Oscars: historic year for submissions of best international African films


This year, a record 10 submissions from the continent are recorded, thanks to novices from Ghana and Nigeria. The previous record was eight.

Earlier this month, the Academy announced that 93 countries had submitted films for its International Feature Film category at the 92nd Academy Awards. Ten of them came from Africa, a new record for the continent.

It remains to be seen whether any of these titles will be shortlisted to be part of the final list of five nominees. Of the 10 films, “Atlantics” from Senegal, winner of the 2019 Cannes Grand Prix from Mati Diop acquired by Netflix, probably has the strongest chance.

The last time a film depicting an African country won this category was Gavin Hood’s “Tsotsi” from South Africa at the 78th Academy Awards in 2006. It was one of three country wins. Africans, which also include “Z” from Algeria by Costa- Gavras in 1969 and La Victoire en chantant de Côte d’Ivoire by Jean-Jacques Annaud in 1976.

In 2018, eight entries included beginners from Africa, Mozambique (“Le train du sel et du sucre”) and Senegal’s “Félicité”, who was even on the shortlist. In 2019, Africa submitted eight more nominations, including two countries that submitted a film for the first time: Malawi sent “The Road to Sunrise” and Niger sent “The Wedding Ring”.

The last time a film depicting an African country received a nomination was “Timbuktu” by Abderrahmane Sissako, which was Mauritania’s candidacy for the 87th Academy Awards in 2014.

The gradual increase in submissions over the years fits the Western narrative of ‘Africa on the rise’, but that only tells part of the story. The history of cinema in Africa is very complex and has not entirely freed itself from colonial traps. Most of the major African films competing on the international scene are financed and effectively controlled by European companies.

Yet African forays into an institution like the Oscars represent change. It is also aided by efforts such as the World Cinema Project by Martin Scorsese, who partnered with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers earlier this year to create the African Film Heritage Project. It is designed to locate, restore and preserve 50 classics of African cinema and make them available to audiences around the world.

“I can’t tell you how deeply inspired and excited I am by African films; ‘Yeelen’, ‘Touki Bouki’, ‘Trances’, ‘La Noire De…’, ‘Al Momia’, ‘Bamako’, “Scorsese said in a statement.” I always come back to these images and each time the experience is richer. My appreciation continues to grow for the talent, power and wisdom of African cinema. “

Africa first presented a film at the Oscars in 1958 with “Cairo Station” by famous Egyptian director Youssef Chahine. Although the film did not make the final cut, it did signal Egypt’s dominance over other African countries when it comes to Oscar nominations; Algeria is far behind. Now other nations are starting to have their own impact.

Read: Oscars 2020: Best International Feature Film Predictions

The upcoming 92nd Academy Awards break the record for the number of nominations in the category, with 94 (93 were accepted; Uganda did not qualify). Notably, three countries submitted a film for the first time, including two African countries: Ghana sent “Azali” and Nigeria sent “Lionheart”.

This year’s submissions from the African continent include:

– Algeria: “Papicha”, Mounia Meddour, director

– Egypt: “Poisonous roses”, Ahmed Fawzi Saleh, director

– Ethiopia: “Running Against the Wind”, Jan Philipp Weyl, director

– Ghana: “Azali”, Kwabena Gyansah, director

– Kenya: “Subira”, Ravneet Singh (Sippy) Chadha, director

– Morocco: “Adam”, Maryam Touzani, director

– Nigeria: “CÅ“ur de Lion”, Geneviève Nnaji, director

– Senegal: “Atlantique”, Mati Diop, director

– South Africa: “Knuckle City”, Jahmil XT Qubeka, director

– Tunisia: “Dear son”, Mohamed Ben Attia, director

Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced on Monday, January 13, 2020.

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