The last two years have seen unprecedented acceptance of international films by American audiences. As much as certain filmmakers and fans loudly decry the death of the theatrical model, the reality is that the proliferation of streaming services are making international films more accessible than ever before.
This year’s nominees include a first timer, a documentary, double nominees, a female director, and a wide array of genres, sometimes within the same film. All five are now available to stream on Hulu, as well as through various VOD rental services.
Here is a look at the five nominees for International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
It doesn’t happen often, but the last time a film was nominated for both International Film and Best Director and lost both was Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties in 1976. (It should be noted that two years ago, both Alfonso Cuarón and Pawel Pawlikowski were nominated, with Cuarón ultimately winning both awards.) Thomas Vinterberg is unlikely to win Best Director, but his drunken dramedy that stars the beloved Mads Mikkelsen is in a good position to win Best International Feature Film. With wins at BAFTA, the César Awards, the European Film Awards, etc, Another Round has been on a steady march to the Oscar stage. This would be the first win for Denmark since Susanne Bier’s In a Better World in 2010.
Better Days (WellGo USA)
Dir. Derek Tsang
Derek Tsang’s Better Days is a well-meaning effort to address the pervasive and ubiquitous issue of school bullying. It has been both a critical success and a somewhat surprising commercial success in China, although the story surrounding the film is a bit unusual, given the current Hong Kong v. China political climate. (For more information about this film’s specific controversies, Patrick Brzeski wrote this insightful piece for The Hollywood Reporter.) This would be Hong Kong’s first Oscar for International Feature, and would be the first major prize for Better Days outside of Asia.
Collective (Magnolia Pictures)
Dir. Alexander Nanau
Last year, Macedonia’s Honeyland became the first film nominated for both Documentary Feature and International Feature. That feat was replicated this year with Romania’s Collective, Alexander Nanau’s testament to the power of good and diligent journalism. A worldwide festival favorite, this has proven to be a powerful documentary and an accessible international feature that has enraged and inspired audiences. If not for Vinterberg’s nomination in Best Director, Collective would probably have a better shot at winning.
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Samuel Goldwyn Pictures)
Dir. Kaouther Ben Hania
Tunisia’s first Academy Award nomination comes for this odd, genre-crossing film that both criticizes and celebrates the world of modern art, poses questions about the true definition of freedom, and acknowledges the conflict in Syria without really calling it out. The Man Who Sold His Skin is divisive and weird, and is the kind of film that leads its fans to accuse naysayers of not “getting it.” The least seen of this year’s International Features, this was nominated for a few film festival awards, but didn’t travel far outside of Europe until the Oscars came calling.
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Super LTD)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dir. Jasmila Žbanić
The beautiful, emotionally rich Quo Vadis, Aida? would probably have been a contender for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actress, and more if its director were a man, particularly one with a familiar name. Set in 1995 during the Bosnian War, the film focalizes a national crisis into the perspective of one local woman who serves as a UN translator, desperately trying to save her husband and sons as the Serbian army closes in on her small town. A player at a number of film festivals in Europe and the US, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry was nominated alongside competitor Another Round at BAFTA, where it lost. Both films are also nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards which, as of this writing, have not yet been announced. Regardless, Quo Vadis, Aida? is the best non-American film of the year, but doesn’t look like it is in a position to overtake the widespread enthusiasm for Denmark’s challenger.