France Revamps Oscar Submission Committee With Cannes, César & Unifrance Chiefs Moved On

France has overhauled the composition of its Oscar selection committee for the second time in three years.

Under the move, the heads of the Cannes Film Festival, export agency Unifrance and the César Academy will no longer have an automatic place on the committee.

The changes were announced in the French government’s daily bulletin as amendments to the regulatory code governing the country’s National Cinema Centre, which oversees the process each autumn.

A key change is that the slot automatically reserved for the head of the Cannes Film Festival has been replaced by “a qualified person in the cinema domain”.

This means that long-time Cannes delegate Thierry Frémaux who has been on the committee for more than a decade will likely not be involved in the selection for France’s 2023 Oscar submission.

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Current Unifrance president Serge Toubiana and the César Academy Veronique Cayla will be allowed to participate in the meetings but only as observers.

The changes follow a major overhaul of the committee in July 2019, when industry professionals were integrated into the commission to include two directors, two producers and two international sales agents.

Then CNC head Fréderique Bredin said the move was to involve professionals “with a sophisticated understanding of the American market” in the selection process.

The new approach had some success, with Ladj Ly’s 2019 Cannes Jury Prize winner Les Misérables making it through to the final nomination stage of the international film category of the 2020 Oscars, the year Parasite swept the board.

However, the decision to submit Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane for the 2021/22 edition, over Audrey Diwan’s Golden Lion winner Happening, prompted debate. In spite of its successful U.S. box office run for Neon and top Cannes prize, Titane failed to clock a nomination.

Many felt the timely subject matter of Diwan’s abortion drama would have chimed more with Oscar Academy members than Ducournau’s critically-acclaimed but provocative work.

Under the fresh overhaul, the professional members will now be at the heart of the process. They and “the seventh qualified person” will be selected by the French culture minister.

The selection process, which traditionally takes place in early October, involves two stages.

The committee first selects five to six eligible films. The director, producer and sales agent teams for each of the selected features are then auditioned on their Oscar campaign plans by the committee ahead of a final decision.

France’s lack of success at the Oscars in recent years has been a source of angst for parts of the French film industry.

The country’s last Oscar in the international film category was Régis Wargnier’s Indochine in 1993, although Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white silent feature The Artist won five Oscars in other categories in 2012.

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