Audrey Diwan’s Venice winner and timely abortion drama “Happening,” Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or-winning horror film “Titane,” and Cedric Jimenez’s cop thriller “Bac Nord” have been shortlisted by France’s Oscar committee. The French Oscar candidate is expected to be selected next Tuesday.
It’s a milestone year for French cinema and female directors, who won the top prizes at the biggest international film festivals, Cannes and Venice. Some other big-name directors were rumored to be in the pipeline for consideration, notably Xavier Giannoli with “Lost Illusions,” Celine Sciamma with “Petite Maman” and Jacques Audiard with “Paris, 13th District.” It turns out, however, that neither of them entered the race, letting “Happening” and “Titane” take center stage.
“Bac Nord,” which is co-written by Diwan, was pushed by Netflix and the movie’s French co-producer/distributor StudioCanal. An unlikely candidate for the international feature film race, the star-studded thriller opened at Cannes, out of competition, and went on be a box office hit in France.
The stakes are high this year. Although French cinema has shined at the Academy Awards on many occasions, including last year with Florian Zeller’s French-produced “The Father” scooping a pair of Oscars, the country hasn’t had an Oscar win in the international feature film category in 30 years — despite being the most-nominated country.
Diwan is only the fifth woman to have won the Golden Lion at Venice with “Happening,” while Ducournau was the second female director to win the Palme d’Or with “Titane” (following Jane Campion’s tie with Chen Kaige for “The Piano” in 1993). “Happening” has a strong momentum, tackling the issue of abortion through a powerful adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s semi-autobiographical novel set in 1963 that strikes a chord in today’s world. Ducournau’s “Titane” is also well-positioned, having recently won the people’s choice award at Toronto, where is played in the Midnight Madness section. Neon just debuted the film across 562 screens to fairly satisfying numbers.
Each U.S. distributor — IFC Films/FilmNation for “Happening,” Neon for “Titane” and Netflix for “Bac Nord” — will be on the ground in Paris on Tuesday to make a case for their respective title before the French committee, along with the films’ producers and sales agents.
This year’s French Oscar committee includes Julie Delpy; Zeller; producers Iris Knobloch and Alain Goldman, whose credits include the Oscar-winning film “La Vie En Rose”; Emilie Georges, the Oscar-winning producer of “Call Me by Your Name” and founder of Memento International; and Grégory Chambet, co-founder of the sales company WTFilms. The committee also has three permanent members: Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux; UniFrance president Serge Toubiana; and Elisabeth Tanner, talent agent and representative of the Cesar Academy.
Wild Bunch reps both “Happening” and “Titane,” and has sold the two films around the world. “Happening” is produced by Rectangle Productions, while “Titane” is produced by Kazak Productions. “Bac Nord” was produced by Chi-Fou-Mi Productions.