June 20, 2024

Why international filmmaking is becoming more important to the Academy

The relatively unknown category to the mainstream movie watcher, the Best International Feature Film, is a category growing in quality. In the last five years, at least one movie has been nominated for Best Picture that is not in the English language. 

Anatomy of Fall, starring Sandra Huller, was the front-runner for the International Feature Film after winning the Palme D’or. France did not submit the film.

At the 96th Academy Awards, there are three foreign language films nominated for Best Picture: “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of Interest,” and “Past Lives.” 

“Anatomy of a Fall” is a French crime-thriller film about a woman standing trial for the murder of her husband. The movie premiered at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and won its highest prize, the Palme D’or. The movie received five Oscar nominations, including Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. 

The female lead of the film, Sandra Huller, also starred in the Jonathan Glazer film, “The Zone of Interest.” This film was nominated for five Oscars, including Best Directing and Best Adapted Screenplay. 

“Past Lives” is an Korean-American collaboration distributed by independent film company A24. Although the film has parts in English, it is the third movie in Korean in the last five years to be nominated for Best Picture. The Academy awarded the South Korean film “Parasite” the Best Picture award in 2019, which was the first foreign language film to win the award. In 2021, the Steven Yeun-led “Minari” was nominated for Best Picture, also earning Yeun a nomination for Best Actor.

Every year a film has been nominated for both Best Picture and Best International Film, it has won both: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Roma,” “Drive My Car,” even “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). This year, the only film nominated for both categories is “The Zone of Interest.”

Ang Lee is the most decorated Taiwanese director of all time, winning two Oscars for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi”. He also directed “Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon”.

The sudden uptick in the recognition of foreign language films could be due to streaming services putting more emphasis into their global audiences. Netflix distributed “Roma” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” in Spanish and German respectively. This time around, they own the rights of the Spanish-submitted “La sociedad de la nieve” (The Society of the Snow), which is nominated for Best International Feature Film. 

The film grossed 22.9 million CVEs (Complete Viewing Equivalents) in its first four days on the service and reached number one on the Netflix Top 10 in the United States.

Indie distributors are also more willing to finance the marketing for these films because of their deals with streaming services. “Anatomy of a Fall” distributor NEON financed the 20th anniversary theatrical run of Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy.” The movie made $1 million its first weekend, which is rare for re-releases, putting it on the level of “Titanic.” NEON has an exclusive deal with Hulu and has 2022 Best Picture nominee “Triangle of Sadness” on the platform. 

Another reason could be the Academy’s effort to recognize marginalized groups. After the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite first came out in 2015, the Academy has made more of an effort to recognize people of color in acting categories. For example, Lily Gladstone is the first Indigenous-American to be nominated for Best Actress. 

African-American actor Jeffrey Wright was in the running for his first Oscar as a nominee for his leading role in “American Fiction.” Wright is known for his roles in franchises like Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” the James Bond franchise and The Hunger Games franchise. More recently, Wright has stepped into auteur cinema, working with Wes Anderson in two of his films.

Out of the five Best Director nominees in 2023, only one is American. Since 2020, a majority of Best Director nominees are non-American. Two of the last three winners are non-American female directors: Chloe Zhao and Jane Campion. Since 2010, only two years have featured a Best Director from the United States: Damian Chazelle in 2016 and the Daniels in 2022. Winners include directors from England, Taiwan, France, South Korea, New Zealand, China and Mexico, who has accumulated 5 winning directors.

The Academy seems to be opening up their eyes to the potential of overseas art and broadening their horizons to truly understand the art of foreign filmmaking.


  • Clayton Hines

    Clayton is a first-year Criminology and Spanish Major. He is a Videographer for Capital and is an avid moviegoer. In his free time, he likes to watch sports and help his community by volunteering.

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