France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC) has announced it is changing the composition of the committee selecting the country’s submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences international feature film category to include industry professionals for the first time.
“We have decided to modify the composition of the commission to integrate professionals with a sophisticated understanding of the American market,” said CNC president Frédérique Bredin in a statement.
Under the changes, the committee will include two directors, two producers and two international sales agents, who will be selected by the ministry of culture. In the past only directors were invited to the committee.
The six professionals will join the traditional institutional members, comprising Cannes Film Festival director general Thierry Frémaux, César Academy president Alain Terzian, and the president of export body Unifrance Serge Toubiana, who has been re-elected for a second two-year term.
CNC president Bredin said the move was aimed at increasing France’s “competitiveness in the Oscar race”.
France last triumphed in the Foreign Language category in 1992 with Régis Wargnier’s Indochine, although a number of French entries have made it onto the shortlist, including most recently Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang in 2015, and before that Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet in 2009.
The country also enjoyed Oscar glory with Michel Hazanavicius’ silent black-and-white The Artist, which was submitted for all the main categories and won five Academy Awards, including best picture, best director, and best actor.
Amour, Michael Haneke’s 2011 French-language winner of what until recently was known as the foreign-language category, was submitted under the Austrian flag, and was regarded as a vicarious triumph for France.
In another change to France’s Oscar strategy, the CNC said it was also softening the eligibility criteria around the release dates. Up until now only films that have been released in cinemas between October 1 of the previous year and September 30 of the ongoing year can be submitted to the selection committee for consideration.
Under the new rules, films that have played in cinemas for seven consecutive days before September 30, ahead of a larger general release later on, can be put forward for consideration. Such releases need to have obtained a provisional CNC release visa to be valid.
“Thanks to this change, the selection committee will have a larger choice – including the films due to come out in the autumn – which will help it find the best film to represent French cinema in this prestigious race,” said Bredin.
The new-style committee is due to meet in the second half of September. The 92nd Academy Awards are due to take place on February 9, 2020.
Hot contenders to be France’s submission this year include Cannes titles: Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, which Neon and Hulu acquired jointly for the US, and Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables, which Amazon Studios picked up for the US.