France has overhauled the committee that selects what film the country submits to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for consideration for the best international feature film Oscar.
The move, unveiled by the French culture ministry on Wednesday, comes after an exceptionally long Oscar drought for France. Of the last 10 French international Oscar submissions, only four made the final shortlist, and just two – Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang in 2015 and Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables in 2019 –received Oscar nominations. Neither won. France has not won an Oscar for best international film since Régis Wargnier’s Indochine in 1993.
Critics say France’s selection committee regularly picks films that have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and are favored by French industry insiders, but don’t have the best chances of finding favor with the U.S. Academy.
Last year was a case in point: France picked Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane — a hyper-violent and sexually explicit horror drama that divided critics and audiences — over Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner Happening, a more conventional drama about abortion in 1960s France.
There have also been accusations of potential conflicts of interest.
As part of the overhaul, several permanent members of the committee, including Cannes Film Festival’s general delegate Thierry Fremaux, Cesar Academy president Veronique Cayla and Serge Toubiana, head of French cinema promotion group Unifrance, will no longer be part of the selection body.
Instead, each year, France’s culture minister will name the committee, picking two filmmakers, two producers, two sales agents and another film industry figure to make the Oscar selection. The presidents of Unifrance and France’s National Film Board will be allowed to attend the committee meetings as observers, but will not vote on the final selection.