Were the Year’s Best Foreign Films Were Snubbed by the Academy?

It came to my attention today that at least three of the most celebated foreign films of the year have been snubbed by the Academy this year.

Here’s a report from LA Weekly‘s Scott Foundas.

In their nine-title list of films that may win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, they completely ignored not only Cristian Mungiu’s internationally celebrated 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, but also the French animated feature Persepolis, and Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage.

I haven’t seen any of these three, so I’m happy to admit that I might be misinformed on what did or did not deserve to be selected. But based on the overwhelming praise for these three films, I’m very, very curious about the exclusion of this film.

Often, the Academy’s narrow rules end up excluding some of the year’s best films… movies that are sometimes far better than anything made by American filmmakers all year. For example, the beloved film by Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Blue, one of my favorite films of all-time, was disqualified on a technicality.

But this year, films that have been celebrated internationaly as landmark achievements, films that qualified within the rules (as far as I can tell), were overlooked for films that have hardly stirred any discussion amongst critics worldwide. What’s going on here? I’m open to hearing a reasonable explanation, but it certainly seems like the process should be reviewed and revised.

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  • petertchattaway

    Persepolis was also at a disadvantage because it is an animated film, and feature-length animated films have their own ghettoized category. Jerry Beck at Cartoon Brew has a list of all the animated films that were nominated by their countries for the Best Foreign Language Film award — and none of them were even nominated.


  • kenmorefield

    Of the three I’ve only seen Persepolis, which I liked (and admired) quite a bit.

    I think one partial explanation is something you posted about earlier this month; most people don’t like to watch foreign films.

    Any time the pool of voters making a decision is smaller, there is a risk of outcome appearing to be (or actually being) more capricious.

    I have no idea if this explanation is in play in the Academy voting, but I have heard some people at festivals say they are more inclined to use votes to try to get publicity and recognition for quality films that don’t yet have distribution than to go strictly with the “best” film.

    For that reason there can sometimes be a backlash (for lack of a better word) against films like Persepolis or 4 Months […] because there is a perception that they don’t need the extra help of a nomination to get noticed.

    In that sense, I may be more disappointed at the lack of a mention for Secret Sunshine or Silent Light, since I have friends who have been very enthusiastic about these two films and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait for DVD to see them.