Well, Angelina Jolie will not be the first American-born Hollywood A-lister to win the Best Foreign Language Film trophy at the Oscars. The actress and director’s passion project, First They Killed My Father, was preemptively snubbed by the Academy. Unlike the major categories, the nominees in the foreign language race are whittled down through a lengthy process until the final nominees are announced along with the rest of the nominations. Though Father had been chosen as Cambodia’s official entry, it didn’t make the final shortlist.
Which is something of a surprise. After all, the film, which is available for streaming on Netflix (an interesting point to keep in mind while considering Oscar nomination politics), just got a nod at the Golden Globes. It’s been nominated in the category for several other awards, and took home the National Board of Review’s Freedom of Expression Award. With an 88 percent “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72 on Metacritic, it’s not only Jolie’s best received film as a director but it did get higher critical consensus marks than some of the films that did end up making the shortlist.
So even if the project wasn’t associated with Jolie, it still might be considered a snub. Though, it is hard to ignore that not only is this Jolie’s film, but she put the full power of her star power behind promoting it. In fact, she gave several lengthy interviews surrounding the films release during which she talked openly about her headline-making split with Brad Pitt. It is rare, for instance, that a director of a possible foreign film nominee makes the cover of Vanity Fair after all.
Still, the fact that the film was even eligible in the first place was a bit unusual. Nominees first must be chosen to represent the country by a recognized cultural body, and all films in the category must be both in a non-English language (Father is mostly in Khmer) and “artistic control” of the movie must be under a citizen of the country (Jolie has held duel citizenship in Cambodia, the native country of eldest son Maddox, for years).
The film, based on the memoir of Jolie’s close friend Loung Ung, and tells the story of a 7-year-old girl who is trained to be a child soldier during the Cambodian Civil War.
Father, however, is not alone in being surprisingly snubbed by the shortlist. France’s entry, BPM (Beats per Minute), was also snubbed. Robin Campillo’s film tells the story HIV/AIDS activist during the ’90s and has won several awards across the globe (including four at the Cannes Film Festival, and more recently best foreign film awards from the New York Film Critic Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association). Unlike Father, BPM was not nominated for a Globe either.
Here are the nine films that made the cut:
Chile, A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio, director Germany, In the Fade, Fatih Akin, director Hungary, On Body and Soul, Ildikó Enyedi, director Israel, Foxtrot, Samuel Maoz, director Lebanon, The Insult, Ziad Doueiri, director Russia, Loveless, Andrey Zvyagintsev, director Senegal, Félicité, Alain Gomis, director South Africa, The Wound, John Trengove, director Sweden, The Square, Ruben Östlund, director
The list does include some standouts. The Square, which co-stars Elisabeth Moss, took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes. In The Fade has gained Diane Kruger new acclaim as an actress. A Fantastic Woman includes a standout performance from trans actress Daniela Vega. They’re all deserving films, and it is a wide world of cinema out there beyond our borders. Jolie, however, will have to sit this one out.
It’s also worth noting that the award would not have gone to Jolie directly, but rather to the entire country of Cambodia. Jolie, of course, still has her own Best Supporting Actress trophy from Girl, Interrupted on her mantle.