Three female directors among possible selections that could end 30 years of drought

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France has been a supreme force in the international Oscar feature film race for decades. This year, three acclaimed films by directors – Céline Sciamma, Audrey Diwan and Julia Ducournau – would top the list to represent the country at the 94th ceremony on March 27. the most nominated country in the history of the category, it has not walked away with the award for almost 30 years. Can that change this year?

The French candidacy is decided annually by the National Center of Cinema. The committee will hold its first meeting on Thursday to shortlist a shortlist of films, with producers being “auditioned” by the committee on October 12, before the final choice is made. Sciamma’s “Petite Maman”, Ducournau’s “Titane” and Diwan’s “Happening” are considered favorites. “Happening” has just been acquired by IFC Films and Film Nation while “Petite Maman” and “Titane” are distributed by Neon. In addition, “Titane” won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The award was also given to Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” in 2019, before that film became the first foreign language film to win the Best Picture award. IFC also released “Blue is the Hottest Color” (2013), which was not selected as an Oscar submission from France in its respective year, despite winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

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This year, the French committee added four new members to its roster – Oscar winner Florian Zeller (“Le Père”), Oscar nominee Julie Delpy, Émilie Georges (CEO of Memento International) and Grégory Chambet (co -founder at the head of WTFilms). They join institutional Thierry Frémaux (director of the Cannes Film Festival), Serge Toubiana (president of Unifrance) and Véronique Cayla (co-president of the Académie des César).

In recent memory, I can’t recall that three film projects led by women were the pioneers in representing the country, especially in three radically different genres.

“Ongoing” - Credit: Courtesy of Wild Bunch

“Happening” – Credit: Courtesy of Wild Bunch

Courtesy of Wild Bunch

“Happening” had its world premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion, one of five women to have won since 1949. “The second feature film by Audrey Diwan is the latest in a series of harsh and emotionally intelligent art films frankly dealing with the subject of access to abortion, ”Guy Lodge wrote in his Variety review.

Ducournau also made history by becoming the second director to win the Palme d’Or (after Jane Campion met Chen Kaige for “The Piano” in 1993). How could France not want such a historic achievement to represent its mother tongue? “Happening” and “Titane” enter the awards circuit with solid accolades. However, an awards strategist shares that Diwan’s film “is the safest choice for France.”

“Titane”, which features two exceptional tours by Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon, is a genre play with Neon’s Tom Quinn calling its screenwriter and director “the future of cinema”. Disturbing imagery can be difficult for the more laid-back, conservative members of the Academy who choose to participate in the process, but they may be open to bold new voices.

The truth is that the French have not particularly accepted projects led by women in the rewards space. “Declaration of War” by Valérie Donzelli (2011) is the last film directed by a woman to represent France, which ultimately failed to make the shortlist of nine films. France is the only country to have submitted a film each year since the creation of the category, with 65 films submitted, with 38 nominations and nine award-winning feature films (“Mon uncle” in 1958, “Black Orpheus” in 1959, “Sundays and Cybèle ”in 1962,“ A man and a woman ”in 1966,“ The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie ”in 1972,“ Le jour pour la nuit ”for 1973,“ Madame Rosa ”in 1977,“ Take out your handkerchiefs ”in 1978 and “Indochine” in 1992). The cinephile country also received three honorary awards before the introduction of the category in 1956 for “Forbidden Games” (1952), “The Walls of Malapaga” (1950) and “Monsieur Vincent” (1948).

In the history of the international feature films category, only eight female directors have represented France:

  • Valerie Donzelli
    “Declaration of War” (2011) – not nominated

  • Marjane Satrapi (co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud)
    “Persepolis” (2007) – not nominated

  • Danielle Thompson
    “Avenue Montaigne” (2006) – made the shortlist

  • Agnes Jaoui
    “The taste of others” (2000) – nominated

  • Josiane Balasko
    “French Twist” (1995) – not nominated

  • Coline Serreau
    “Three men and a cradle” (1985) – nominated

  • Diane kurys
    “Between Us” (1983) – nominated

  • Marguerite Duras
    “India Song” (1975) – not nominated

No woman has ever won the international feature film for France, so how did it go? Sciamma’s latest film, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019), garnered critical and public acclaim and won the Queer Palm at Cannes, in addition to several other notable names including the Golden Globes and BAFTA . But the committee chose instead “Les Misérables” by Ladj Ly, which received an Oscar nomination.

“Little Mum” - Credit: Berlin Film Festival

“Little Mum” – Credit: Berlin Film Festival

Berlin Film Festival

Several sources have shared that Sciamma has not been appreciated in her homeland throughout her career, as evidenced by her other acclaimed works that have not been chosen before, such as “My Zucchini Life” (2016) and “Girlhood” (2014). So, are they keen to catch up after the snub for “Portrait”, or is the savvy activist’s speculation true, and there is no chance for “Little Mum” to find ground?

Countries can often shock the rewards landscape. Spain, who recently decided to submit Fernando León de Aranoa’s “The Good Boss” in place of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers”, has been quite impressive.

“Benedetta” - Credit: courtesy of Pathé;

“Benedetta” – Credit: Courtesy of Pathé

Courtesy of Pathé

Other preselection rumors include Jacques Audiard’s dramatic comedy “Paris, 13th arrondissement”, “Lost Illusions” by Xavier Giannoli, based on Honoré de Balzac, premiered in competition in Venice, and the graphic drama of lesbian nuns by Paul Verhoeven. , “Benedetta”. Verhoeven represented the country with “Elle” (2016) but failed to be nominated, although its lead actress Isabelle Huppert was recognized. Others should be considered, notably the documentary “We” by Alice Diop and the drama “Everything Went Fine” by François Ozon.

Members of the Academy choose to watch and vote for the international candidacy, which saw its highest class of consideration from 93 countries last year, which saw Denmark’s “Another Round” for Best Director nominee Thomas Vinterberg to win the statuette. Preliminary voting for the list of international feature films begins December 10-15, with the remaining 15 films announced on December 21.

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