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Oscars: Africa’s Submissions for the 95th Ceremony’s Best International Film Competition

Every year, since the award was created in 1956, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has invited foreign film industries to submit their best films to compete for the International Feature Film Oscar.

The category was previously called Best Foreign Language Film. The name change happened in April 2019.

The main criteria for consideration by the Academy:

  1. Must be produced outside the United States.
  2. Must contain primarily non-English dialogue.
  3. Must have been released theatrically in their respective countries during the year of consideration. For the 95th Academy Awards, that would be between January 1, 2022, and November 30, 2022.

The deadline for submissions this year is October 3, 2022.

Here at Akoroko, we will track Africa’s submissions specifically, as announcements are made through the deadline date. The list will be updated accordingly, in the order of announcements made by each country.

ALGERIA

NOS FRANGINS - Festival de Cannes 2022

On September 6, 2022, Algeria selected Rachid Bouchareb’s “Nos Frangins” (“Our Brothers”) as its entry.

Synopsis: December 5th, 1986. Thousands of students protest for higher education reforms. Abdel Benyahia is killed by a drunken cop in a Paris suburb. Several hours later, Malik Oussekine is pursued and beaten to death by three police officers. When Inspector Daniel Mattei is appointed to investigate, the police force and the government collude to cover up Abdel’s death and discredit the murdered man. As revolt threatens to erupt amidst a population horrified by Malik’s murder in the heart of Paris, the families of both victims, while never meeting, struggle to understand what really happened that night.

Noteworthy: Algeria has submitted a film for consideration 23 times in the history of the Oscars category, the most of any African nation. Of those 23 submissions, seven were films directed by Bouchareb, including this one.

Three of his submissions were eventually nominated: in 1995 (68th Academy Awards) “Poussières de vie” (“Dust of Life”); 2006 (79th Academy Awards) “Indigènes” (“Days of Glory”); and in 2010 (83rd) “Hors-la-loi” (“Outside the Law”).

Of the three nominations, none won their respective years.

Time will tell if this year’s entry, “Nos Frangins” (“Our Brothers”), is nominated; and if so, whether it’ll win, becoming the second film representing Algeria to be awarded the Oscar in this category.

The first, and only film representing Algeria to win an International Film/Foreign Language Film Oscar was Costa-Gavras’ 1969 Algerian-French political thriller “Z.”

TANZANIA

For the first time in 21 years, Tanzania has submitted a film for consideration: Amil Shivji’s romantic drama “Vuta N’Kuvute” (“Tug Of War”), which is based on Adam Shafi’s award-winning Swahili novel.

Synopsis: Set in the final years of British colonial Zanzibar, the film weaves through 1950s coastal culture across the divides of class and racial segregation that were imposed by the colonial regime. Denge, a frustrated and rebellious Zanzibari young man who is part of the freedom struggle against British rule meets Yasmin, a recent runaway Indian-Zanzibari bride whose equal rebelliousness drives her to seek her own independence. Their romantic but forlorn relationship is coupled with the daily struggles of finding their place in the resistance movements for independence.

The last Tanzanian film t be submitted for International Film/Foreign Langauge Oscar consideration was “Maangamizi: The Ancient One” for the year 2001. Co-directed by Martin Mhando and Ron Mulvihill, the drama followed a doctor who is faced with the contrast between Western medicine and traditional East African spirituality when a woman, who is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, claims to be under the care of Maangamizi, a mysterious ancestor/shaman.

Executive produced by the late Jonathan Demme, “Maangamizi” was not nominated.

TUNISIA

“Sous les Figues” (“Under the Fig Trees”) by Erige Sehiri, will represent Tunisia at the 95th Academy Awards, in the International Feature Film category.

Selected by the Tunisian National Center for Cinema and Image, Le Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image (CNCI), the synopsis for “Sous les Figues” reads: Among the trees, young women and men working the summer harvest develop new feelings, flirt, try to understand each other, find, and flee deeper connections.

This is the ninth submission for Tunisia, since its first entry in 1995. It’s received one nomination: “The Man Who Sold His Skin[” by Kaouther Ben Hania, submitted for 93rd Academy Awards consideration, for films released in 2020. It didn’t win.

UGANDA

“Tembele” by Moriss Mugisha has been selected by the Uganda Academy Selection Committee (UASC) to represent the country in the forthcoming 95th Oscars Awards in 2023. This is Uganda’s first ever submission to the Oscars.

Synopsis: “Tembele” is a drama that rackles mental health, delving into the soul of a man working on a garbage truck in the city as he battles with a mental setback after losing a son, soon after birth. It highlights mental and maternal health.

The film features Uganda’s award-winning actor Patriq Nkakalukanyi as Tembele, the lead. The movie centres around Tembele, a garbage collector, who works on a truck 12 hours a day in the chaotic Kampala city.

NIGERIA

“The Kings Horseman” (Netflix)

According to reports by various Nigerian press, including Business Day and Premium Times, for the second year in a row, Nigeria will not be submitting a film in the International Feature Film Oscar category. The Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC) released the following statement: “Although the committee received three epic films following its call for submissions in August, it turned out that none of them will advance to the next stage owing to the voting patterns of members. Nigerian films have undoubtedly improved significantly as filmmakers’ awareness of the requirements has grown over time, and we just might be bringing this award home in succession very soon.”

It’s unclear what the “three epic films” submitted were. No titles are shared in the statement. But one would assume that a film like the late Biyi Bandele’s “The King’s Horseman” (based on Pulitzer Prize winner Wole Soyinka’s play “Death and the King’s Horseman”), which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, would’ve been one of them. Stay tuned.

Previously, Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart” (2019) represented the country but was eventually disqualified for failing to meet language requirements. The film is in both English and Igbo; at the time, Academy requirements called for films in the category by entirely in a foreign language. Hence the category name change to “Best International Film” from “Best Foreign Language Film,” righting a past wrong.

And in 2020 “The Milkmaid” by Desmond Ovbiagele was submitted, but not nominated.

KENYA

Kenya has spoken — via the Kenya Film Commission Twitter account:

We know little about “Terastorm” which is described as an “African Superhero Film.” It’s written, directed, and animated by 3D artist Andrew Kaggia, his feature debut.

Kaggia’s notable credits include 2011 animated short “Wageuzi: Battle 2012.”

“Terastorm” synopsis: A group of elite African heroes unites in an attempt to vanquish an ancient wizard who threatens to destroy the earth with a powerful mysterious artifact.

The film features “an ensemble of Black superheroes for the first time ever in a feature film,” according to the filmmakers.

This is the seventh time Kenya has submitted a film for Best International Film/Foreign Language Film Oscar consideration.

It’s also the 6th consecutive year that the country has submitted a film. The first was in 2012 with David Gitonga’s “Nairobi Half Life.” It was followed by a five-year drought until 2017’s “Kati Kati,” directed by Mbithi Masya.

The country has submitted a film every year since then. Although it has never been nominated. But the recent consistency is important to note.

MOROCCO

The Blue Caftan

Maryam Touzani’s romantic drama “Le Bleu du Caftan” (“The Blue Caftan”) has been submitted as Morocco’s official entry in the Best International Feature Film Oscar category.

Synopsis: The Arabic-language film, follows a woman and her closeted gay husband, who run a caftan store in the medina of Salé, Morocco, and hire a young man as an apprentice. Slowly the woman starts to realize how much her husband is taken by the young man.

The film, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival and screened at Toronto (TIFF) as well, is Morocco’s 18th submission in the Best International Film category. The country has consistently submitted a film annually since 2011. None of its entries has ever been nominated.

Director Touzani’s last film, “Adam” (2019) was also selected to represent Morocco that year.

SENEGAL

Senegal has selected Moussa Sene Absa’s “Xalé” to represent the country at the 95th Academy Awards.

Synopsis: Awa, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, is happily living her teenage years alongside her twin brother Adama who dreams of Europe. When their grandmother dies, her aunt Fatou and her uncle Atoumane promise to marry in order to preserve the family union. But Fatou does not love Atoumane and the latter, tired of waiting to consummate his marriage, commits an act from which there is no going back.

This is Absa’s 8th narrative feature directing effort. It’s also the fourth time in the history of the award that Senegal has submitted a film for consideration — its first in 2017 was Alain Gomis’ “Félicité.”

None have so far been nominated.

Honoring films released in 2022, the 95th Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on March 12, 2023.

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