Even with what feels like a pretty solid frontrunner in The Zone of Interest from the UK, the International Feature Film category is chock full of gems and is super competitive this year.
At first glance it almost seems too easy – Zone, The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany), The Taste of Things (France), Society of the Snow (Spain), Fallen Leaves (Finland), The Peasants (Poland) – all have the reviews and the luster of Oscar contenders but too Euro-centric for the modern era of this category. We’ve certainly had several years where four of the five nominees were European (even last year) but you’d have to go all the way back to 1996 to find a year that was exclusively so. But for the next three months the predictions focus will be on the 15-film shortlist because that’s where we find our Yak in the Classrooms and Man Who Sold His Skins.
Looking to the current slate of submissions (73 as of this writing), whose deadline was October 2 but we’ll still have as many as 20 more before hitting our final number, we’ll travel to Central and South America, Central, East and South Asia, and Africa for contenders.
I mentioned Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom earlier, still one of the most inspired nominations ever here, and Bhutan could return with their latest submission The Monk and the Gun. Not quite as playful a title but possibly enough to warrant a closer look. Tunisia’s Four Daughters, one of a handful of documentaries submitted here as well, was well received at Cannes and could make the cut. Argentina and Mexico have very strong histories here, with seven and nine nominations respectively, and both have a good shot. Argentina, nominated last year, has The Delinquents, and Mexico, shortlisted last year for Bardo, has Tótem.
Africa continues to struggle having its films seen and recognized, with marginal improvements this last decade. Only two films from the continent have been nominated in the last 10 years (Tunisia’s The Man Who Sold His Skin from 2020 and Mauritania’s Timbuktu from 2014) and just a handful of made the shortlist. Incidentally, Senegal and Morocco have twice and both have submitted films that would make perfect sense and shortlisted selections. Senegal’s Banel & Adama from first time filmmaker Ramata-Toulaye Sy was in the official competition of this year’s Cannes Film Festival and Morocco’s The Mother of All Lies from Asmae El Moudir won her the Best Director prize from the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes this year.
Pakistan, Cambodia, Iran, Hong Kong, South Korea and India have made a dent in the shortlists recently, as well as Japan. Israel remains the most-nominated country without a win (10) but it hasn’t been on the shortlist since 2017 and hasn’t been nominated since 2011 and this year feels no different. I might keep my eye out for Jordan’s Inshallah a Boy. On its own as a country and a continent, Australia hasn’t had the best luck here. In 15 submissions it’s been nominated once (2016’s Tanna) and made the shortlist one other time (2009’s Samson & Delilah) but this could be their year. With Shayda, backed by Sony Pictures Classics, the World Cinema Audience Award winner at this year’s Sundance also landed at Toronto in September and will hit BFI London and AFI FEST by month’s end.
Two countries, Russia and Kosovo, have opted out of submitting this year. The drama of France selecting The Taste of Things over Anatomy of a Fall, both major Cannes winners, reverberated for a few days and while the country hasn’t won in over 30 years, its status as a contender is literally unbeatable – 40 nominations in 70 submissions, the record holder in both. It should have absolutely no problem adding to those numbers this season.
The Oscar shortlist for International Feature Film will be revealed on December 21, 2023. Oscar nominations will be announced on January 23, 2024 and the 96th Academy Awards will be held on March 10.
Here are my 2024 Oscar shortlist predictions in International Feature Film for October 2023.
- The Zone of Interest (UK)
- The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany)
- The Taste of Things (France)
- Shayda (Australia)
- The Monk and the Gun (Bhutan)
- Perfect Days (Japan)
- Society of the Snow (Spain)
- The Promised Land (Denmark)
- Tótem (Mexico)
- The Peasants (Poland)
- Banel & Adama (Senegal)
- The Settlers (Chile)
- Housekeeping for Beginners (North Macedonia)
- Fallen Leaves (Finland)
- Io Capitano (Italy)
Next up: 20 Days in Mariupol (Ukraine), Do Not Expect Much From the End of the World (Romania), Godland (Iceland), Inshallah a Boy (Jordan), The Mother of All Lies (Morocco), Rojek (Canada)
Other contenders: About Dry Grasses (Turkey), Amerikatsi (Armenia), Four Daughters (Tunisia), A Male (Colombia), The Night Guardian (Iran), Pictures of Ghosts (Brazil), Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Estonia)