Telefilm to consult on Canadian Oscar eligibility criteria

Denys Arcand's "Les Invasions barbares" is the only Canadian film to have won the Best Foreign Language Film category back in 2004.

Telefilm Canada has issued a revised call for entries for the 92nd Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film Award (formerly Best Foreign Language Film) following outcry over a proposed change in criteria.

Each year, Telefilm coordinates the Pan-Canadian Selection Committee to determine which Canadian film will be submitted to the Academy Awards. Last week, the Crown corporation announced updated eligibility criteria. The new criteria stipulated that to be entered, a film must be represented by an American sales agent/distributor or an international sales agent and have been selected by one of 13 eligible international film festivals, namely Berlin, Cannes, Sundance, Venice, TIFF, Busan, Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Rotterdam, San Sebastian, Telluride, South By Southwest or the Tribeca Film Festival.

Telefilm said the goal of the changes was to ensure that the Selection Committee puts forth the strongest possible contender in a highly-competitive field. However, after hearing from a “combination of different parties from the industry,” a Telefilm representative told Broadcast Dialogue there will be further consultation.

Previously, Telefilm has always followed standard Academy criteria, which states that eligible films in the category must have had a one-week commercial theatrical run between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 in the eligible calendar year.

“To keep up with the competitive nature of the Academy Awards, we proposed a new process with the end result working toward a more competitive awards campaign,” said the representative.

Tuesday, Telefilm issued a revised call for entries saying that it would heed industry calls “to proceed with a more robust consultation with representatives of the industry before adopting new admissibility criteria.” That means for the timebeing, any Canadian film that meets the Academy’s criteria may be submitted for consideration by the Selection Committee.

The release said in the near future, it will “work closely with industry to update the selection process to better reflect current changes in the audiovisual industry internationally.”

“As the Oscars are an extremely competitive race, as a front-line partner, Telefilm wants to ensure that it puts the most chances on Canada’s side,” stated the release.

A Canadian film hasn’t reached the nomination stage in the category since 2012 when Kim Nguyen’s child soldier war drama War Witch made the cut. The last time a Canadian film was shortlisted was Xavier Dolan’s Juste la fin du monde in 2016. Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions barbares is the only Canadian film to have won the category back in 2004.

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