Band of outsiders

Foreign-made indies rarely score on Oscar night

A primarily foreign-made independent film has yet to win the best picture Academy Award, though 23 such features have received best pic noms over the past eight decades. While several largely foreign-made indie films have won major Oscars over the years, it wasn’t until 1993 Miramax release “The Piano” — which earned statuettes for actress, supporting actress and original screenplay — that such a feature won more than two major Oscars. Since then, only one such pic — Focus Features’ “The Pianist,” in 2002 — has scored in three major Academy Award categories.

  • British-made “The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933) was the first Oscar picture nominee to hail from outside the U.S. French filmmaker Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion” (1938) earned the first picture nom for an indie-distributed foreign-language feature. (It was distribbed by World Pictures.) The first foreign-made best picture winner, U.K. actor-director Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet,” was a Universal release in 1948.

  • Thesps in non-U.S. indies (American-born actors aside) have taken home the Oscar 13 times, dating back to Simone Signoret’s actress win for Brit pic “Room at the Top” at the 1959 awards. Only twice have leading perfs in foreign-language films earned the Oscar — Sophia Loren for 1961’s “Two Women” and Roberto Benigni for 1998’s “Life Is Beautiful.”

  • Seven foreign-language films — all but one released by independent distributors — have snared picture noms (the most recent being 2000’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” helmed by Ang Lee). The sole nom distributed by a studio was Jan Troell’s Swedish “The Emigrants,” released Stateside by Warner Bros. in 1972.

  • U.K. productions or co-productions have captured the lion’s share of major foreign indie wins, accounting for more than 20 Oscars in top categories.

  • Aside from the Brazilian “Kiss of the Spider Woman” — for which William Hurt won the actor trophy — all of the winning foreign-made pics have been set either in Europe or Down Under.