Oscars 2017: Which Country Nominated For Best Foreign Language Film Has the Best Track Record of Winning?
By: Carson Blackwelder
The one chance for the entire world to get involved with the Academy Awards has always been the best foreign language film category. Since any country can submit a film each year, though, that means the competition is intense. Let’s take a look at the countries that have snagged nominations this year and see how they’ve performed in the past in the hopes of shedding some light on what might happen come February 26.
This year the five nominees for best foreign language film are Land of Mine from Denmark, A Man Called Ove from Sweden, The Salesman from Iran, Tanna from Australia, and Toni Erdmann from Germany. The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg lists The Salesman as the frontrunner in this category — obviously due to the film’s merits and also potentially due to its director, Asghar Farhadi, skipping the ceremony over President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Handing the win to this film could be one of the biggest political statements Hollywood can make this year.
Denmark has had 11 films nominated in this category before: Qivitoq in 1957, Paw in 1960, Harry and the Butler in 1962, Babette’s Feast in 1988 (winner), Pelle the Conqueror in 1989 (winner), Waltzing Regitze in 1990, After the Wedding in 2007, In a Better World in 2011 (winner), A Royal Affair in 2013, The Hunt in 2014, and A War in 2016. With Land of Mine — about German POWs sent to clear mines in Denmark after World War II — being a historical drama it fits in quite nicely with the other winners because they’re all dramas, too. Considering the times Denmark has a film nominated, the country sees a win a little over 27% of the time.
Sweden has had 14 films nominated thus far in this category: The Virgin Spring in 1961 (winner), Through a Glass Darkly in 1962 (winner), Raven’s End in 1965, Dear John in 1966, Ådalen ’31 in 1970, The Emigrants in 1972, The New Land in 1973, The Flight of the Eagle in 1983, Fanny and Alexander in 1984 (winner), The Ox in 1992, All Things Fair in 1996, Under the Sun in 2000, Evil in 2004, and As It Is in Heaven in 2005. A Man Called Ove — which follows a 59-year-old man who is looking to suicide as a way to escape life when a chance encounter with a new neighbor and their family begins an unexpected friendship — is a drama film just like the three previous winners so it would follow suit there. Looking at how often Sweden has a film nominated as compared when that film wins, it measures in at a little over 21% of the time.
Iran has only had two films nominated in this category in history: Children of Heaven in 1999 and A Separation in 2012 (winner). The Salesman — which tells the story of a couple who see their relationship crumbling around them upon being cast as the leads in a local production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman — is a drama just like the previous winner, which also happens to be directed by Farhadi. While it doesn’t have as many nominations as the other countries, it has a 50% shot of winning when nominated.
History could certainly be made when it comes to Australia. The land Down Under has actually never seen a film nominated for best foreign language film, giving it a clean slate in terms of how well Tanna — which is set on the titular island that is part of Vanuatu in the South Pacific and focuses on the Romeo and Juliet-like romance between a couple who decide to marry for love instead of obeying their parents — might do against the competition. Maybe we’ll see Australia take home the bragging rights the first year they’re up for a win.
Germany has quite the interesting past — all thanks to having once been divided into East and West sides. Throughout its entire history, Germany has had 18 nominations: The Captain of Köpenick in 1957, The Devil Strikes at Night in 1958, Arms and the Man in 1959, The Bridge in 1960, The Pedestrian in 1974, Jacob the Liar in 1977, The Glass Cell in 1979, The Tin Drum in 1980 (winner), Angry Harvest in 1986, The Nasty Girl in 1991, Schtonk! in 1993, Beyond Silence in 1998, Nowhere in Africa in 2003 (winner), Downfall in 2005, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days in 2006, The Lives of Others in 2007 (winner), The Baader Meinhof Complex in 2009, and The White Ribbon in 2010. Toni Erdmann — follows a father who is trying to reconnect with his adult daughter, even though they couldn’t be any more different, after the death of his canine companion — is a dramedy and the three previous winners from this country being more on the drama side. German films, when nominated, win a little less than 17% of the time.
We’ll see if a win for Iran delivers a political statement, if Australia gets its first-ever win, or if another European country takes home the trophy once more. All of these nominations have already bested another 80 submissions from countries — there were 85 in total — from around the world. Let’s see how the cookie crumbles on February 26.