Photo: La Semaine de la Critique

Africa Shut Out of Oscars Best International Feature Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its shortlist for the Best International Feature category of the 94th Academy Awards – a list that doesn’t include a single African entry.

As years go, 2021 was a strong one for African film. Productions from the continent overcame challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to still feature at international film festivals and find an audience both at home and abroad. In the run-up to next year’s Oscars, ten submissions were made by African countries to be considered for nominations in the Best International Feature category of the ceremony, due to take place on March 27th.

Among the films submitted included titles that won awards and garnered much acclaim – from Somalia’s The Gravedigger’s Wife, which earned the Amplify Voices Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Chad’s Lingui, The Sacred Bonds, which received rapturous reviews from the likes of the Guardian and the LA Times.

So it feels disappointing that, now, as the Oscars have made their shortlist known, before revealing the final list of nominees in January, not a single film from Africa made the shortlist for the upcoming awards. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, since films from Africa have not been a prominent part of the industry’s biggest night for quite a few years. Since the category, previously known as Best Foreign Language, debuted in 1956 (when Italy’s La Strada won), African films have been slim among the nominees.

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