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Useful Notes / Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

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The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film was first given out at the 20th Oscar ceremony in 1948. At the time it was a special award rather than a competitive award, given by the Academy to a film in a language other than English that was judged to be outstanding. Beginning with the 29th Academy Awards in 1957, the award was changed to a competitive award with a list of nominees that Academy members could vote on, and it has remained as such until this day. Historically, the Oscars have strongly favored films from Europe—Italy and France have combined for 27 winners, while the entire continent of Africa only has two, the continent of South America has three, and South Korea's thriving film industry has never even gotten a nomination.

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The award for Best Foreign Language film has several rules for eligibility, some of which have been controversial:

  • Films produced in the United States are not eligible, even if they are largely or entirely in a language other than English. However, films not in English produced in other predominantly Anglophone countries are eligible, and films from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have been nominated.
  • If a film has too much English dialogue, it is not eligible. The Band's Visit, a 2007 film submitted by Israel, was rejected by the Academy for including too much English. (Interestingly, films having no dialogue at all, such as 1983 nominee Le Bal, are eligible.)
  • Films must be submitted by the countries they are produced in, and countries are limited to one nominee each. This has led to more than one Award Snub. Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Ran wasn't nominated because folks in the Japanese film industry, who were mad at him for not going to a party, refused to submit it.
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  • A film may be rejected if the country nominating it did not have sufficient artistic control over it. Lust, Caution, nominated by Taiwan, was rejected because the Academy judged the United States and mainland China to be too involved in the production.

Foreign-language films are eligible for the Best Picture award and eleven have been nominated. The first instance was The Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir before the Foreign Language award was even inaugrated. Other occasions have included Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers, Il Postino, Babel, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima, and six films that also appear on the list below.

Winners of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film are listed below, as well as nominees with TV Tropes work pages.


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Winners, and nominees with TV Tropes pages, by year of eligibility and country of origin:


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