France Revamps Eligibility Rules For Oscar Submissions To “Increase Chances”; Mixed Reaction

France’s national film body, the CNC, has set changes to eligibility rules for the submission of a local title as the country’s representative for the Foreign Language Oscar race (now known as the International Feature Film category). It is also overhauling the selection committee which convenes each year in September to consider possibilities. France is one of the most nominated and winning countries in history at the Academy Awards, but has not taken the FL prize since 1992’s Indochine. There has been griping over the selection process in recent years, and today some see the CNC moves as going in a positive direction while others are holding out to see the shape of the new committee.

The relaxation of requirements for consideration now includes a qualifying run, which in France is known as a “technical release.” Until now, in order to be eligible to rep France, a film was required to release theatrically between October 1 (of the year preceding) and September 30 of the current year. Ahead, technical releases of seven consecutive days before September 30 will be authorized for films which are set to officially debut later in the fall or winter. However, the CNC has to rubber stamp the plan.

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“Thanks to this evolution, the selection committee will have more choice, including films that will release in the fall, in order to find the ideal film to represent our French cinema in this prestigious race,” said CNC President Frédérique Bredin.

The CNC also said today that “in order to increase France’s chances to win an Oscar” the make up of the selection committee will be modified to include industry professionals who have strong knowledge of the American market. Going forward, the committee will include two filmmakers, two producers and two international sales agents.

These new recruits will be added to representatives of Unifrance, the Césars and the Cannes Film Festival. Each year, the six professionals will be designated by the Culture Ministry.

The shifts were met with a mix of reaction. Playtime partner Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, whose films have figured at the Oscars, tells me the moves announced today are “a great step forward that will hopefully help France re-conquer its position in the Academy Awards race.”

No stranger to the Oscars himself, Vincent Maraval, the Wild Bunch co-founder who famously refused to budge on release plans for 2013 Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color in order to qualify, is cautious. “Let’s wait and see who is on the committee — if it’s just to refurb the losing machine…”

This year certainly has a wealth of possibilities including Ladj Ly’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Les Misérables, Céline Sciamma’s Cannes Screenplay laureate Portrait Of A Lady On Fire and François Ozon’s By The Grace Of God which scooped Berlin’s Silver Bear Grand Jury honor. Films that may figure at the fall festivals will also now get a shot under the new rules.

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