Although it is expensive and time-consuming to enter the Oscar race, the value of a foreign-language film nomination proves tangible to the director and, by extension, to the country’s entire cinematic output. Here are some case studies of procedure and strategy from countries that have been included in previous shortlists, and have a strong chance this year for the Oscar.

Recent nominees
“Bullhead” (2011),
directed by Michaël R. Roskam
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” (2013), directed by Felix van Groeningen
Current submission
Girl,” directed by Lukas Dhont

At one time, the group choosing the Belgian foreign-language candidate tried to alternate between productions from the country’s two official languages, Flemish and French, but a different system was put into place five years ago. “The principle is to take the best candidate and not to have a rotation between both communities each year,” says Eric Franssen, director of Wallonie Bruxelles Images (WBI). “The idea is to have a balance over a long period.”

Now, producers submit their films to one of the two promotional bodies in Belgium: Flanders Image or WBI. Each body forms a three-person jury, one for the Flemish and one for the French-language titles. The jury members are film professionals who cannot be involved in any of the submitted films. Both juries select two films, resulting in two Walloon and two Flemish possibles. The Belgian Consulate in L.A. shows the films to an advisory board consisting of American film professionals. Christian DeSchutter, manager of Flanders Image, notes that the American advice is “an important part of the process because we are sometimes unaware of certain sensibilities in the U.S.”

The notes from the advisory body in L.A. go to the two juries, who are now merged into one six-person national jury. After watching the four finalists, the jury members meet the candidates before voting on the official submission.

DeSchutter says: “They do not always follow the advisory body’s advice, but they always take it in consideration. They are absolutely free to select another submission because of what they heard during the meeting with the filmmakers. The jury is independent and comes to an independent decision.”

Thanks to the experience gained with recent Flemish-language nominees “Bullhead” and “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Flanders Image is now in a position to help producers strategize a marketing plan. “From the moment one of our films is selected as the official submission, we sit down with the producer and the director and look at several options,” DeSchutter says. “We ask them what their needs are and also explain to them how important it is for the director [and maybe some cast] to go to the U.S. and campaign. But it is also important to find the right awards publicist and have a U.S. distributor that has experience putting a film forward.”

Belgium’s most recent nominee, Felix van Groeningen, helmed the English-language Amazon production “Beautiful Boy,” which has awards buzz surrounding its leads Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet. He aims to continue working internationally if the project is right. “I also need to keep making films in Belgium as it continues to be the place I live and like to live.”

Recent nominees
“Embrace of the Serpent” (2015),
directed by Ciro Guerra
Current submission
Birds of Passage,” directed by
Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra

In Colombia, all members of the Colombian Film Academy vote to select their submission. Film director Alessandro Angulo Brandestini, a vice president of the Colombian Academy, says “Birds of Passage” was chosen from more than 30 entries. He says having a nominated film definitely helps the entire industry. “When you have an upcoming industry any good new thing really helps to put you on the map. Of course, it is valid to say that ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ was not a coincidence, but the result of the government and the private sector developing an industry that was practically nonexistent 20 years ago.”

“Serpent’s” director Ciro Guerra, who is shooting the English-language Johnny Depp/Robert Pattinson-starrer “Waiting for the Barbarians,” agrees that the nomination was a game-changer. “It opened every door imaginable, it made all our projects possible,” he says. “It helped the films we make reach a much wider audience than we could have ever anticipated, and that has allowed us to continue making films, which is the ultimate prize.” Although Guerra would like to continue making films outside of Colombia, he says, “I’ll always be a Colombian filmmaker, so I feel that alternating is the right way for me; I’d love to continue doing films in other languages and countries but without losing my connection to Colombian cinema, which is where my essence is.”

Recent nominees
“Children of Nature” (1991),
directed by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
Current submission
Woman at War,”
directed by Benedikt Erlingsson

The Icelandic Film Centre provides a list of all films that premiered within the eligible time frame and then all the members of its Film and Television Academy vote. Laufey Gudjonsdottir, director of the Icelandic Film Centre, says: “When a winner is decided, we sit down with the producer and the director and make a strategy and try to find out the best way to finance each part of the campaign. The Film Centre provides financial support to enable them to cover/participate in the promotion costs, e.g., press, travel, ads, publicist.” She notes that it helps if a strong U.S. distributor is on board with its own ideas for strategy. “Through our participation in European Film Promotion, the producers also get access to venues to hold extra screenings, arranged by the EFP and a publicist. For the past few years, the Promote Iceland Agency has provided support as well. The funds are usually limited, but as a small nation we are used to that, and try to find some creative solutions that fit each film at a given time.”

Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, who was nominated for his second feature “Children of Nature,” has gone on to be involved in more than 70 productions as a director or producer. He says, “Getting the nomination changed a lot for me. First of all, I got money to buy equipment to make better films and to produce films of other Icelandic directors.”

Recent nominees
“The Insult” (2017),
directed by Ziad Doueiri
Current submission
Capernaum,” directed by Nadine Labaki

The Ministry of Culture nominates a committee of 10 people to select the film that will represent Lebanon. The general manager of the Ministry of Culture also gets a vote.

Last year, “The Insult” was the first Lebanese film to receive a nomination. Ziad Doueiri, who started his career in Hollywood as an assistant cameraman, now frequently works in France, where he most recently directed the series “Baron Noir.”

Nadine Labaki, the director of this year’s submission, “Capernaum,” says: “Every Lebanese film that is selected in class A festivals or is nominated for international awards puts Lebanese cinematography on the international map. This exposure helps raise awareness about the film industry in Lebanon, its creative potential and talents. This international exposure and recognition offer the film industry a consolidated credibility towards investors and financing institutions who feel more comfortable to invest in a local film.” And, the locals, have changed behavior in recent years, with the international success of some Lebanese films making them more enthusiastic to consume local productions. “To date, in Lebanon, 20% of annual admissions go to local films — that is the highest rate in the region and still increasing.”