The biggest Oscar news of the season came in last week when the Board of Governors of The Academy surprised everyone by announcing they had eliminated the executive committee ‘saves,’ as they’re sometimes called, in the International Feature Film category. On Thursday, the Academy released the official list of 93 eligible films in the IFF race.
Instead of a shortlist of 10 (which would have been comprised of seven general committee selections and three executive), we’ll now get 15, all general committee. The announcement came mere weeks before the Oscar shortlists in multiple categories, including IFF, are to be announced. The announcement was met largely with derision among film and Oscar fans alike, as most feel certain esoteric films and selections, and films from Africa and South America, have often made up the majority of the executive committee saves and without those voices we might be entering into an era of the populist picks.
The expansion of the category’s voting to the membership at large already ensured that the film most seen or recognized would be a likely winner, but now at the nominating stage, it seems that’s what we could see too.
Regardless, let’s take a look at the main contenders this season.
Denmark’s Another Round is the default frontrunner at the moment, having swept the European Film Awards and as the current critics’ awards favorite. But this is no Parasite year. A full 16 films have earned International/Foreign Language Film wins from critics this season, with one caveat: only about half of them are films officially submitted and representing a country.
For example, Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean immigrant drama Minari has the second most wins but is a US production and not South Korea’s representative. Brazil’s Bacurau earned wins from NYFCC and Boston Online critics and a Spirit Award nomination this week, but was a 2019 Brazilian release.
Speaking of the Spirit Awards, missing from that list was Another Round. Curious. What did make it in, however, are two films I’ve had in my top 10: Night of the Kings from Ivory Coast (backed by Neon, who had Parasite last year) and Quo Vadis, Aida? from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hungary’s official Oscar submission Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time also made the cut. The Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice will reveal their nominations next week but since they don’t adhere to the same strict rules as the Academy, it will likely only help shape the frontrunners less than give us insight on fringe contenders.
Here are my ranked 2021 Oscar predictions for International Feature Film for January.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – new entry this month
1. Another Round (Denmark)
2. Night of the Kings (Ivory Coast)
3. Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
4. Two of Us (France)
5. Dear Comrades! (Russia)
6. The Auschwitz Report (Slovakia)
7. I’m No Longer Here (Mexico)
8. Collective (Romania)
9. Charlatan (Czech Republic)
10. The Endless Trench (Spain)
11. Hope (Norway)
12. A Sun (Taiwan)
13. La Llorona (Guatemala)
14. This is Not a Burial, it’s a Resurrection (Lesotho)
15. You Will Die at Twenty (Sudan)
Other contenders: And Tomorrow the Entire World (Germany), Apples (Greece), Asia (Israel), Beginning (Georgia), Buladó (Netherlands), Gaza mon amour (Palestine), Jallikattu (India), The Mole Agent (Chile), My Little Sister (Switzerland), Never Gonna Snow Again (Poland), Notturno (Italy), Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Hungary), Sun Children (Iran), True Mothers (Japan), Vitalina Varela (Portugal)
Two of Us (France) image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures