Friday, January 11, 2013

theater of One World REPORT | Shouldn't the Golden Globe Awards promote a cinema without borders?

LOS ANGELES |  Have you noticed that the French and the Scandinavians once again dominate the 2013 Golden Globe nominees for best foreign language films?  To a disproportionate degree.  Two nominees come from France, two from Scandinavia, with the front-runner (from Austria) easily construed as French.

Normally you get a veritable United Nations sampling. One country, one slot. What makes the foreign-language film category so special is its gloriously wide range and its inclusion of stories American moviegoers don’t usually get to see. Call it Hollywood-style Cultural Diplomacy. Given that the presenter of the Golden Globes is none other than the foreign press, you would expect it to represent a diversity of international cinema.

Unfortunately, the Academy Awards followed suit. Save for Canada (War Witch) and Chile (No), this year’s five nominees for best foreign film in the 85th Academy Awards were notably from Europe, with no Asian or African representation. Among them were the expected likes of Austria’s French-language film Amour, Norway’s Kon-tiki and Denmark’s A Royal Affair — all three films are Golden Globes nominees.
This year, the geographic spread in the best foreign-language category looks thin, meager and too Euro-dominated.

Whoever wins, you won’t even get to enjoy the cynic’s satisfaction of accusing the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards for being radical chic, since there’s no chance for a politically correct winner to emerge from an exotic conflict zone like Iran, Palestine or Afghanistan.

So what exactly happened that only the French and Scandinavians grabbed most of the booty? This question comes to mind, not just because of this yesterday’s announcement of the Academy Award.  As it has for 10 years running now, the American Cinematheque is presently screening all five Golden Globe nominees for Foreign-Language Film at the Egyptian Theater and Aero Theater in the Los Angeles area. The screenings of the nominated foreign-language films take place through January 11.  See the American Cinematheque website for details.

And there will be a public discussion on Saturday, January 12: To mark this 10th year of this film series, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (in association with Cinematheque and Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television) is presenting a “Golden Globes Foreign Language Film Symposium.”  The January 12 symposium features the directors of the five nominated films. They are Jacque Audiard (Rust and Bone), Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg (Kon-tiki), Michael Haneke (Amour), Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) and Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano (The Intouchables).

The 70th Annual Golden Globe® Awards will take place on Sunday, January 13, 2013, live coast-to-coast on NBC from 5:00-8:00 p.m. (PST)/8:00-11:00 p.m. (EST) from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. For more information, please visit

Moderated by a Swede — Lasse Halmström (My Life as a Dog) — the GG symposium will be streamed live on the Golden Globes site on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM PST (Los Angeles). In Paris, that schedule translates to Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:00 PM CET.  If you would like to submit a question to the panelists, you may email your question to Please include your name, city, and country.

Do you think someone will actually ask why the geographic representation among this year’s nominees is so remarkably limited? I think not. After all, the directors slated to speak didn’t self-nominate; they had no real say in the matter.

Look at the stats: In both the Golden Globes (GG) and the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, France has been one of the most successful countries in the world, followed by the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden. Excluding 2013, France has garnered the most number of Golden Globe nominations: 73 total nominations (including the Samuel Goldwyn International Award). Number 2 and 3 are United Kingdom and Italy.

In terms of actual Golden Globe wins (since 1950), the most honored country remains the United Kingdom (with 16 wins), followed by France (11 wins), and followed by Italy, Sweden and West Germany (8 wins each).

As I said, these figures do not include this current award year. They are based on the results I generated from the official GG website, which allows for quick database searches. Looking more globally, the search results reveal furthermore that:

  1. France  — 73 nominations, 11 wins
  2. United Kingdom  — 60 nominations, 16 wins
  3. Italy — 41 nominations, 8 wins
  4. Sweden — 15 nominations, 8 wins
  5. Japan  — 14 nominations, 6 wins
  6. Spain  — 12 nominations, 3 wins
  7. West Germany 12 nominations, 8 wins [before German reunification]
  8. Germany  — 12 nominations, 3 wins [after reunification]
  9. Mexico — 12 nominations, 1 win
  10. Denmark  — 7 nominations, 3 wins
  11. Israel  — 7 nominations, 3 wins

What does it say about our film culture that the same European countries that have historically dominated the foreign-film category are, by design if not by intent, systematically given preference and greater recognition? Amour may be one of the year’s best films, but the unfair dominance of the French and Scandinavians among this year’s GG and AA nominees for best foreign language films does not suggest to me that the best of the best cinema comes mainly from Western Europe. I don’t know about you, but such an assessment seems hard to believe. To me it suggests that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not look far enough. Nor did it dig deeper enough into the film traditions of other countries.

Jean Hersholt once argued that “an international award, if properly and carefully administered, would promote a closer relationship between American film craftsmen and those of other countries.” And yet in foreign policy as in cultural matters, marginalized countries and weaker film industries are often unable to present their views and visions effectively due to lack of resources, experience or expertise. The Academy Award’s one-country-one-film rule may be problematic to some filmmakers, but at least it has the virtue of systemically ensuring that every country receives an equal chance at being recognized.

Shouldn't the Golden Globe Awards promote a cinema without borders?

Today, I posted a cultural analysis and investigation of the Golden Globes best-foreign-language-film category in theater of One World to explore the problem: click here.

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