Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane will be France’s submission to the best international film category for the 2022 Oscars.
It was among three films shortlisted in the country’s two-part selection process alongside Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner Happening and Cédric Jimenez’s box office hit Bac Nord (aka The Stronghold).
The genre-bending thriller is lead produced by Jean-Christophe Reymond at Kazak Productions in co-production with Belgium’s Frakas Productions, Arte Cinema France and Belgian pay-TV companies Voo and BeTV. It is sold by Wild Bunch International (WBI).
Unfolding against the backdrop of a town racked by a series of gruesome murders, Vincent Lindon co-stars as a macho fire captain haunted by the disappearance of his young son, who finds himself inextricably drawn to a strange young man who turns up at a local airport claiming to be the lost child.
Diaphana Distribution released the film in France on July 14. It has drawn just under 300,000 spectators to date for a gross of around $2.2m.
It has been enjoying a successful US theatrical release for Neon since its launch on October 1. It posted the biggest US opening weekend by a Palme d’Or winner since Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004 and has ignited audiences during an international festival tour that has taken in Toronto, New York and London in recent weeks.
This year’s selection committee featured one-year members director-screenwriters Florian Zeller and Julie Delpy, former WarnerMedia senior executive Iris Knobloch and producer Alain Goldman and sales agents, Memento International CEO Emilie Georges and WTFilms co-head Grégory Chambet.
They join permanent institutional members, Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux, Unifrance president Serge Toubiana and César Academy co-president Véronique Cayla.
The decision over which film should be France’s submission is believed to have gone down to the wire. All three shortlisted films came with compelling reasons for why they should represent France.
Adapted from French writer Annie Ernaux’s 2019 novel about her illegal abortion in the 1960s, Diwan’s Happening could have been expected to strike a chord with Academy voters for its relevant theme at a time when legal abortion rights for women are under pressure in the US and a number of other countries.
IFC Films president Arianna Bocco who led a deal to co-acquire US rights with FilmNation is reported to have flown to Paris to lobby for the film.
Marseille-set police corruption thriller Bac Nord, which is loosely based on real events, has been a hit at the French box office and generated buzz worldwide on Netflix. It currently stands fourth in France’s 2021 box office, having generated 1.9 admissions for a gross of roughly $14.8m.
France regularly makes it into the final nominee long and shortlists in the best international picture category, most recently with Ladj Ly’s debut picture Les Misérables in 2020. It has not triumphed in the category since 1993 with Régis Wargnier’s Indochine, although Michel Hazanavicius’ black-and-white silent film The Artist won best film in 2012.
The 94th Academy Awards will take place on March 27, 2022 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.