On December 15, The Academy announced the nine films shortlisted for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. To the delight of all of us here in Lebanon, Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult made it to the list. And as varied as the predictions have since been, things are getting clearer and clearer with each precursor award — especially with the announcement of the Golden Globe winners. So, does The Insult really have a chance? Let’s discuss.
As it stands, five of the nine shortlisted films will make the final cut and get nominated for the Oscar. Of the nine, it’s safe to say that the entries from Sweden, Russia, and Chile have sealed their spots in the top five, which leaves us with two spots and six films. The selections from Senegal, South Africa, and Hungary have been largely absent from the conversation, so one can go ahead and assume they’ll be absent from the top five as well. That leaves Lebanon, Germany, and Israel’s entries. Only two of the three can make it in, and the race is quite a tight one.
Germany’s entry, In The Fade, was always in the mix but was never a serious contender until the announcement of the Golden Globe nominations last month. But after its shocking win on Sunday, it’s looking more and more likely that the film will be nominated. The film is also led by Diane Kruger, who is loved by the industry and won Best Actress at Cannes for her work in the film, pushing its chances even further. Another factor, though not a substantial one, is last year’s Oscar result in this category. Germany’s Toni Erdmann was critically hailed and on numerous top 10 lists throughout the year but came up short in the end when Iran’s The Salesman emerged victorious. Many suspected that President Trump’s Muslim ban at the time, which was heavily criticised by Asghar Farhadi — The Salesman’s director — played a part in the unexpected outcome, and so The Academy might opt to include Germany once again.
That being said, the history of the Globes plays against this theory. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Globe nominations (and winners) in this category have notoriously differed from those of The Academy. Just last year, France’s Elle won the Golden Globe but wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar, a trend that has often been repeated in history. Having been absent from most major lists, and being the lowest-rated film of all nine shortlisted titles, its chances significantly drop.
Next up is Foxtrot from Israel. The Academy has long been a fan of submissions from the country, and this year’s entry received rave reviews from critics and has shown up in numerous Best of 2017 lists, so a nomination is definitely not farfetched (I’d even say expected). It failed to earn a Golden Globe nomination, however, and while that’s not a sure-fire precursor, it never hurts.
Capping off the list is Lebanon’s The Insult. The film established itself as an early contender with a Volpi Cup win for best actor, but has since died down in popularity. Despite the small surge it witnessed upon the announcement of the shortlist, it has yet to garner the momentum needed to solidify its spot in the top five. However, director Ziad Doueiri’s work is well respected, and the film has done well in festivals. Most recently, American Film Institute (AFI) named The Insult the best of 2017 in its World Cinema category. In addition, the film opens in US theaters just before the closing of the vote for the Oscars, which will give it a much-needed boost. As it stands now, The Insult will either barely sneak into the top five or just miss out and sit at sixth place.
The 2018 Oscar nominations will be announced on January 23, 2018.