The Oscars’ Most Political Category Needs a Rethink

The Oscars’ Most Political Category Needs a Rethink
Jack Quaid and Zazie Beetz announce this year’s nominees for the Best International Feature Film category of the 96th Oscars, in Beverly Hills, Jan. 23, 2024 (Sipa photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador via AP Images).

There are a handful of theories as to why “The Taste of Things” was chosen as France’s official submission for the Best International Feature Film category at this year’s Oscars ceremony, rather than the critically lauded “Anatomy of a Fall.” One is that France’s selection committee—a seven-person group overseen by the country’s National Cinema Center—thought the period drama might be more of a crowd-pleaser. Another is that the director of “Anatomy of a Fall,” Justine Triet, had angered members of the committee with some highly publicized political declarations in the months before the decision was made. Yet another is that the selection committee is partial to films that speak to French national identity.

Whatever the reason, the surprise decision meant that when the Oscar nominees were announced on Jan. 23, France did not hear its name called in the international feature category, where the winning film accepts the Oscar on behalf of its country. “Anatomy of a Fall” was nominated in five other categories, including Best Picture, but should it win in any of them, it will do so representing only those involved in creating it, not France. As a result, a country with so much national pride in its film industry will once again watch another country walk away with the international award, as it has done since 1992.

It is understandable to feel little sympathy for France for this predicament. After all, its selection committee is to blame, and in any case, the French film industry doesn’t exactly need the publicity that winning an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category would generate.

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