France Disqualifies Olivier Assayas’ ‘Non-Fiction’ From Oscar Race, Director Reacts by Criticizing Submission Rule

Five movies have been shortlisted by France to be the country’s selection for this year’s foreign-language Oscar race, and Olivier Assayas’ festival favorite “Non-Fiction” isn’t one of them. France has disqualified the movie from Oscar contention since it violates a rule set by the French National Film Board (CNC) that states films can only be submitted for the Oscar if they are comericially released in dozens of French theaters prior to September 30. “Non-Fiction” is currently making the festival rounds and won’t be released in France until January 16, 2019.

“Non-Fiction” stars Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet in the story of an editor and an author who have to contend with a changing technological world and mid-life crises. The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival before screening at Telluride and TIFF, and it will become the rare movie to play all four major fall film festivals when it comes to the New York Film Festival next month.

With a strong presence on the festival circuit and great reviews (IndieWire calls it a “timeless comedy”), “Non-Fiction” appeared like a no-brainer to represent France at the Oscars. France has struggled in the Oscar race as of late, last winning in 1993 for Régis Wargnier’s “Indochine.” Assayas is one of the most beloved French directors working today, and not even he is happy with his country disqualifying his new film.

“I’ve been making films since 1986, and I think I’m one of the only French directors whose every movie since 1994 has been theatrically released in the U.S,” Assayas told Variety. “None has ever been pre-selected for the Academy Awards and I never cared. But ‘Non-Fiction’ benefited from an exceptional momentum because it’s one of the rare movies…going to Venice, Toronto, New York and Telluride.”

“If the whole idea is to present a foreign-language movie with the biggest international profile,” he continued, “it seems absurd to not consider movies which are being extensively showcased during the so-called awards season in the U.S.”

Assayas’ point speaks to the fact that France’s submission rule prevents movies from taking advantage of the fall festivals since they must open in dozens of French theaters before September 30. Ironically, the fall festival circuit happens to be one of the primary places where Oscar buzz cultivates in the first place. “Blue Is the Warmest Color” suffered a similar fate in 2013 after it held a French release and played fall festivals like Telluride and NYFF.

The Academy’s own rules for foreign-language Oscar entries are less stringent than France’s in-house one. The Academy requires films to play in their home countries for seven consecutive days no later than September 30, but films can get away with just screening in one theater. Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” for instance, quietly played one theater in Mexico for a week so that it could become the country’s official Oscar entry.

“Non-Fiction” producer Charles Gillibert pushed hard for the movie to be considered by France’s Oscar committee, Variety reports. Gillibert secured a temporary permit by the National Film Board to release the film for a week, but the committee still disqualified the film as to avoid backlash from other producers who might have gotten upset over the fact they didn’t know obtaining a temporary permit was allowed.

Sundance Selects is handling the U.S. release of “Non-Fiction.” Eva Husson’s Cannes favorite “Girls of the Sun” has also been disqualified by France for violating the same rule. The five films shortlisted by France for the Oscar are  Gaspar Noe’s “Climax,” Emmanuel Finkiel’s “La Douleur,” Xavier Legrand’s “Custody,” Emmanuel Mouret’s “Mademoiselle de Joncquières,” and Claude Lanzmann’s “Les Quatre Soeurs.”

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