Having premiered half of the 10 films shortlisted for the international feature film Oscar and four of the five movies nominated in the Golden Globes’ foreign-language category, the Cannes Film Festival has once again proven its power to position non-English films in the awards season, ahead of the Venice, Toronto and Berlin fests.
Last year, six of the nine Oscar-shortlisted foreign-language films were Cannes titles, and three of the five Golden Globe nominees. There is also an increasing number of Cannes films being submitted by individual nations for Oscar consideration. Out of the 93 films submitted to the Academy in the international feature film category this year, 16 bowed on the Croisette.
Two of the films on the 2020 Oscar shortlist announced Monday are feature debuts that competed at Cannes: Ladj Ly’s timely police-brutality drama, “Les Miserables,” and Mati Diop’s supernatural romance, “Atlantics,” which represent France and Senegal, respectively, in the Oscar race. Another young Cannes alumnus in the mix is Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov, whose “Beanpole” earned him the director award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section.
The two remaining Cannes titles on the Oscar shortlist are films from master helmers: “Pain & Glory” by Pedro Almodovar and “Parasite” from Bong Joon Ho, who became the first South Korean director to win a Palme d’Or.
“There are more films from Cannes in the running for major awards, not only at the Oscars or Golden Globes but also at the European Film Awards and the Cesar Awards,” said Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who has opened the festival door wider to documentaries, animated films, genre movies and works from the emerging industries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
“We often hear that Cannes is set too early to position films for the Oscars, but it’s not true for foreign films and for certain independent U.S. films,” Fremaux added, citing Spike Lee’s win for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” which competed at Cannes last year. “You can come to Cannes in May and still be alive — and thrive — in February.”
He also pointed to Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” (2004) and Ethan and Joel Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” (2008), which won two and four Oscars, respectively.
But the Venice Film Festival, which has more diligently pursued Hollywood fare under director Alberto Barbera, has enjoyed more success in recent years on Oscar night. “Spotlight,” “La La Land,” “The Favourite,” and “Birdman” are among the titles that have taken home statuettes in the best picture, acting or directing categories.
Fremaux said he had high hopes for American filmmakers who came to Cannes this year — Quentin Tarantino with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Terrence Malick with “A Hidden Life” and for Britain’s Dexter Fletcher, who directed Paramount’s Elton John biopic, “Rocketman.” “Once Upon a Time .in Hollywood” and “Rocketman” have been nominated in the best comedy or musical category at the Golden Globes.
“Parasite,” with its $121 million worldwide box office (the most ever for a South Korean film) and multiple awards and nominations, is Cannes’ biggest victory of the past few years and underscores the power of the French Riviera-set festival in launching the international careers of foreign films. As with last year’s “Roma,” which premiered in Venice, “Parasite” has transcended the foreign-language category and been nominated for director and screenplay at the Globes. Bong recently made his first appearance on an American late-night show, cracking up host Jimmy Fallon and the audience in a clip that went viral.
Fremaux said he was particularly proud of the international careers of many films that have world-premiered at Cannes in recent years. Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese drama “Capernaum” and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” were box office successes last year, grossing $64.4 million and $68 million worldwide, respectively, and won a flurry of awards, on top of Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
“Cannes has succeeded in becoming a quality label for theatrical audiences, and proves that a festival is not like a flower alone in the desert. Its role is to shine a spotlight on beautiful films and help them reach audiences around the world,” Fremaux said.