range of talent. This inclusivity not only enhances the credibility and relevance of the awards but also promotes cultural exchange and understanding.”

For the first time, two international foreign-language movies have been nominated for best picture, while all noms for documentary feature film are for non-English-language films.

“Maite Alberdi achieving her second nomination with ‘The Eternal Memory’ [following “The Mole Agent”] is a milestone, especially considering such strong competition. Winning would be doubly historic, marking the first time a female director and a Chilean documentary take home the award,” says Sandoval.

But, as pointed out by Daniela Elstner, executive director of French cinema lobbying body Unifrance, the change didn’t just happen overnight.

“‘Parasite’ was a big game-changer. Suddenly, a non-English-language film had so many nominations and actually did win. I was at the ceremony that year and we all felt it, and then the pandemic came. We are realizing it only now because, for a while, the world just wasn’t the same,” Elstner says.

According to Sandoval, the shift in question has also been reflected in productions like “Past Lives,” directed by Korean-Canadian Cecile Song and featuring Korean dialogue.

In the Academy’s view, a more international voting body helps change the global cultural conversation around film and better represent the film community. At the moment, more than 10,500 total members represent more than 75 countries and territories, while 20% of Academy members are from countries or territories outside the U.S. More international members are to come, with the organization actively seeking them out. As a result, a growing international presence is bound to make awards season more global — as well as establish a global film community of the future.

That being said, the quality of this year’s nominees is also not to be downplayed, says Elstner.

“Oscars are American, but this world is opening up and it’s a real opportunity for our cinema. If you nail it down, and the German minister of culture said it at the opening in Berlin [at the film festival], cinema is all about stories and telling each other these stories is more important than anything for our world today,” Elstner concludes.

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