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« "True Lies" at 25 | Main | Retcon this, link »
Friday
Jul122019

It Begins. Algeria submits "Papicha" for the Oscars

by Nathaniel R

We were waiting to see which European country would be first to announce before publishing our famous Oscar submission pages. But an African country surprised us by being first up to bat. Word is in that Algeria will submit Papicha as their Oscar entry this year.

Papicha centers on a teenager (her nickname being the title) who dreams of being a fashion designer despite conservative bans. The film, a debut from the 41 year-old director Mounia Meddour, premiered at Cannes. No word yet on US distribution. This is the second consecutive submission from Algeria by a female director. Only two previous women have been submitted by Algeria: Yamina Bachir (Rachida, 2002) and later her daughter Yasmine Chouikh (Until the End of Time, 2018) 

Papicha's trailer, and more on Algeria, Africa, and the Oscar race after the jump...

African cinema has been largely ignored by the Academy over the years for we think three primary reasons. First, the continent's most prolific spot for cinema is Nigeria and "Nollywood," as its known, largely produces English language films which means they can't be submitted in this category (The Academy changed the title of the category from "Best Foreign Language Film" to "Best International Film" just this year but the restriction that the films can't be predominantly English remains in place). Second, apart from Egypt (33 submissions, no nominations), Morocco (14 submissions, 1 finalist but no nominations)  and South Africa (15 submissions, 2 nominations, and an additional 2 finalists that weren't nominated), and Algeria (which we'll get to in a minute) no African countries submit to the category on an annual basis --- and you can't be nominated if you don't submit. Lastly, though not unimportantly, Oscar's taste in international film definitely runs to the European as Latin American countries and Asian countries submit with great regularity but (mostly) struggle to secure nominations.

Over the years though Algeria has proven the exception to the rule in terms of Oscar ignoring Africa, helped surely by its close but tense former-colony ties with France. 

Algeria's Nominees
Algeria has submitted 21 times over the years with 5 nominations and 1 win to date.

Jean-Louis Trintignant (Cannes winner Best Actor for "Z") . Trintignant has been the star of 3 winners in the Foreign Film Category: A Man and a Woman (1966), Z (1969) and Amour (2012).

  • 1969 ★ "Z" (Costa Gavras)
    "Z" was nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture and won two: Film Editing and Foreign Film. It was only the second foreign language film ever nominated for Hollywood's top prize and the first nominated for Best Picture after the creation of the Foreign Film category. It was also the first African film ever nominated.
  • 1983 Le Bal (Ettore Scola) 
  • 1995 Dust of Life (Rachid Bouchareb)
  • 2006 Days of Glory (Rachid Bouchareb) 
  • 2010 Outside the Law (Rachid Bouchareb) 

Bouchareb is their most Oscar-submitted director, with six films selected over the years, the runner up being Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina (4 submissions, the most famous of which remains the 1975 Palme d'or winner Chronicle of the Years of Fire) though none of Lakhdar-Hamina's films were nominated.

Other African Films That Have Been Nominated

  • 1976 ★ Black and White in Color (Ivory Coast, d. Jean-Jacques Annaud)
  • 2004 Yesterday (South Africa, d. Darrell Roodt)
  • 2005 ★ Tsotsi (South Africa, d. Gavin Hood)
  • 2014 Timbuktu  (Mauritana, d. Abderrahmane Sissako) 

The Film Experience's coverage of the Best International Feature Film race was a deep dive before even the trades seemed to care that much but now everyone covers it. Which is good because it deserves coverage and bad because we no longer get any credit or respect for it. But we realize that's a personal gripe unrelated to the beauty of seeing these things widely covered. So we hope at least that you appreciate us and share our pieces and our charts on this race on social media from time to time rather than just retweeting Variety or whatnot. Please and thanks xoxo 

OKAY. HERE IS THE FIRST CHART... THEY START FILLING UP QUICK IN LATE SUMMER

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Reader Comments (5)

I really enjoy your foreign film coverage. Papicha looks like something I'd like to see. I hope it gets a US release.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

Your coverage of the Foreign Language... er, International Film... race is one of my absolute favorite things about this website! Keep it coming!

Papicha is giving me vibes of last year's Tunisian entry in that it's a message movie that emphasizes strong female characters but seems a little passé for U.S. audiences. Also, is that a sample of "Here Comes the Hotstepper" at the end of the Papicha trailer? How random!

As for other possible national selections, I absolutely hated The Young Ahmed. The script completely fails to examine Ahmed's mindset and unfortunately, the young actor doesn't really convey his reasons either. Meanwhile, it's so naturalistic in typical Dardennes fashion that you basically feel like you're watching 90 minutes of a kid walking around doing bad deeds for no reason whatsoever. Its Cannes response was positive but somewhat muted so I'd be surprised to see it as Belgium's selection. Maybe I'm just projecting my loathing onto the selection process, but the Dardennes are frequently passed over and this one in particular is no great shakes.

I'm also praying that And Then We Danced is the selection from Sweden (or Georgia, though I doubt it could be selected for the latter). It is a lovely gay drama about teenagers in a school for traditional Georgian dance. I fully suspect it will win over hearts a la Brazil's The Way He Looks from a few years back. Hopefully, it has a better showing at the Oscars...

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Evan: Re: The Young Ahmed, I didn't feel as though the film was trying (and failing) to examine Ahmed's mindset. Rather, I felt it was showing how a boy who has been radicalised is nevertheless deserving of our compassion. The media often portrays radicalised people as monsters etc. etc. The Young Ahmed shows us a vulnerable boy who becomes radicalised and what happens to him as a consequence. It's in not purporting to understand him that the film achieves its effect. Granted, a different film might have tackled the subject on a broader canvas, looking more widely at how radicalisation occurs. But The Young Ahmed offers a fairly narrow perspective in order to focus our attention on the problems radicalisation causes for this isolated boy.

Nathaniel, you say that Oscar has never shown interest in the Dardennes. That's true of this category, but remember that they did nominated Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night.

On your more general point: your annual coverage of this race is hands down the best there is, and I love reading it each year. Can't wait to hear and read about other submissions as they roll in!

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Edward - Oh, I know The Young Ahmed doesn't try to examine Ahmed's mindset. That's the problem with the movie. If you take away any attempt to look into his psyche, you're left with a surface level drama-- "There's this kid and he does this crazy thing, then this crazier thing, then this unbelievable thing, then that one, then two more. The end." You say the media depicts these guys as monsters, but the only way this film avoids that same characterization was by casting someone who looks so young and harmless. If he had looked like an actual teenager, maybe with a beard, he might have looked more threatening and then it would be more obvious how the script treats him like a crazed maniac.

As for the International Film race, I forgot that we have a viable African contender this year in Atlantique, which is wonderful... like a Senegalese Toni Morrison novel.

July 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I had such a huge crush on Ryan Philippe in "One Life to Live." He gave a very nice, soulful performance in the show, but I don't think I've seen that sensitivity since. Update Madalin Stunt Cars 2 full version.

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPhilippe

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