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The last time two directors whose films weren’t in English got nominated for an Academy Award in the same year, Jimmy Carter was president.
It was 1977, and the directing nominations went to both Ingmar Bergman (“Face to Face”) and Lina Wertmuller (“Seven Beauties”), along with Alan Pakula (“All the President’s Men”) and Sidney Lumet (“Network”). And the Oscar went to … John G. Avildsen for “Rocky.”
Years - Nominations - Alfonso - Cuaron - Roma
More than 40 years later, it’s happened again, with nominations to Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”), along with Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Adam McKay (“Vice”) and Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”).
But this year feels different.
Indications - Things - Bit - Pawlikowski
“The indications are that things are opening up a bit,” says Pawlikowski.
The films in the category all broadcast directorial passion, one that springs as often from a political belief as from a personal connection to the material. Still, as Cuaron notes: “To do a political film, you don’t have to be explicitly political.”
Pawlikowski - Ida - Oscar - Specificity - Stories
Pawlikowski, whose 2014 “Ida” won the foreign-language Oscar, believes the specificity of the stories in films such as his and “Roma” allow their appeal to translate on a global level.
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Pawlikowski - Truths
“What is specific is what makes it universal,” Pawlikowski says. “The emotional truths are what translate.”
McKay agrees: “That could be an American family or a Parisian family or a Japanese family in ‘Roma.’ The major themes resonate.”
Nominees - Struggle - Power - Queen - Battle
The English-language directorial nominees are more obviously political: from the struggle to be chief suck-up to (and power behind) an early 18th-century British queen, to the ongoing battle against racism and white supremacists in America, to the construction of a Republican political machine that lied the country into a war and continues to this day.
“It’s an extraordinary year,” Cuaron says of his category. “It ups the game for...
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