In this week’s analysis, we look at two films which some pundits are considering as longshots for an Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination while others have a bit more faith in, given how straightforward their narrative is, and given how they appeal to different voter sensibilities. Let’s take a look.
We saw this film at the BFI London Film Festival with its director John Trengove in attendance. The film is a powerful drama that is probably more accessible than many are giving it credit. It’s artsy but also straightforward and the narration is strong and memorable. We believed in its potential ever since then and knew it would make the shortlist.
- Save or popular choice? Popular – despite arguments that it may have been an executive committee choice because it’s too African or the fact it’s an LGBTQ film. Here’s the thing: it’s true voters generally do not turn to African films and African/Asian stories remain under-represented in the FLF category, but how can we forget recent cases such as TIMBUKTU, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, TANNA and THEEB? They are films that flew under the radar but voters ended liking them. And with the exception of SERPENT (which is very artsy), we’d argue the other 3 were popular votes. THE WOUND fits in the ‘exotic/discovery’ category which AMPAS really appreciates and coupled with a deeply affecting story (with a ‘Moonlight’ touch), we think it was a popular vote.
- Why AMPAS liked it: Besides its memorable scenes, it’s a film that surprises you. Most voters probably knew nothing of South Africa’s initiation practices, and like TIMBUKTU, TANNA and THEEB, this is a film that pulls you in a world you don’t get to often see on screen. Of course not all FLF films that do that click with voters (see this year’s MEN DON’T CRY or MY PURE LAND as examples), but if you do that and add a really compelling narrative, timely and important themes and most importantly characters you care for, you’re more in than out in this category.
- If it earns a nom, it’s because: It’s a rare from Africa that’s really universal in its impact. Regardless your background, you’ll connect with it and appreciate its storytelling and craft. It’s also important, timely and most importantly will make voters feel good about themselves voting for a film that champions LGBTQ issues and deservingly adds diversity to the race. THE WOUND will not make the top 5 because it’s an LGBT or an African film, however, it will make it because of its quality. But these other factors help more than hurt.
- Will it make the final 5? We believe voters will want to support this film with a certain urgency.
- Final verdict/our prediction: IN.
We saw this film at the Cannes Film Festival at its first press screening. We knew this film would be an AMPAS player back then, and when we started the FLF analysis series in September, we remarked how this is one of the most interesting films to watch in the race. Critics didn’t care for it that much – but the industry loves it.
- Save or popular choice? Popular for sure. It has the fireworks, the melodrama and the importance to have been right up there among voters’ big favorites. It’s just a film that has everything they love – and Diane Kruger’s aggressive campaigning for it did help it get noticed among voters.
- Why AMPAS liked it: It’s a film that’s very straightforward and Kruger gives it an powerful emotional impact. It doesn’t pretend it’s anything it isn’t, and just goes on with the story with all the fireworks, plate-smashing court scenes and the ‘importance’ tag during the film and splashes it at the end credits just to be sure. So it checks all boxes when it comes to this category.
- If it earns a nom, it’s because: It’s probably going to be one of the easiest watches for voters. We need to remember that the FLF voters will watch 3 films every day starting Jan 12 until the 14th. The more accessible the film is, the more it will play better to a tired voter who has to digest three films per day.
- Will it make the final 5? We don’t think so despite all the strengths of the film. This is not to say it won’t have its share of supporters among AMPAS voters, but there will be more urgent films that will likely take its spot. It will remain a strong dark horse, and we’d absolutely rank it a strong 6th or 7th at worst. If there are upsets, it may because FADE is not fading from voters’ memories – and hearts – as expected. Will it be undeniable? We don’t think so. But is it a weak contender? No. It made the HFPA and BFCA nominations before heavyweights such as FOXTROT (snubbed in HFPA) and LOVELESS (snubbed in BFCA).
- Final verdict/our prediction: OUT.
Summary of our predictions so far (in 3 articles):
- THE WOUND
- ON BODY AND SOUL
- IN THE FADE