It’s only the beginning of August, but award season is upon us. Last Friday, Switzerland made the first big move, announcing that it would submit an animated film as its contender for the foreign language Academy Award.
The film that Switzerland chose was Claude Barras’ Ma vie de Courgette (My Life As a Courgette), a Swiss/French co-production that casts a perceptive eye on the lives of children living in an orphanage. The main character, Courgette (or Zucchini), is a blue-haired nine-year-old who ends up in the orphanage after his mother dies unexpectedly. Barras, who made his feature directorial debut on Courgette, has said he envisioned the film as “an homage to neglected and mistreated children who do the best they can to survive and live with their wounds.” An English-subtitled preview is below:
The brisk 66-minute stop motion film, adapted from a novel by Gilles Paris, was selected to screen in the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival, and in June was the toast of the Annecy animation festival, scooping up both the Feature Cristal and the Feature Audience Award.
Courgette was produced by Rita Productions in co-production with Blue Spirit Productions, Gebeka Films, and KNM. The film will launch theatrically in Switzerland next month, and bow in France in October. Theatrical rights have already been sold in over 20 European countries by sales rep Indie Sales, as well as territories in the Middle East and Asia. No U.S. distributor has been announced as of this time.
In selecting the film as Switzerland’s entry into the Academy Awards, the Swiss Oscar jury released this statement:
“Ma vie de Courgette is an original film guided by luminous artistic direction. It’s story is packed with emotion, marked by resilience and a hopeful vision of human society. Director Claude Barras and screenwriter Céline Sciamma succeeded in giving children a voice: While adressing children at eye level they still speak to all generations.”
Each country is allowed to submit only one film for the foreign language category. The decision by Switzerland to enter Courgette into the foreign-language category has no effect on the film’s ability to also compete in the Academy’s animated feature category, should the film’s producers choose to qualify it for the animation competition.
Switzerland has a great track record in the foreign-language category, having been nominated five times, and winning twice: Richard Dembo’s Dangerous Moves (1984) and Xavier Koller’s Journey of Hope (1990).
At least thirteen countries have submitted animated features for foreign-language Oscar consideration in the past, but only one animated film has ever been nominated in the category: Israel’s Waltz with Bashir. Below is Cartoon Brew’s list of countries that have submitted an animation project as their foreign language choice:
1953: France, Johnny the Giant Killer
1975: Belgium, Tarzoon Shame of the Jungle
1982: Romania, Quo Vadis Homo Sapiens?
1986: Hungary, Cat City
1994: Japan, Pom Poko
1997: Croatia, Lapitch the Little Shoemaker
1997: Japan, Princess Mononoke
1999: Argentina, Manuelita
2002: Chile, Ogu and Mampato on Easter Island
2005: Luxembourg, Renart the Fox
2007: France, Persepolis
2008: Israel, Waltz with Bashir (nominated)
2011: Singapore, Tatsumi
2013: Uruguay, Anina
2014: Latvia, Rocks in My Pockets