Les Oscars Parlent Français!

Francophone film stars will be in the spotlight in Hollywood this Sunday, as nine personalities from France, Switzerland, Quebec, Haiti, Algeria and Iran have been nominated at this year’s Oscars. The ceremony will be held on February 26 in Los Angeles, and shown live on ABC in the United States and on Canal+ in France.

Sélim Azzazi / Enemies Within / Best Live Action Short Film

This 28-minute thriller will be representing France, but was directed by the Algerian Sélim Azzazi, who used to work as a sound engineer for Mathieu Kassovitz and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Azzazi portrays a confrontation between an Algerian — the son of a former National Liberation Front fighter — and a French police officer. A parallel is drawn between France during the 1980s and today, with both eras defined by the same terrorist violence and rise of nationalism. “These issues could hardly be more relevant as France approaches a possibly fateful presidential election,” writes the New York Times.

Claude Barras & Céline Sciamma / My Life as a Zucchini / Best Animated Feature Film

Swiss director Claude Barras’ film is adapted from an autobiographical novel by French writer Gilles Paris, and written by French film maker Céline Sciamma (TomboyGirlhood). The film takes viewers on a moving journey through the highs and lows of a young orphan named Zucchini. With its “own sensibility” and “a singular way of looking at the world,” the stop-motion animated film is “an example of the kind of movie magic that’s always hard to find,” writes the Los Angeles Times. The Franco-Swiss production received an excellent reception at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and at the Golden Globes ceremony last January.

Damien Chazelle / La La Land / 14 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay

Damien Chazelle is the son of a Franco-American couple, and grew up in New Jersey before moving to Hollywood almost ten years ago. He first became known for Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009), and stepped into the spotlight with Whiplash (2014), in which he portrays a brutal duel between a young jazz drummer and his teacher. Variety describes his latest offering, La La Land, as an “energetic and modern” vision of the forgotten musical genre. At just 32, Damien Chazelle might just become the youngest ever laureate of the Best Director award.

Asghar Farhadi / The Salesman / Best Foreign Language Film

The Iranian director first made a name for himself with A Separation (2011), and his latest film offers a powerful metaphor for couples and suffocating Iranian society, which caused a stir at the last Cannes Film Festival. The film is “gripping,” writes The Atlantic, switching from a general family drama to a dark tale of revenge. In reaction to the Trump administration’s recent ban on citizens from seven Muslim countries travelling to the U.S.A., Asghar Farhadi has announced he will not be in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Madeline Fontaine / Jackie / Best Costume Design

Natalie Portman becomes Jacqueline Kennedy on the silver screen. As part of the filming, French costumer designer Madeline Fontaine identically reproduced some ten outfits from the time, including a red wool Dior dress and the pink wool Chanel suit worn by the First Lady on the day her husband was assassinated in 1963. The illusion is complete. “Jackie Kennedy’s style made her an icon,” said the American actress in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Madeline did an incredible job of recreating her wardrobe.”

Isabelle Huppert / Elle / Best Actress

Both impressive and audacious, Isabelle Huppert is one of the favorites at this year’s Oscars. Her performance in Paul Verhoeven’s drama film offers “impeccable Gallic delicacy,” writes the New York Times, and “has contributed to the national cinematic brand.” After a 45-year career and more than 100 films, the French actress is (finally) getting the recognition she deserves in Hollywood. Huppert is the ninth French woman to be nominated for the Best Actress award, after other leading names such as Isabelle Adjani, Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard.

Raoul Peck / I Am Not Your Negro / Best Documentary Feature

The documentary by Haitian director Raoul Peck — who is also president of the Parisian film school La Fémis — looks back over the life of James Baldwin, one of the most influential African-American writers of his time. Peck’s movie presents Baldwin as “a prophet,” writes Rolling Stone, while offering an accurate depiction of the discrimination suffered by the black American community. The film’s message is still relevant, says the director. “James Baldwin died 30 years ago, but the injustice is the same today.”

Denis Villeneuve / Arrival / 8 nominations including Best Director and Best Production Design

Quebecer Denis Villeneuve has recycled the sci-fi movie genre with an original twist. Instead of going for excess and disproportion, Arrival offers a take on an alien invasion “with unexpected intelligence, visual style and heart,” writes the Los Angeles Times. The movie focuses on language and how to communicate with other beings. “It’s important to go beyond our differences and build bridges between cultures,” says the Francophone director, who is now making the biggest gamble of his career by filming the much-awaited sequel to Blade Runner, set for release in October 2017.

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