Buoyed by its success at the Mostra, Saint-Omer becomes France’s candidate film for the Oscars

DECRYPTION – Award-winning in Venice, this first film by documentary filmmaker Alice Diop, which moved Cate Blanchett to tears, is inspired by the true story of an infanticide by drowning. It has some serious strengths.

“It is not a question of electing the best film of the 7th French art but of designating the one which will have the most potential to please the American market and the tastes of the members of the Academy of Oscars”, we recall at the National Cinema Center. The revamped committee of the CNC, in charge of choosing the hexagonal film candidate for an Oscar nomination for best international film, delivered its verdict on Friday evening and dubbed Saint Omerthe first feature film by documentary filmmaker Alice Diop.

Inspired by the infanticide by drowning perpetrated in Berck-sur-mer by the toddler’s mother in 2013, the courtroom film seeks to explore the “universal question” of the “relationship to motherhood”. Releasing in cinemas on November 23, Saint-Omer, distributed by Les films du losange, tells the story of Laurence Coly, played by Guslagie Malanda, a Senegalese immigrant accused of having killed her 15-month-old baby by abandoning her on a northern beach at high tide. The film draws directly from the news item of 2013 and the trial that followed.

The same US distributor as Parasite

Saint Omer was part of a shortlist of five titles, dominated by female directors and prevailed over A nice morning by Mia Hanson-Love and See Paris again by Alice Winocour, presented in parallel sections of Cannes, on The worst distinguished in Un certain regard and on Full time by Eric Gravel honored in the Horizons section of the Mostra 2021.

Alice Diop was twice awarded by the jury of Julianne Moore in Venice TIZIANA FABI / AFP

Alice Diop’s work filled several important boxes in the eyes of the committee of seven professionals, on which the directors Michel Gondry and Jacques Audiard sat. It has a prestigious American distributor, a fine connoisseur of the Hollywood awards season. Neon was the architect of South Korea’s Palme d’Or triumph Parasitehistoric winner of the Oscar for best film and best international film in 2020. Saint Omer proved its compatibility with American sensibility with its sensational debut at the Venice Film Festival, whose jury was chaired by Julianne Moore. Saint-Omer left the Serenissima with the Grand Prix and the prize for the first film in Venice.

Surviving the Oscar preselections

He found himself on the lagoon with fierce influential admirers, future crucial ambassadors. Starting with the “Queen” Cate Blanchett. In the running for the Golden Lion for the fable post #MeToo Tar, the Australian actress absolutely wanted to attend the premiere of Saint-Omer and left the room upset, in tears. eyes.

Symbol of the diversity and feminization of the seventh art, Saint Omer is “a powerful film, emblematic of the revival of French cinema that we are proud to have supported in particular by the advance on receipts”, welcomed the boss of the CNC, Dominique Boutonnat. But nothing is played. Being sent to the Oscars does not mean staying in contention on March 12, 2023 in Los Angeles.

Only five nomination places exist for around 90 feature films from all over the world. The Oscars will reveal a shortlist of 15 films on December 21, 2022, before the five films nominated on January 24, 2023. The most prominent rivals are the Irish drama shot entirely in Gaelic The Quiet Girl, Japanese film on euthanasia Map 75the Swedish and Cannes revelation The Cairo conspiracy.

The candidate nominated by the CNC committee has in recent years only crossed this final barrier half the time. Golden Palm Titanium by Julia Ducournau had thus been rejected. And the last French film to win an Oscar in the best international film section dates back to 1993 with Indochine!

A deeply redesigned CNC committee

To give itself the best chance of pleasing across the Atlantic, the CNC reviewed, at the end of July, the organization of its commission responsible for selecting the French film for the Oscars. Exit the full members like the bosses of the Césars and the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Frémaux, often accused of favouritism. From now on, the commission is made up of seven professionals: two exporters, two producers, two directors and a qualified personality. They are renewed each year, to avoid conflicts of interest by the Minister of Culture on the proposal of the president of the CNC.

Another novelty is that the files are only examined for films released between January 1 and the end of November, and having submitted a voluntary application. In the past, if its release date was eligible, a feature film was automatically in the race. For the 2023 Oscars, 32 feature films were submitted. A mobilization that delighted the CNC.

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Buoyed by its success at the Mostra, Saint-Omer becomes France’s candidate film for the Oscars