Sunday, April 13, 2008

We Are (Not) The World

Interesting read for Foreign Film fans
Film Otaku has what reads like a well researched piece on the lack of a Philippine presence in the annual Oscar foreign film derby. This type of article we don't see enough of. The Philippines aren't alone though. Other regularly submitting countries that have never found favor with AMPAS: Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Portugal, Romania (this is particularly galling due to recent events), Turkey and Venezuela. And though Asian cinema has been under represented at the Oscars given its prominence in general film culture most Asian countries that submit each year have been nominated at least once, except Korea and Thailand. It must be frustrating for the homegrown fans of any shunned countries with France and Italy each nominated virtually every other year. But they had a headstart. Franco-Italian cinema actually accounts for nine of the first eleven statues handed out for foreign films (the category became a traditional one in 1956 but 8 films were honored prior to that)

Here's a chart I update each year with the history of how the various countries are represented. I'm currently toiling behind the scenes to fix little errors, freshen the place up, and restore previous years of awards pages. I'm looking at June for a re-grand opening of TFE and all awards-related material. Big plans afoot for the fall. This will be the best year yet for foreign film Oscar coverage at The Film Experience. Stay tuned.


The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Interesting. I would like to ask though what you yourself think of movies from the Philippines. I've always wondered how our language "sounded" to a foreigner's ears.

I think the future is going to be full of hits and misses for reception to Filipino movies. The indie movement has really become rampant and more and more digital movies are being made and while the subject matters are becoming more liberal, the digital aesthetic unfortunately is not technically appealing. I've seen good scripts and great performances languish because of the technical aspects being unable to help them connect with a movie audience yet alone someone who is actually in there to criticize the movie.

Meanwhile most of the big studio supported productions currently look the same (they're all so brightly lit no matter what genre it is) and, I will get flack for this, nobody acts outside of their self anymore, nobody portrays a character anymore. Parts and scripts seem to written for an actor's personality therefore we just see the same people interact with each other in the same manner in every film.

You have Hollywood, we have what we call "Showbiz."

Anonymous said...

Spain's only won 4 times?! Now I'm upset! ;o)

On a side note it's a pity france's most popular movie this year probably doesn't stand a chance in Oscar history... I don't if you've heard about "Bienvenu Chez Les Ch'tis", but the only box office record it has yet to break (in France) is Titanic! I saw it a month ago in Belgium, had been out for 3 weeks, the room (seats 700) was still packed! It's amazingly funny, plays on regional stereotypes and accents... but unfortunately I get the feeling you have to be fluent in French to understand it! I don't see how it could translate, and subtitles... dunno. Pity 'cause... wow! I haven't ever enjoyed a French comedy this much!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I saw the Counterfitters a while back. Good movie, but still a bit bland, nothing to go on and on and on about... there were much better films last year to take home the Oscar!!! (my favourite's -that I had seen- were Lebannon's Caramel and France's Persepolis, tragic no-nominations!)


JS sadly, I don't know that much about Philippine cinema. I did see their Oscar submission Crying Ladies (name?) a couple of years back though. It was OK but I'm not surprised it wasn't nominated.

the digital aesthetic is really hard to conquer in getting Oscar nods. They like pretty movies. And honestly I don't really blame them in that regard. It is a visual medium after all.

Obviously it would be nice if they could accept digital when it ascends its drawbacks and eventually they'll have to ... since the whole medium is heading that direction

crazycris but Spain has Bunuel and Almodovar (so right there they're way ahead of many countries) and they are #3 of all time w/ Oscar.

I've been doing a lot of research for the next foreign project i'm doing and it is surprising that the category used to hold so many challenging masterpieces and now it seems to reward the sentimental -- but they also have far more choices than they used to. More opportunities to make mistakes ;)

Anonymous said...

Didn’t Brazil win with central station? Also I think that IRAN has at least two nominations with Majidi´s movies.
I read about Filipino cinema as one of the most innovative in the world. I don’t care about the Oscar recognition but I wish to have the chance to watch it in our art cinemas.

Glenn said...

Central Station lost to Life is Beautiful.

evermoon said...

Nathaniel: Thanks for providing a link to the article!

anonymous: Do you remember where you read that (about Filipino films being innovative)? I'd love to read that source. I'd have to say that in many cases, that's true. Low-budget films make do with what budget they have, and sometimes the results can be interesting, to say the least. The nice thing about recent Filipino movies, particularly from the new breed of filmmakers, is that it's difficult to classify them. For the most part, it's because they're so creative and unconventional. It's a response to the run-of-the-mill, mass-appeal films that dominate our local cinemas.

Anonymous said...

I recall one interting note, in 2005 the phillipines wasn't a movie for submission... When maybe would be that year. One of the worst years in foreign cateogry (With 2002 and 2007). The only important films in that year were Paradise Now and Tsotsi. Joyeux Noël was a big french-german-british production, but the film was OK but nothing great and the surprises in Germany and Italy in films who were small (Especially The beast in the heart because the first two italians opcions weren't eligible (Language and period of release).

In this year the important submissions:
*France (Persepolis is one of the most beloved films I even see in years)
*Mexico (I'm angry because my country has the important record for seven nominations and zero Oscar. My country tie with Israel with that record. Only Polonia has the first place and Argentina is the only Latin American country wich won the Oscar)
I saw four of five nominees (I didn't see Russia) and Israel and Poland are the only countries who deserves the nominations.

Brian Darr said...

Asian countries that want an Oscar nomination should submit films like Kazakhstan's recent nominee Mongol: period epics the more lavish and violent the better. The last East Asian nominated film that didn't feature a swordfight was Eat Drink Man Woman in 1994.

I'm struggling to refrain from saying something rude about the people on the nominating committee, since I've never met any of them, don't know who they are, and don't know what possibly could be going on in their minds making their selections over the past decade or so.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @4:04pm

unfortunately, that was the time when The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros might have been submitted. The film office that was supposed to handle Oscar nominations moved to a new address and just waited for an invitation which never came.

Anonymous said...

oops, i was a year early with my comments on Maximo. It should have been 2006. Sorry. My apologies.

Anonymous said...

I have an question, Israel doesn't count like an Asian country (In terms of Oscar submissions?) Well, because the country is in Asia (Georgaphic/Culture), in some pages count like an asian country but not in other ones...

So, the asian movies who had the nominations:
-2007: Israel's Beaufort (War theme) and Kazhajstan's Mongol (Epic and violent Genghis Khan movie)
-2003: Japan's The twilight samurai (epic and violent theme)
-2002: China's Hero (Violent and Epic film)
-2001: India's Laggan (Epic film but... Oh it's a musical)
-2000: Taiwan's Crouching tigger hidden dragon (Epic and violent film)
-1999: Nepal's Caravan (Epic film-Co-production with France and Germany)
-1998: Brian you forgot this film
-Iran's The children of Heaven (Real and beautiful film about the innocence and hope between a brother and a sister)
-1996: Georgia's A chef in love (I have doubt about this is asian or european film (Like Israel situation). Romantic Comedy)
-1994: Taiwan's Eat drink Man Woman

Brian Darr said...

Thanks for the accounting, anonymous.

I get the feeling that Iranian, Indian, and Nepali films don't have the same expectations attached to them that East Asian films do. It seems the average American, when thinking of Asian movies, tends to think first of Chinese kung fu, then of Japanese samurai films. Or vice versa. When Chinese or Japanese filmmakers stray too far from those genres into more personal, intimate filmmaking, they're either encroaching on the territory of Europeans, or they're not "sticking to their strengths". Or so it seems. Of course, cinephiles know that some of the greatest films about modern life over the years have been made by the likes of Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse, Nagisa Oshima, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-Liang. But none of their films have ever snagged an Oscar nomination. I wonder if any even came close (I know Taiwan boldly offers up films by Tsai and Hou to the nominating committee- I'd be fascinated to attend one of those screenings to see the reaction of the voters for myself.)

For a country like the Philippines, whose culture is so little-known in most of the West, there may be less necessity to conform to stereotypical expectations of what an East Asian film is supposed to be. Perhaps like Iran or India it could get a nomination without bringing back fond memories of Kurosawa or the Shaw Brothers to the minds of voters...

Anonymous said...

Wow Nate, I live in the Philippines and have been reading your site for years already and I was shocked for you to mention Philippine Cinema.

I am not suprised though, I have a few friends in trying to crack the local film industry and they all find it fustrating because studios here are very reluctant to break the standard quo.

Basically you can sum up the major studios here doing/funding/supporting two kinds of movies:
- Romantic Comedies
- Rip Off of other Asian Horror Movies

Then you our disgraceful annual Metro Manila Film Festivals that is supposed to show the best in local cinema. Basically the type of films our film festivals can be summed up to:
- The two already mentioned
- Fantasy Movies
- Superher Movies

Then you have 1 decent movie from the 7-9 films selected.

Our film going audience here is in shambles right now. If you guys think the US public taste in film is bad, wait til you see our dilemma.

To put it in perspective Atonement was delayed 3 times here, and adding the boxoffice of No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, and Atonement here combined box office is less than 1/13th of how much something like 10,000 BC made.

Yeah we have people doing some indie level films here. But believe me these kind of films, esp. the ones submitted to the academy. But these are the minuite minority of what gets produced.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at a very interesting interview John Cho has up at Fancast where he talks about the difficulties - a glass ceiling - that Asian actors face in Hollywood. There's not been a lot of homegrown talent in the Asian-Amer. community in the U.S. The interview is at

Excerpt from Cho: "There's this lingering sense that there is a glass ceiling for you. More specifically, it's tough because there isn't a legacy of Asian-American stars. A lot of young actors get their break by playing the son or the daughter. That's how you get in a big movie, you play De Niro's son in a movie, like DiCaprio, and that's a big break. I don't have that luxury. Asian-American actors don't have that luxury. We also can't take part in certain – we're American actors, but it's hard to take part in historical dramas. You can't be in The Patriot."

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron
I read that FICCO the mexico city film festival had a side bar about filipino movies. Several critics commented on them. I cant cite the actual site though. But i read that in the land of encantos was the best movie of the festival and i have read that Brillante Mendoza is a filmaker to watch. I wish i could see their movies.

aldo álvarez said...

Hey! In your list of the last 13 years in FF Oscar Mexico should be included since it has three noms.

btw I think they're changing the rules this year... hopefully.