HomeMovie AwardsThe OscarsAcademy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film Rules: Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Speaks Out

Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film Rules: Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Speaks Out

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s World War I-set French drama A Very Long Engagement would have been one of the Oscars’ top Best Foreign Language Film contenders – had it been eligible. But France has submitted instead The Chorus. (Pictured: Audrey Tautou and Gaspard Ulliel in A Very Long Engagement.)
  • Veteran producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. has gone after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ arcane eligibility rules in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
  • Among this year’s non-contenders are several of the most well-received non-English-language movies of the year, including Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education, Walter SallesThe Motorcycle Diaries, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.

Veteran producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. speaks out against the Academy’s arcane Best Foreign Language Film rules

Late 2004 movie news include weird stuff (e.g., Michael Moore becoming the early 21st century’s El Chupacabra), great stuff (e.g., a reconstructed version of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Soviet masterpieceBattleship Potemkin will be screened at the Berlin Film Festival), faith-in-humanity stuff (the Rehoboth Beach Film Society has come out on top in its fight against – possibly anti-gay – puritanism), and the usual stuff (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ arcane Best Foreign Language Film eligibility rules are, once again, under attack).

This particular post deals with “the usual” Academy-related news, which, in the last several decades, seems to bubble up to the surface every single Oscar season.

This year, veteran producer and Academy member Samuel Goldwyn Jr. – whose credits range from the 1958 Alan Ladd-Olivia de Havilland drama The Proud Rebel to the 2003 Oscar-nominated Peter Weir-Russell Crowe collaboration Master and Commander: The Far Side of the Worldhas expressed his disapproval of the arcane laws governing the selection of the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film submissions.

“The system doesn’t work. The Academy’s job is to pick the best foreign-language picture of the year. But what happens when two of the best pictures of the year are made in France? Or suppose you had Italy’s The Bicycle Thief [a.k.a. Bicycle Thieves] and La Dolce Vita in the same year. It would be criminal if you could only pick one.”

Best Foreign Language Film disqualifications & non-qualifications

A decade ago, Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red / Trois couleurs: Rouge, officially submitted by Switzerland, was disqualified because the Geneva/Carouge-set French-Polish-Swiss co-production, written by Kieslowski and fellow Pole Krzysztof Piesiewicz, and starring French actors Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Jean-Pierre Lorit wasn’t deemed “Swiss enough” by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Committee.

Also in 1994, the Chinese government chose not to submit Zhang Yimou’s To Live, starring Gong Li and Ge You, to the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. That meant no chance for Zhang’s period sociopolitical/family drama to be shortlisted in that category.

This year, among the well-received non-English-language releases notin the running for Best Foreign Language Film are Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education / La Mala educación, Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement / Un long dimanche de fiançailles. The first two titles star Gael García Bernal; the last title stars Audrey Tautou.

Oscar chances elsewhere?

The good news for fans of these films is that all three should be eligible in the Oscars’ “regular” categories.

Back in early 1995, despite its Best Foreign Language Film snub, Red did go on to receive three Oscar nominations: Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography (Piotr Sobocinski).

On the downside, To Live, a Samuel Goldwyn Company release in the United States, ended up totally bypassed.

And now an aside: the Academy’s movie theater in Beverly Hills is named after Samuel Goldwyn Jr.’s father, the producer of classics ranging from Dodsworth, These Three, and Stella Dallas (both the 1925 and 1937 versions) to Wuthering Heights, The Little Foxes, and the multiple Oscar winner The Best Years of Our Lives.


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Audrey Tautou and Gaspard Ulliel A Very Long Engagement image: Warner Independent Pictures.

“Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film Rules: Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Speaks Out” last updated in December 2020.

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