Sunday, September 24, 2023

Outside Looking In: Countries Who Still Await Their Own Oscar Nominee

While I was looking up the stats for my article “One Shining Moment,” I noticed a list of major countries that have consistently submitted their choice for consideration, only to come up short time and time again. These countries aren’t necessarily small nations that have just started submitting films or have gained independence recently. While Bhutan got in just recently for Luana: A Yak In The Classroom and Jordan with Theeb, other nations whose submissions go back to the 1950s have just failed to catch on. Got to be frustrating when neighboring nations with only a few submissions get one through. Here are a few of these nations and the film they submitted that should’ve been nominated.


Voyage To The Beginning Of The World, Portugal

With 39 submissions to its name, Portugal has missed the most in trying to get nominated. Even worse, not one film has even been shortlisted since they began submitting films in 1980. Eight of those submissions came from director Manoel de Oliviera, arguably the country’s greatest filmmaker who directed movies until his death in 2015, at age 106. One of his best works was this drama which was the final film released posthumously starring Marcello Mastroianni, who plays an aging director going back with his leading actor to their childhood village. It was a success right out of Cannes but never came close to getting an elusive Oscar nomination. 


The Night Of Counting The Years, Egypt

The second most submissions (36) without a nominee, also without a single film being shortlisted, Egypt is the leading country in terms of film production in the Arab world. Writer/director Shadi Abdel Salam was influenced by Italian neo-realism, so it’s no surprise that Roberto Rossellini, the father of neo-realism, helped Salam get the film made. It is also a historical film, set in the 1880s when Egypt was still controlled by the Ottoman Empire and Egypt’s culture was being ransacked by outsiders, and how even the locals get corrupted by foreign influences.


The World is Big And Salvation Lurks Around the Corner – Bulgaria

After Portugal and Egypt in terms of submissions without a nomination is this Balkan nation which does have one shortlisted film to its name. This 2008 road drama by Stephan Komandarev follows a young Bulgarian-born man who returns to his home nation from Germany with his grandfather by bicycle to reconnect with his native land. Based on a true story, it deals with the themes of reunification having escaped from the Communist regime and now coming back all these years later to a strange land, even though he is a full-blooded native.  


Genghis Khan – Philippines

The film was released in 1950 but was eligible for Best International Film consideration two years later when the category was still an honorary award rather than a competition. The earliest movie depiction of the life of the Mongolian emperor (and a whole lot better than the Hollywood version starring John Wayne), it was critically acclaimed upon release at the Venice Film Festival. Even with its limited budget and short running time, the movie is still upheld as the best of the Genghis Khan biopics. Thirty-three submissions later, the Philippines are still waiting for their nominee to break through.   


This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection – Lesotho

One submission from Lesotho, but wow, it was such a worthy nominee and it is a shame that it didn’t get shortlisted. Having gotten a well-deserved Criterion release, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s story about a widow who defies the call for her village to be resettled in the name of progress is such a poetic statement on keeping with tradition. Plus, it comes in a country landlocked in South Africa, thereby being virtually forgotten and mistaken to be part of another nation. Mosese, a visual artist, uses his creative force to set up striking frames in this tale of fighting against unnatural nature.


Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man) 

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