Why are the Oscars for 2023 going international?
Exclusive: As Oscars aims to reboot, CEO Bill Kramer explains why he’s looking for a global solution.
In modern Oscar season, there are two camps: One wants to see old-school Hollywood studio filmmaking at the forefront, with “Top Gun: Maverick” leading the way. Second, buoyed by the success of “Parasite,” “Roma,” and “Drive My Car,” and their stay beyond the Best International Feature Film category, the Academy wants to see international cinema grow further.
That side of the conversation will pick up in the coming months. The Indian crossover hit “RRR” was not submitted by its country but could have potential in major categories including Best Picture. Cannes Best Director winner Park Chan-wook could make it to the Oscars in the same category with Korean submission “Decision to Leave.” Lee Seydoux may win Best Actress campaign for “One Fine Morning”. All these possibilities and more are on the table – if some aspect of the Academy can do away with its old stigma with foreign language films.
Bill Kramer, the new CEO of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, has carefully entered the division in an effort to appease both contingencies. In recent weeks, Kramer has traveled to festivals around the world and renewed efforts to include 25 percent of the Academy’s membership, which live outside the US.
These efforts, along with the Academy’s efforts to diversify its revenue streams with foreign funding, point to the organization’s global future whether few films make the cut.
“The Academy has been honoring international cinema since the 1940s,” Kramer said of coffee at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month, referring to the first foreign-language Oscar awarded in 1947. “I really look at the Academy as starting out. Fellini, De Sica, Rossellini, Kurosawa from the US. In the beginning, we really exposed international filmmakers at large, so that has always been a focus for us. .” He then backtracked to make it clear — without naming names, of course — that embracing international cinema didn’t come at the cost of achieving box office hits, even at the Oscars.
“I would love to see popular movies nominated in the show,” he said. “I think we all will. I love that we have 10 Best Picture nominees. One goal is to have a variety of films in that category. We want it all.”
That’s what most rewards infrastructure feels like. “I don’t want movies like this Victory,” a seasoned awards campaigner with a diverse portfolio told me, “but I want them to be nominated so people watch the show.”
It’s a desperate plea for an event that attracted 16.6 million viewers in March, a staggering 73 percent climb from the 2021 edition, but also more or less in line with 2020 numbers and not particularly impressive by event TV standards ( This year’s Super Bowl averaged 112.3 million viewers. The show doesn’t celebrate the commercially successful films that the general audience is aware of, so another way will need to be found to woo them. them inside. The Academy has handed that particular puzzle over to the 2023 show producers, Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner. According to Kramer, the appeal of telecasts doesn’t need to revolve around which movies are nominated. “Expanding our thinking on our association internationally doesn’t necessarily mean broadcasting the Oscars,” he said.
Kramer has been making the rounds since being hired from his perch as director and president of the Academy Museum in June. He engaged with more and more members of the press and industry, assuring them that Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was not the death knell of the Oscars. Instead, it was a metaphor for a wider wake-up call: what this insular Hollywood institution needed to emerge from its ivory tower and engage with the world. This month, Kramer embarrassed many jet-setters by traveling from Venice to Telluride and Toronto over the span of a week, and he said it was just the beginning of awards season’s efforts to deepen its international recognition.
The Academy, which maintains an office in the UK, will continue to show its face at other festivals, including in London, Copenhagen and Busan. “You’re going to see more of us in all these markets,” Kramer said. “It’s all gaining momentum — how we connect with members, how we go to film festivals, the way we educate international members on how they can be eligible for Oscars.”
At an all-member meeting of the Academy last weekend, newly elected President Janet Yang announced that the organization has hired former Sundance and LACMA programmer Dilcia Barrera as Senior VP Academy Member Relations and Awards; Her duties include addressing questions related to the International Feature Category, including thorny issues related to language competency. (An Academy member from Nigeria, where most of the films are in English, asked a question that prompted the announcement.) The role also adds a central resource for international films looking to advance into other categories.
“I think you’ll see a variety of filmmakers honored at the Oscars,” Kramer said. He declined to comment on whether the rules for international Oscar submissions would be changed in the future, but it would be a logical next step in developing the process.
Every country’s film body is allowed to submit only one film for the foreign language category and has been for decades. This means that the Academy outsources qualifications and remains at the mercy of countries that sometimes have questionable standards. This has led to extreme situations like Iran, which jailed disgruntled filmmakers like Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, but extends to other strange scenarios in which a country’s most obvious Oscar nominee is locked up (see: India’s “RRR” and Romanian Cannes favorite “RMN”). The Academy may consider a wholesale change to this system, perhaps expanding its festival attendance to include international committees of its own.
Whatever they decide to do, Kramer is leaning into the prospect of change, and the industry is starting to take notice. They are embracing the arrival of a team player who sees Oscar’s existence as a man who needs to embrace his base, not tear it apart. “He seems to be a big thinker in terms of his international understanding of things,” Telluride director Julie Huntsinger told me. “We are involved in one thing – promoting and highlighting the best of cinema with the future in mind.”
Like much of the industry, Kramer won Best Picture of 2020 for “Parasite” in 2020. “People began to feel differently about international cinema if they weren’t already involved in it,” he said. “I don’t see it at the expense of incredible Hollywood movies, but as additive and developmental to us.”
In the most recent additions to the membership of the Academy, which expanded past 10,000 members, about 50 percent are international (about 200 people). “We now have a lot more access to international movies, and streaming has a lot to do with that,” Kramer said. “It’s our cinematic universe being formed in a way that I don’t think it was even five or 10 years ago. Our membership is beginning to reflect this. When I think of some of the big films of the past year — “Drive My Car,” “A Hero,” “Worst Person in the World,” “Parallel Mothers” — they were discussed as much as the “Koda Between Us” ‘ was discussed. membership.”
Some may dispute designating those titles as “big,” although awards season has become more holistic. Members can stream all submissions at the Academy Screening Room, a level playing field where they have as much of a shot at viewing international entries as possible.
Courtesy Cannes Film Festival
If a foreign language film pierces the Oscars conversation, it could resonate for years. This year’s Korean entry, “Decision to Leave”, puts longtime genre writer Park Chan-wook on a stage built on by the success of Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” two years earlier. That incident laid the groundwork for other Korean success stories, including “Squid Game” on Netflix.
“‘Parasite’ did what was impossible to imagine,” Park told TIFF in an interview with IndieWire. “If it weren’t for ‘Parasite’, I wouldn’t have imagined my film surpassing that. It was a memorable moment in the history of cinema.”
Park’s Oscar hopes for the film have risen since Cannes. He expressed a desire to see his actors compete in the core performance categories, and was happy to have his work spread beyond the genre community that has celebrated “Oldboy” and his other gory ventures over the years. “A lot of Asian films that were consumed by Western audiences fall into the category of ‘extreme films’,” he said. “After the rise of Netflix, I find that foreign audiences’ resistance to subtitles has waned, and more diverse Asian films have been introduced to more audiences. The time has come.”
If Park can join Best Director with his Korean potboiler, it opens up other questions about this year’s contenders: why not push for 84-year-old Polish writer Jerzy Skolimowski, whose almost wordless ass drama “E.O. ” won the jury prize at Cannes. And the summer became a Polish submission? Can ‘RRR’ director SS Rajamouli join him?
Of course, some longtime Academy members eager to adopt Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans” may be at risk of giving way to film industries in other countries with the idea of a Hollywood stronghold. Kramer did his best to assuage that fear. “We are an international organization,” he said. “If you look at our museum in terms of international cinema versus domestic cinema, it is like a 25-75 divide. If you visit all of our screenings and exhibitions. Spike Lee will be replaced by Agnes Varda, Miyazaki is now a chronicler of American Black cinema. People are seeing it as a seamless conversation and not either.”
He said that with the international growth of the Academy, its business has also grown. The Academy operates on a budget of $180 million, with $130 million from all things Oscars; Another $40 million comes from the museum and its fundraising gala, while additional streams stem from membership dues and other ancillary revenue.
Although the Oscars haven’t garnered much in the way of international revenue, Kramer’s optimistic spin is that the Academy has an opportunity with more overseas growth than anywhere else. Recent international partnerships with Cinecita, Rolex and Televisa on grants and other initiatives speak to this.
“The Oscars are shown all over the world, so we already have a deep international partnership around the show,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that our engagement will be tied to the Oscars. It may be, depending on who’s nominated that year, but we’re so much more than just one show a night.
Kramer’s fixation on development certainly helps it steer clear of the mess of last year’s show — the unflattering categories, the bad jokes, the slapstick. This year’s contenders may further change the duration of the conversation, but the March broadcast will have the final word on the next chapter of the Oscars.
“All I can say about it is that we are moving forward and we have moved on,” Kramer said. “Last year’s rehashing doesn’t help us.”