We were waiting to see which European country would be first to announce before publishing our famous Oscar submission pages. But an African country surprised us by being first up to bat. Word is in that Algeria will submit Papicha as their Oscar entry this year.

Papicha centers on a teenager (her nickname being the title) who dreams of being a fashion designer despite conservative bans. The film, a debut from the 41 year-old director Mounia Meddour, premiered at Cannes. No word yet on US distribution. This is the second consecutive submission from Algeria by a female director. Only two previous women have been submitted by Algeria: Yamina Bachir (Rachida, 2002) and later her daughter Yasmine Chouikh (Until the End of Time, 2018) 

African cinema has been largely ignored by the Academy over the years for we think three primary reasons. First, the continent’s most prolific spot for cinema is Nigeria and “Nollywood,” as its known, largely produces English language films which means they can’t be submitted in this category (The Academy changed the title of the category from “Best Foreign Language Film” to “Best International Film” just this year but the restriction that the films can’t be predominantly English remains in place). Second, apart from Egypt (33 submissions, no nominations), Morocco (14 submissions, 1 finalist but no nominations)  and South Africa (15 submissions, 2 nominations, and an additional 2 finalists that weren’t nominated), and Algeria (which we’ll get to in a minute) no African countries submit to the category on an annual basis — and you can’t be nominated if you don’t submit. Lastly, though not unimportantly, Oscar’s taste in international film definitely runs to the European as Latin American countries and Asian countries submit with great regularity but (mostly) struggle to secure nominations.

Over the years though Algeria has proven the exception to the rule in terms of Oscar ignoring Africa, helped surely by its close but tense former-colony ties with France. 

Algeria’s Nominees
Algeria has submitted 21 times over the years with 5 nominations and 1 win to date.

Jean-Louis Trintignant (Cannes winner Best Actor for “Z”) . Trintignant has been the star of 3 winners in the Foreign Film Category: A Man and a Woman (1966), Z (1969) and Amour (2012).

  • 1969 ★ “Z” (Costa Gavras)
    “Z” was nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Picture and won two: Film Editing and Foreign Film. It was only the second foreign language film ever nominated for Hollywood’s top prize and the first nominated for Best Picture after the creation of the Foreign Film category. It was also the first African film ever nominated.
  • 1983 Le Bal (Ettore Scola) 
  • 1995 Dust of Life (Rachid Bouchareb)
  • 2006 Days of Glory (Rachid Bouchareb) 
  • 2010 Outside the Law (Rachid Bouchareb) 

Bouchareb is their most Oscar-submitted director, with six films selected over the years, the runner up being Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina (4 submissions, the most famous of which remains the 1975 Palme d’or winner Chronicle of the Years of Fire) though none of Lakhdar-Hamina’s films were nominated.

Other African Films That Have Been Nominated

  • 1976 ★ Black and White in Color (Ivory Coast, d. Jean-Jacques Annaud)
  • 2004 Yesterday (South Africa, d. Darrell Roodt)
  • 2005 ★ Tsotsi (South Africa, d. Gavin Hood)
  • 2014 Timbuktu  (Mauritana, d. Abderrahmane Sissako) 

The Film Experience’s coverage of the Best International Feature Film race was a deep dive before even the trades seemed to care that much but now everyone covers it. Which is good because it deserves coverage and bad because we no longer get any credit or respect for it. But we realize that’s a personal gripe unrelated to the beauty of seeing these things widely covered. So we hope at least that you appreciate us and share our pieces and our charts on this race on social media from time to time rather than just retweeting Variety or whatnot. Please and thanks xoxo 

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