2017 Foreign Oscar Guide: This Time for Africa?

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Welcome to The Awards Circuit’s 2017 Foreign Oscar Guide. This weekly series will shine a spotlight on this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, looking at all 92 submitted films and their interesting trends and regional perspectives.

If you’re still looking for proof that #OscarsSoWhite, look no further than the history of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Unsurprisingly, this category has been overwhelmingly dominated by European films, with 56 winners from the region. In comparison, you can count the African winners on less than one hand, with only three winners to date. The under-representation of African cinema could also be explained by the low number of entries, however, as only a few countries bother to submit films each year. But as this year’s slate proves, there is no shortage of talented African filmmakers. Here’s a closer look at the eight African films vying for Oscar attention.

3-time Oscar nominee Rachid Bouchareb

From North Africa, four films will be heading into the race with significant festival credentials. Among them is the topical drama “Road to Istanbul,” directed by longtime Academy favorite Rachid Bouchareb. After three previous nominations, Bouchareb will hope to finally get a win for this drama about a Belgian woman’s search for her daughter who unexpectedly joined ISIS. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won Best Actress at the Belgian equivalent of the Oscars.

While the Algerian Bouchareb will be a familiar name for Academy voters, the other North African entries come from up-and-coming directors. Tunisia will be represented by Ala Eddine Slim, whose film “The Last of Us” won the Lion of the Future for Best Debut Film at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival. Meanwhile, Egypt and Morocco have submitted a pair of Toronto premieres in the form of Amr Salama’s “Sheikh Jackson” and “Razzia,” which marks Nabil Ayouch’s fourth attempt at an Oscar nomination.

Further south, the remaining quartet is no less impressive. Notably, Senegal and Mozambique have submitted their first ever films for Oscar consideration. The former will be represented by Alain Gomis’ “Félicité,” which will soon be released in North America after a successful festival run that began with the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. Despite a shorter festival tour, Mozambique’s submission, “The Train of Salt and Sugar,” also comes into the race with festival laurels, having won Best Director for Licinio Azevedo at the Cairo International Film Festival. Similarly, the director (Mbithi Masya) of Kenya’s entry, “Kati Kati,” has been showered with festival prizes in Palm Springs, Toronto and Minneapolis St. Paul.

Finally, these films will be joined by the previously discussed South African submission “The Wound,” which just won Best First Feature at the London Film Festival.

Contenders to watch: “Félicité” and “The Last of Us”

Which of these African films are you rooting for? Let us know in the comments below.

Check out the newest Oscar Predictions and see where the contenders rank!

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MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE |