The Closest ‘Africa’ Got to the 85th Oscar Academy Awards Is ‘War Witch’

By Adaeze Umolu

African cinema has been left out of this year’s Oscar Academy Awards held annually in the United States Of America, however  ‘War Witch’  which is a Canadian movie  by  Montreal director Kim Nguyen which tells the story about a child soldier in an anonymous African country was nominated in the Foreign Language Category.

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‘War Witch’ is not a production by an African nation but it tells a significant African story.  The film was shot in the Congo with a cast of unknown actors and actresses such as the star, Rachel Mwanza, a newcomer who was discovered on the streets of Kinshasa.

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Mwanza won the Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film Award at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.  The film took home the Founders Award for best narrative feature also at Tribeca.   Fans of African cinema across the globe will have to be consoled with this entry as this is the closest to the continent making an appearance at this prestigious awards ceremony.

 

For this 85th Academy Awards a record number of 71 submissions were entered to compete for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Four of the films were from Africa, from Kenya, Algeria, Morocco and South Africa with Kenya submitting its very first film. Obviously absent was Africa’s biggest film industry: Nigeria’s Nollywood. Kenya entered Nairobi Half Life, directed by David “Tosh” Gitonga which was awarded the Audience Breakthrough Award at the American Film Institute (AFI) FEST 2012.  It tells the story of a young, aspiring actor from up country Kenya and his dreams of becoming a success in the big city, Nairobi.

South Africa entered “Little One” (Umfaan) which tells the story of a young rape victim who is left for dead in a township near Johannesburg and rescued by a middle-aged woman.   Both entries did not make the shortlist and eventual Oscar nominees list.

The other two entries which didn’t make the list were Zabana! From Algeria,  directed by Said Ould Khelifa, a biographical film on the life of Algerian freedom fighter, Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 by French colonial authorities ignited the “Battle of Algiers”. Morocco’s entry  Death for Sale, directed by Faouzi Bensaïdi, tells the story of Malik, Allal and Soufiane, three young petty criminals, who decide to rob a jewellery store. The attempted robbery goes awry and everything starts to fall apart.

 

Another film which African film fans put their hope on was the Adventures in Zambezia, directed by Wayne Thornley, an animation feature length movie which was one of 2012’s acclaimed movies off the continent. The film won the award for Best South African Feature Film at the 33rd Durban International Film Festival.  It was one of the 21 movies submitted to the animated Feature Film category however it did not make the eventual nominees list and was left out along with the other four African entries.

 

African cinema may not have made an appearance on the eventual nominees list but the fact that five movies were put forward is a good thing and a small representation of the good year that followed movies belonging to the ‘Class of 2012’. I hope that in the very near future Nigeria will make an appearance at the Oscars especially with the quality of productions that we have been churning out recently.
Below is the full list of Oscar nominees:

LEADING ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Denzel Washington – Flight
Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix – The Master

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
LEADING ACTRESS

Naomi Watts – The Impossible

Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams – The Master
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Helen Hunt – The Sessions
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook

DIRECTOR – 
Michael Haneke –  Amour
Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee –  Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln

David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook

BEST PICTURE – 
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – 
Chris Terrio – Argo
Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin – Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee – Life of Pi
Tony Kushner – Lincoln
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM – 
Brave

Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

CINEMATOGRAPHY – 
Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi

Lincoln
Skyfall

SOUND EDITING – 
Argo
Django Unchained
Life Of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

ORIGINAL SONG – 
Before My Time  from  Chasing Ice – J. Ralph
Everybody Needs a Best Friend  from  Ted – Walter Murphy and Seth MacFarlane

Pi’s Lullaby  from  Life of Pi – Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri
Skyfall  from  Skyfall – Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Suddenly  from  Les Miserables – Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – 
5 Broken Cameras
Searching for Sugar Man

The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War

FILM EDITING – 
Argo
Life Of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

ANIMATED SHORT FILM –
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare
Paperman

 

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – 
Amour – Austria
Kon-Tiki –  Norway
No – Chile
A Royal Affair – Denmark
War Witch –  Canada

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – 
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola – Moonrise Kingdom

Michael Haneke – Amour
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
John Gatins – Flight
Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty

PRODUCTION DESIGN – 

Anna Karenina
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

SOUND MIXING – 
Skyfall

Argo
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln

ORIGINAL SCORE –

Argo – Alexandre Desplat
Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli
Life of Pi – Mychael Danna
Lincoln – John Williams
Skyfall – Thomas Newman

COSTUME – 
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Lincoln
Mirror Mirror
Snow White and the Huntsman

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) – 
Inocente
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
Redemption

MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING – 
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Hitchcock
Les Miserables

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM –
Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)
Henry

VISUAL EFFECTS – 
Prometheus

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman

 

You can always visit http://www.oscars.org/ to watch the announcements of the nominees, and visit http://allafricancinema.com/?s=academy+awards to read more about the African entries for this year’s Oscar Awards.

 

About the Author

Adaeze Umolu works in PR; a Creative Writer with an increasing interest in the development of Africa’s film industries. She also writes for allafricancinema.com

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