Apr 16
OSCAR’S ELUSIVE BEST FOREIGN FILM AWARD by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Apr 16, 2010

First of two parts

Consider this fact—since 1947, no Filipino film was ever nominated and much more, won the coveted best foreign language film award of the Oscar.

For us, the best foreign language Oscar trophy is elusive as ever. But hopes are still high that it will soon come and begin hopefully with a first nomination.

Shifting through data and facts about this specialized Oscar award, it seems that only 12 countries have won this award more than once.

The distinguished list of winners—from 1947 (when it was still a special honorary award) to 1956 (when it became an official academy award of merit) up to the last awards night for the year 2009—shows without doubt that most dominant in this category are Italy and France.

Italy actually won for 13 films and nominated for 27 films while France won for 12 films and nominated for 36 films.

Spain and Japan already won four times and have 19 and 12 nominations respectively.

Three-time winners are Sweden (also with 14 nominations); USSR (9 nominations); Netherlands (7 nominations); and Czechoslovakia (6 nominations).

Winning twice already are Denmark (7 nominations); Germany (9 nominations); Argentina (6 nominations) and Switzerland (5 nominations).

There are 12 countries which won at least one best foreign language trophy after all. These are West Germany (8 nominations); Hungary (8 nominations); Russia (5 nominations); Algeria (4 nominations); Canada (4 nominations);Czech Republic (3 nominations); Taiwan (3 nominations); Austria (3 nominations); South Africa (2 nominations); Bosnia & Herzegovina (one nomination); and Ivory Coast (one nomination).

All in all, there have only been 23 countries which have an Oscar best foreign language trophy under their wings.

Going through the list of winners will convince anyone that indeed these films can easily be included in the 100 or 1000 films you must see in your film-viewing lifetime.

During the period from 1947 to 1955 when this was just a special honorary award, two films by Vittorio de Sica (Italy)—Shoe Shine and The Bicycle Thief—were honoured. Other best foreign film winners included Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa (Japan); Monsieur Vincent by Maurice Cloche (France); The Walls of Malapaga by Rene Clement (France/Italy); Forbidden Games by Rene Clement (France); Gate of Hell by Tenosuke Kinugasa (Japan); and Samurai, the Legend of Musashi by Hiroshi Inagaki (Japan).

It will be better appreciated if we discuss the winners of the Best Foreign Language Film on a country-by-country basis from the year 1956 when it was instituted as an official academy award.

For Italy, the great Federico Fellini actually snared the awards four times for such classic films as La Strada (1956), The Nights of Cabria (1957), 8 1/2 (1963) and Amarcord (1974).

Vittorio de Sica who already won the honorary awards twice also bagged two more trophies for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1964) and The Garden of the Finzi Continis (1971).

Other Italian director winners were Lee Kresel and Elio Petri for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), Giuseppe Tornatore for Cinema Paradiso (1989), Gabriele Salvatore for Mediterraneo (1991) and Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful (1998).

For France, the winners included Jacques Tati for My Uncle (1958), Serge Borguignon for Sundays and Cybele (1962), Claude Lelouch for A Man and a Woman (1966), Luis Bunuel for the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972);

Francois Truffaut for Day for Night (1973), Moshe Mizrahi for Madame Rosa (1977), Bertrand Blier for Get Out Your Handkerchief (1978) and Regis Wargnier for Indochine (1992). It is interesting to note that since 1992, France suffered a best foreign language film drought any way you look at it.

(Continued next week: The 21 other winners)

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