Our January and February tribute to the Academy Awards focused on an eclectic choice of Best Pictures. In March and April, we are extending it to include eight historic laureates in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
When eminent French filmmaker Leos Carax received the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Foreign Film (Holy Motors) in 2013, he famously delivered the following appreciation speech: “Hello, I’m Leos Carax, director of foreign-language films. I’ve been making foreign-language films my whole life. Foreign-language films are made all over the world, of course, except in America. In America, they only make non-foreign-language films. Foreign-language films are very hard to make, obviously, because you have to invent a foreign language instead of using the usual language. But the truth is, cinema is a foreign language, a language created for those who need to travel to the other side of life. Goodnight.”
Bitter irony aside, the Academy’s consideration of foreign films (however limited in scope and patronizing) did help immensely in spreading certain global cinematic trends, aesthetics, and politics beyond the national borders of their source. And, numerous filmmakers—major artists like Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, and Vittorio De Sica (all part of our series)—can be grateful to the Academy for the international renown and place in film history they enjoy today.