2023 Oscars Best International Feature Film Predictions

Written by on January 25, 2023

For several years now, an international film breaking into the Best Picture race has led to it winning the Best International Feature Oscar.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  The 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson are collaborating on predictions updates for this category. See Thompson’s preliminary thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here and earlier predictions for this category here.

The State of the Race

It’s starting to become more common for the frontrunner in the Best International Feature Film category to crack Best Picture. From “Roma” to “Parasite” and “Drive My Car,” the support for a non-English language feature in both categories is a good indication that it’s at minimum a sure win for International. For this year’s evident frontrunner, the situation is more pronounced than usual, as director Edward Berger’s war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” secured a commanding nine nominations this year, including several craft categories in addition to international and picture. With that obvious strength across several branches of the Academy, plus a robust Netflix awards campaign, it will be hard to beat.

Berger’s vivid and visceral adaptation of the 1929 novel — the first by a German director, but the third total cinematic effort — did not stand out as the evident frontrunner when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. Back then, a number of Cannes winners were already in the mix, including Park Chan-wook’s detective noir “Decision to Leave” (which had admirers, but some found it too long or slow), and Austrian period piece “Corsage” (a terrific showcase for Un Certain Regard Best Actress co-winner Vicky Krieps).

However, the two Cannes movies that did make the cut, the tragic Belgian coming-of-age drama “Close” and Polish donkey odyssey “EO,” had yet to fire up their campaigns. There was no obvious frontrunner from the festival or elsewhere. With Netflix sensing an opening after initially boosting Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s “Bardo,” “All Quiet” quickly entered the mix in the weeks following its festival run with high-profile Academy screenings that included one hosted by superfan Benedict Cumberbatch. As the rest of the season took shape, it became clear that the movie also benefited from the absence of any other traditional large-scale war epic of the sort that Hollywood loves to celebrate. Its old-school appeal works in its favor for voters with more traditional sensibilities.

However, it’s not the only one to fit that bill. Filmmaker Santiago Mitre’s Golden Globe winner “Argentina 1985,” stars (and was produced by) the country’s most celebrated actor Ricardo Darín as eccentric lawyer Julio César Strassera, who risked his life to lead the so-called “Trial of the Juntas,” prosecuting the leaders of the country’s military dictatorship. The movie marks the third collaboration between Darín and Mitre, who worked together to create an engrossing recreation of the televised courtroom proceedings and shot most of them in the actual room where they took place.

“Argentina, 1985”

Amazon Studios

The Amazon Studios release premiered in Venice shortly after an attempted assassination of Argentina’s Vice President as the country faces another era of dangerous extremism and divisiveness, which gives it added topicality. The recent Golden Globe winner could appeal to Academy voters who prefer a more timely subject matter and may want to reward Darín, who previously starred in 2009 International Oscar winner “The Secrets in Their Eyes.” It’s also the sole Latin American contender in the category after Mexico’s “Bardo” failed to get in, landing a Best Cinematography nomination for Darius Khondji instead.

Also worth a mention: Argentineans rooting for the movie’s success have noted a possible historical parallel in their favor: The country won its first Oscar in 1986 for Luis Puenzo’s “The Official Story,” shortly after it won the World Cup for the first time; last December was the second time. So if the past is prologue and there is a cosmic order to the universe…don’t count it out.

Meanwhile, A24 made the strategic decision to open “Close” theatrically in January, close to the end of the nomination deadline, which seems to have worked out in the movie’s favor. The sophomore effort from 31-year-old filmmaker Lukas Dhont overcame the backlash to his 2018 debut “Girl” (which wasn’t shortlisted after it angered some members of the trans community) with this tearjerker about a 13-year-old boy (Eden Dambrine) who has an intimate friendship with his peer Rémi that falls apart after schoolyard bullies complicate their relationship. The movie won the Grand Prix at Cannes and could win over Academy voters looking for a more intimate and universally emotional story beyond the bigger-budgeted offerings.

As for “EO,” which scored 84-year-old Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski the Prix du Jury at Cannes (which he shared with “The Eight Mountains”): This audacious, often wordless exploration of animal intelligence may be the most ambitious aesthetic undertaking in the category, though some voters uncomfortable with animal suffering may be reticent to give it a shot. However, the movie was shortlisted anyway, and “EO” has been steadily building buzz in theaters for months, much like distributor Sideshow’s “Drive My Car” last year. Unlike the Netflix behemoth in the lead, a vote for “EO” is essentially an endorsement of the platform arthouse release, which has become a dicey prospect in the streaming era.

The international category does often wind up with at least one surprise, like the 2020 “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” which landed Bhutan its first-ever Oscar nomination after a minimal presence on the festival circuit. This year, that slot goes to another historic first, with “A Quiet Girl” landing Ireland its first-time nomination in the category. The movie, which premiered at the Berlinale almost a year ago in the Generation Kplus section, began to generate underdog momentum after Ireland was the first country to announce its Oscar submission early in the summer. Neon’s label Super Ltd gave it a qualifying run in December. The movie, an adaptation of Claire Keegan’s story, takes place in 1981 and follows a young woman (Catherine Clinch) who spends the summer in the countryside with her dysfunctional relatives. It may not be an obvious winner, but as voters survey the category, its low-key charms could build some momentum.

Nominees are listed in order of their likelihood to win.

Contenders:
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Edward Berger, Germany)
“Argentina, 1985” (Santiago Mitre, Argentina)
“Close” (Lukas Dhont, Belgium)
“EO” (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland)
“The Quiet Girl” (Colm Bairéad, Ireland)

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