The Academy Awards, popularly known as The Oscars, is the most prestigious accolade a film could get. It is very debatable whether the winner of the award is always the best movie, but the relevance of the Oscars is undeniable.
Although, one of the categories seems to always fall short with the recognition it deserves. The Best Foreign Language Film, or Best International Film as it will be called from 2020 onwards, should be as important as the Best Film, Best Director, or Best Actor/Actress.
The first-ever Academy Awards happened in 1929, but it wasn’t until 1956 the category for Best International films would be included, even though the Academy was handing Oscars for best foreign films since 1947 as honorary awards. To be eligible the film has to have been produced outside the United States and has to be in a language other than English for the majority of the time.
From the 68 awards handed out by the Academy until now, 57 have gone to European films, eight to Asian films, five to productions made in the Americas and three to African movies.
Akira Kurosawa from Japan is the only director to win the award running for two different countries. He won one time for Japan and the other for his first movie in a different language that was made in the Soviet Union. The late Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is the recordist, have won the award four times during his lifetime.
International films can also compete for the most celebrated award, the Oscar for Best Film, but it only happened 11 times. The only exception to be nominated to Best Film before the category of Best Foreign Film was introduced in 1956, is the French film La Grande Illusion by historic director Jean Renoir in 1938.
But it was only last year the first international movie would win the highest prize. Parasite (2019) by Bong Joon-ho made history being the first South Korean film ever to be nominated to Best Foreign Film and went a step further being nominated and ultimately winning the Oscar for Best Film.
It’s interesting to notice the number of times some countries have been nominated and the number of times they have won the award. For instance, Iran has been nominated on only three occasions but won in two of them; while Poland had a nominee for 15 times and only managed to bring the statuette home once.
France and Italy lead the way with 12 and 14 wins respectively. Although the French have 10 extra nominations under their belt. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivory Coast and South Korea are the countries to have won the award in the only time they were nominated.
With the feat “Parasite” has managed in 2019, added to growing debate on the importance and quality of international films, it is likely we will see many more “foreign” films contending to the Oscar of Best Film in the future.