The Academy Awards is considered as one of the most prestigious ceremony delivering the most prestigious awards there can be in the movie industry. Any filmmaker would be glad only to get nominated for one of these awards, and this is even truer for African filmmakers as a nomination is sometimes followed by commercial success and distribution opportunities. However, since 1956 that the Foreign Language Film was created, only six African movies have been nominated in that category and only three have won the prestigious award: The Algerian movie “Z” in 1969, the Ivorian movie “Black and White in Color” in 1976, and “Tsotsi” in 2005 for South Africa. So the question is, how African filmmakers can enhance their chances to get nominated and eventually get an Oscar?
The easy answer would be for them to make good, near perfection, feature films. But that is not all it takes to be nominated. I had the chance to look at the rules and regulations for submitting movies for the Foreign Language Film awards and it is a pretty rigorous process.
First, the movie has to be the best movie produced by a country. A committee composed of professionals of the movie industry must come into an agreement and elect what they think is the best movie of the country in the required time frame. And that is one of hardest thing to do. The country has to have a functioning movie industry, professionals of that industry grouped into a legalized committee, who decide together which movie they want to submit to represent the whole country.
Another thing, the movie has to have a theatrical release in the country it is competing for. It must have been shown in theaters for at least seven consecutive days and for commercial purposes. In other words, countries like Cameroon that do not have operating movie theaters are not allowed to submit movies for review.
Another requirement is the fact that “The recording of the original dialogue track as well as the completed picture must be predominantly in a language or languages other than English” accompanied with subtitles when submitted. This is what qualifies the movie for the appropriate category. They also emphasize the fact that only one movie can represent each country and that the submitting country must certify that creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of citizens or residents of that country. For example a movie produced by both Algeria and France will represent Algeria because most of actual production, the story, actors and director were from Algeria.
Abiding by all these rules do not increase one’s chances to get nominated of even to win. No, these rules are just the first steps in the long process of determining which foreign movie is the best of the year. So eventually, the only way for African filmmaker to enhance their chance for Oscars nod is to produce a good, near perfect, feature film.