91 different countries are known to have made submissions in the category, but at the moment only 30 of those films are available to voters in the Academy screening room
Even in a year in which worldwide theater closings made releasing movies difficult if not impossible, the Oscars race for Best International Feature Film is close to achieving a record number of entries.
With the deadline for submissions passing on Dec. 1, 90 countries have either announced their Oscar submissions or had those submissions reported in the press. One additional film, from Saudi Arabia, is in the Academy screening room devoted to the category.
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The 91 entries would be one shy of the record 92 films that competed in what was then called the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2017.
But we don’t know if additional countries beyond those 91 have submitted films but not made their selections public. Typically, a handful of countries fall into that category; nations that have entered films in at least four of the last five years but have not announced submissions this year are Afghanistan, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal and the United Kingdom.
Last year, Afghanistan’s entry was deemed ineligible because of questions about the legitimacy of the committee that submitted it. It’s also possible that some of this year’s 90 announced films will end up not qualifying, though the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee may well be unlikely to disqualify anything in a year of rule changes designed to accommodate the difficulty of releasing movies during a pandemic. (Still, there are submitted films with questions about release dates or the amount of English dialogue they contain.)
Normally, the Academy releases the list of qualifying films about a week after the submission deadline. But it was embarrassed last year when it unveiled a record list of 93 contenders and then had to backtrack when the Nigerian and Austrian entries were found not to qualify because their dialogue was more than 50% English.
This year, AMPAS will likely wait until late January, after the submissions have been fully vetted, to reveal the list of qualifying films. And while it would normally have contacted voters by now with a calendar of screenings for all the eligible films, with pandemic restrictions those screenings can’t take place. And as of mid-December, the Academy had only made 30 of the 90 films available in the members-only online screening room devoted to the international category, so those 30 are the only ones that have been officially announced.
“Additional films are currently being tested by our Quality Assurance team and will be released throughout the month of December,” said a Dec. 11 email from AMPAS to members who had volunteered to take place in phase-one voting. At that point, 16 films were in the screening room; on Dec. 17, an additional 14 were added.
Films that are so far missing from the international screening room include some of the most high-profile contenders, among them Greece’s “Apples,” Italy’s “Notturno,” Spain’s “The Endless Trench,” France’s “Two of Us” and Israel’s “Asia.”
In contrast to previous years in which first-round voting was restricted to Los Angeles-based members who attended screenings, this year’s initial round is open to all members anywhere in the world who view enough of the eligible films in the Academy screening room. (Last year, you had to see 12 to vote.)
Theoretically, that could enable far more people to vote in a category thought to have low participation, and it could skew the votes toward international voters rather than L.A.-based ones. But the lack of physical screenings, which doubled as social events and helped spread the buzz that would drive voters to see certain films, could depress voting among the SoCal stalwarts who made up the “general committee” and whose ballots choose seven of the 10 films on the category’s shortlist.
And with the full slate of eligible films appearing in the screening room on a staggered basis, will voters stick to a steady schedule of viewing even if the films they want to see aren’t on the platform yet? (Granted, the availability of films was even more spread out when they could only be seen at screenings.)
When the shortlist is announced on Feb. 9, sharp-eyed watchers of the category will probably be able to surmise whether the usual L.A. committee dominated the balloting or whether international voters took charge — but we won’t know whether the number of voters has increased or decreased in this unusual year, because the Academy doesn’t reveal that kind of thing.
Here is the list of films whose countries have announced their submissions. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee that a film will be deemed eligible, though in most years all but one or two make the cut. And while this list falls two shy of tying the record, it’s definitely possible that some stealth candidates will help 2020 set a new high.
Films that are in the AMPAS International Feature Film screening room are in bold.
NOTE: This list was updated from initial publication to include the films that have since been added to the screening room. There are currently 77.
Albania: Open Door
Argentina: The Sleepwalkers
Armenia: Songs of Solomon
Austria: What We Wanted
Bangladesh: Sincerely Yours, Dhaka
Belarus: Persian Lessons
Belgium: Working Girls
Bhutan: Luanana: A Yak in the Classroom
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Quo Vadis, Aida?
Brazil: Babenco: Tell Me When I Die
Bulgaria: The Father
Canada: 14 Days, 12 Nights
Chile: The Mole Agent
Colombia: Memories of My Father
Costa Rica: Land of Ashes
Czech Republic: Charlatan
Denmark: Another Round
Dominican Republic: A State of Madness
Egypt: When We’re Born
Estonia: The Last Ones
France: Two of Us
Germany: And Tomorrow the Entire World
Guatemala: La Llorona
Hong Kong: Better Days
Hungary: Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Iceland: Agnes Joy
Iran: Sun Children
Ivory Coast: Night of the Kings
Japan: True Mothers
Jordan: 200 Meters
Kazakhstan: The Crying Steppe
Kenya: The Letter
Kyrgyzstan: Running to the Sky
Latvia: Blizzard of Souls
Lebanon: Broken Keys
Lesotho: This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
Lithuania: Nova Lituania
Luxembourg: River Tales
Mexico: I’m No Longer Here
Morocco: The Unknown Saint
Nigeria: The Milkmaid
North Macedonia: Willow
Pakistan: Circus of Life
Palestine: Gaza, Mon Amour
Panama: Operation Just Cause
Paraguay: Killing the Dead
Peru: Song Without a Name
Poland: Never Gonna Snow Again
Portugal: Vitalina Varela
Russia: Dear Comrades!
Saudi Arabia: Scales
Senegal: Nafi’s Father
Serbia: Dara of Jasenovac
Singapore: Wet Season
Slovakia: The Auschwitz Report
Slovenia: Stories From the Chestnut Woods
South Africa: Toorbos
South Korea: The Man Standing Next
Spain: The Endless Trench
Sudan: You Will Die at Twenty
Switzerland: My Little Sister
Taiwan: A Sun
Thailand: Happy Old Year
Tunisia: The Man Who Sold His Skin
Turkey: Miracle in Cell No. 7
Uzbekistan: 2000 Songs of Farida
Venezuela: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
Vietnam: Dreamy Eyes