Last Oscar season the academy’s efforts to diversify the directors branch with more talent from across the globe paid off with their most international lineup in decades. For the first time since 1976, two foreign films — Mexico’s “Roma” by Alfonso Cuaron and Poland’s “Cold War” by Pawel Pawlikowski — were nominated for Best Director, with Cuaron ultimately winning the prize. That could happen again this year, as both Spain’s Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory”) and South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”) are looking to snag nominations.
Before Cuaron and Pawlikowski’s historic bids, the last time two foreign language filmmakers competed in Best Director was 1976, when Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman (“Face to Face”) and Italy’s Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties”) went head-to-head. Wertmuller, who just received an Honorary Oscar at this year’s Governors Awards, doubly made history since she was the first woman from any country to contend in the category.
Technically, you could argue that 2006 also produced two foreign language Best Director contenders, since both Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”) and Clint Eastwood (“Letters from Iwo Jima”) earned bids that year. But the multilingual “Babel” contains large portions in English and wasn’t categorized by the academy as a foreign film, and neither was Eastwood’s Japanese-language WWII epic, which was an American production shot largely in California.
Will history repeat itself this year? Considering that most of the 33 filmmakers invited to join the Academy just this year hail from outside the US — including Italy’s Matteo Garrone, Australia’s Jennifer Kent and France’s Melanie Laurent, to name a few — it’s entirely possible. It certainly helps that both “Parasite” and “Pain and Glory” are major contenders outside of the Best International Film category. Both currently rank among the top 15 for Best Picture in our racetrack odds, and Bong and Almodovar are both in our top 10 for Best Director.
Both films kicked off their awards season runs at the Cannes Film Festival, where “Parasite” took home the Palme d’Or and “Pain and Glory” won Best Actor for Antonio Banderas. Almodovar is already a directors branch favorite, having competed in the category for 2002’s “Talk to Her” (for which he won Best Original Screenplay). Bong, meanwhile, could make history as the first Korean filmmaker to be nominated for directing.
Given that Cuaron just won the Best Director prize for “Roma” (the second win of his career, no less) perhaps Bong and Almodovar shouldn’t worry about the nomination and instead start translating their acceptance speeches instead.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.