Among the five films submitted are Morrocco’s “Blue Caftan”, and “Tug of War”, Tanzania’s first Oscars entry in 21 years.
Historically, Africans had submitted a film for Oscar consideration since Egyptian director Youssef Chahine's "Cairo Station" won Best International Film in 1958. The number has stayed around 10 per year since then. In 2006, the South African production "Tsotsi" won the Oscar for best foreign language film, one of the rare times the award went to an African country. In the nearly 75 years of the awards' history, only three Oscars in this category have ever gone to an African country.
AMPAS (American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) presents the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film annually. This award was previously called Best Foreign Language Film. Films with predominantly non-English dialogue produced outside the United States are eligible for this award. A majority of Best International Feature Film awards and their predecessors have been presented to European films over the years. The academy has awarded seventy-two foreign language film awards since 1947, fifty-seven of which have gone to European films, seven to Asian films, five to films from the Americas, and three to African films.
In the past two years, the Nigerian Oscar Selection Committee(NOSC) has not made any official submissions for the international award since making its first official entry with Genevieve Nnaji's Lionheart in 2019. Lionheart was disqualified due to the use of the English language which was not a part of the criteria for the international feature. The Academy Award for Best International Feature Film — known as Best Foreign Language Film before 2020 — recognizes feature-length motion pictures produced outside the United States with predominantly (more than 50%) non-English dialogue.
In 2020, the committee followed subsequently with Desmond Ovbiagele’s “The Milkmaid”, a film shot in predominantly Hausa Language. “The Milkmaid” was accepted by the Oscars but unfortunately did not make the final selections.
The NOSC announced in September 2022 that Nigeria will not be represented at the 2023 Academy Awards. According to Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, chairperson of the committee, NOSC was unable to find any film that met the criteria for the International Feature Film category. As part of the selection process, several Nigerian films were presented to the committee, including Kunle Afolayan's “Anikulapo”, which currently sits at number one on Netflix global for indigenous language films, Mo Abudu's “Eleshin Oba”, which won special recognition at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for 2022, and “Ageshinkole”, which led the box office. Among the 15-member committee, “Eleshin Oba” received five votes, “Anikulapo” and “King of Thieves” each received one vote and eight voted for "No Film is Eligible," emphasizing the need for more efficiency if Nigerian cinema is to achieve global recognition.
Although Nigeria will not be nominated for an Oscar in 2023, five African countries have submitted their entries, and it remains to be seen if any of these will be will be shortlisted in order to make the final list of five nominees. Among the five films submitted are Morrocco’s “Blue Caftan”, and “Tug of War”, Tanzania’s first Oscars entry in 21 years. The rest of the countries are highlighted below:
The Cinema of Morrocco is home to The Marrakech International Film Festival since it was first held in 2001. The film industry has been growing in strides and it is exciting to see that the film industry is making a submission to the Oscars with filmmaker Maryam Touzani’s ‘The Blue Caftan’. The film follows Halim, husband of Mina, who explores his homosexuality after developing feelings for Youssef, a new employee at the couple’s traditional caftan shop in the old media of Sale, near Rabat.
In light of the prevalent homophobic sentiments in Morocco, the film received strong international reviews while being widely criticized in Moroccan society. The film notably won the International Critics' Prize at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival and the best director and actor awards at the Angouleme Francophone Film Festival in France. After being displayed at Cannes and Toronto festivals, the film “has been sold in more than 30 territories by Films Boutique until now,” the film’s producer Nabil Ayouch told Deadline.
The Tanzanian film industry finally makes an entry after two decades with the film “Vuta N'kuvute” - which means ‘Tug of War’ in Swahili. Set in 1950s Zanzibar, the film was adapted from Adam Shafi’s Swahili novel and is Tanzanian filmmaker Amil Shivji’s take on love and resistance. The film is centered on a young revolutionary and a runaway bride, battling their desires amid British rule and local tensions.
Released in Swahili and with a predominantly African cast, the film tells the story of a young Indian-Zanzibari woman whose romance blossoms on the back of a political revolt in the last days of British imperial rule. According to a statement made by the director, Amil Shivji on his Instagram post;
“It is an honour and privilege to be selected as Tanzania’s official submission to the 95th Academy awards. Two decades have passed since Tanzania has been recognized as the world’s most prestigious platform for cinema. Although these are baby steps, the future of Tanzanian cinema is finally in our hands. A wave of Swahili filmmakers grows with pride, intellect, and audacity every day. Vuta N’Kuvute is living to prove that.”
Tunisia has submitted films for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on an irregular basis since 1995. As of 2021, seven Tunisian films have been submitted for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. “The Man Who Sold His Skin” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and was the first Tunisian film to be nominated for an Oscar.
This year, the country has selected ‘Under The Fig’, a fiction feature debut of French-Tunisian director and producer Erige Sehiri. The film tells the story of young and old people working in an orchard in rural Tunisia during the summer fig harvest. While they work, they connect – and disconnect – with one another as it concerns love and life.
A Ugandan film entered the Oscars for the first time, Morris Mugisha's ‘Tembele’, which is up for the best international feature award at the 2023 Academy Awards. The project follows Patriq Nkakalukanyi, who portrays the character Tembele, a garbage man in Uganda’s capital Kampala. Tembele is suffering from mental illness and he begins to lose his grip on reality after the death of his infant son.
“Tembele” speaks on the vulnerability of African men and the need to live their truth especially when they are going through difficulties. “Tembele” is a film of hope, love, and brotherhood.
In submitting ‘Terastorm’ to the Academy, Kenya becomes the first country in Africa to submit an original, African-scripted animated feature with African characters and context. Kenya's Oscars Selection Committee selected Terastorm for the 95th Academy Awards' Best International Feature Film category.
The choice thrusts self-taught animator Andrew Kaggia into the limelight and cements animation’s place as a critical pillar of Kenyan filmmaking. The story is set in a fictional Nairobi, where a group of African superheroes attempts to defeat a powerful ancient wizard with a mysterious artifact that threatens to destroy the earth. The heroes must be willing to put their lives on the line to defeat Eli-Ra before an onslaught of devastation and ruin puts an end to humanity. However, it may be too late to save the planet.