Culture

18 November 2014

Oscars: Passport to Success  

Today, with video-on-demand services such as Netflix and streaming, foreign films can reach a much wider audience in the US, and the Oscar winner can look forward to cashing in.

More than three months before the 2015 Academy Awards on February 22, competition is already intense among directors canvassing for votes – and not just among the producers of Hollywood blockbusters who often carry off an armful of Oscars.

For filmmakers from outside the US, the foreign-language film Oscar can be a passport to commercial success, visibility and funding for future projects, according to France’s Bertrand Bonello, who is vying to succeed this year’s winner, Italian Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘La Grande Bellezza’.

Bonello was in Los Angeles last week at the American Film Institute festival, hoping for support from academy members for ‘Saint Laurent’, about the life and times of the late fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent.

Also at the festival were Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, whose ‘Deux jours, une nuit’ is Belgium’s contender for the foreign film Oscar. ‘Il capitale umano’ from Paolo Virzi, Italy's candidate, was also on the AFI festival programme.

In 2015, the competition will be tougher than ever, with nominations from a record 83 countries including, for the first time, Kosovo, Malta, Mauritania and Panama.

But for most, the dream will end in early disappointment. The list of contenders will be whittled to a shortlist of 10 next month, then to the final five when nominations in all Oscar categories are announced on January 15.

Bob Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, says digital technology has transformed the economics of foreign-language films, whose exposure in the US would once have been limited to a handful of art-house cinemas.