The Academy of Motion Pictures released its short list for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar on Friday. In alphabetical order by country, here it is:
Canada, War Witch
Denmark, A Royal Affair
France, The Intouchables
Iceland, The Deep
Romania, Beyond the Hills
Europe is well represented on this year’s short list, as it has been since the category was introduced in 1956. Over the past 20 years, the field has expanded somewhat with countries like Iran, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Nepal, Peru, and Vietnam receiving their first nominations, and former powerhouses like Italy falling off in a big way (the latter was nominated 15 out of the first 20 years of the award, but has been nominated only four times in the last 20 years). But although the range of source countries has broadened, the category remains largely Europe’s game — winning films have been from Europe for 14 of the last 20 years. And for all the ballyhooing about the rise of world cinema, that ratio has only marginally improved in the last decade — six of the ten most recent winners were from outside of Europe.
Wealth of Nations
When it deigns to recognize the world outside of Europe, Oscar likes to spread the wealth around. In the past 20 years, only two non-European countries (China and Israel) have received four nominations, and only two others (Argentina and Algeria) have received three. Japan, India, Peru, Mexico, and 11 others have had to make do with just one or two.
As a whole, Asian nations have received a total of 10 nominations, Central and South American countries have gotten nine nods total, three nominations have gone to African nations, and films from the Middle East have been recognized five times. In the same period, France alone has received nine nominations, and Germany eight.
Here are the Academy’s 10 favorite foreigners since the category debuted 56 years ago:
Italy: 10 wins, 27 nominations
France: 9 wins, 36 nominations
Spain: 3 wins, 19 nominations
Germany: 3 wins, 18 nominations
Sweden: 3 wins, 14 nominations
Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia: 3 wins, 9 nominations
Soviet Union: 3 wins, 9 nominations
Denmark: 3 wins, 8 nominations
Netherlands: 2 wins, 7 nominations
Switzerland: 2 wins, 5 nominations
If history is any example, among this year’s short list contenders, Switzerland has the best chance of winning. Of the films up this year:
Switzerland has won 2 in 5 times it has been nominated (40% of the time)
Denmark has won 3 in 8 times it has been nominated (37.5% of the time)
Austria has won 1 in 3 times it has been nominated (33% of the time)
France has won 9 in 36 times it has been nominated (25% of the time)
Canada has won 1 in 6 times it has been nominated (16% of the time)
This year would mark the first nominations for Chile and Romania, but that doesn’t mean the odds are against them — Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Algeria, Ivory Coast, and Bosnia & Herzegovina all won the first time they were nominated. Eleven percent of winning films have been first-time nominees.
Iceland is 0 for 1 at the Academy Awards — but at least that’s better than poor Norway, which is Oscar's biggest loser, having won 0 in 4.