The Academy of Motion Picture And Sciences (AMPAS), which organises the most prestigious and highly-revered film awards in the world, also known as the Oscar, is set to give Ghana an opportunity of getting recognised at the highest stage.
Guess what – it has taken us 90 years to attain such an opening to showcase what we have as a nation in terms of film making.
The situation has not been gloomy for Africa, in connection to getting recognition at the Oscars as four countries have, in the past 60 years made a good representation for Africa in the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category; Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.
The Academy has given the mandate for a Committee in Ghana to sit, review and present one film that would represent the choice of the country in competing with other countries for the opportunity to win the category.
The Best Foreign Language Film Award is not presented to a specific individual. It is accepted by the winning film’s director but is considered an award for the submitting country as a whole.
Over the years, the Best Foreign Language Film Award and its predecessors have been given almost exclusively to European films: out of the 68 Awards handed out by the Academy since 1947 to foreign language films, 56 have gone to European films, 5 to Asian films, 3 to African films and 3 to films from the Americas.
How to get the movie at the Oscar
The category definition for the Best Foreign Language film Award is; “ Defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined for over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. Animated and documentary feature films are permitted.”
In order to be nominated for the award, the movie has to be in a language other than English. If the movie has too much English dialogue, it won’t make it. However, there must be an accurate, legible English Language subtitles.
The film must have been first released in Ghana during the eligibility period defined by the rules of the Academy and must have been exhibited for at least, seven consecutive days in a commercial movie theatre.
Any movie being submitted by Ghana must show that the country exhibited sufficient artistic control over it – meaning, the production house, the director, other technical hands and actors in that movie must be from Ghana.
The eligibility year for the 90th Academy Awards is October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017.
A case for Kumawood? Not quite!
Since the announcement of a possible feature at the Oscar, all attention have been fixated on the film industry in the Ashanti Region, popularly known as Kumawood, where movies are predominantly shot in the local language, Akan.
Clearly, for a fledgeling industry that produces the most non-English language movies in Ghana, it looks like our sure bet to get movies in for review and possible nomination at the Oscar for the first time.
Over the years, critics have questioned the level of technical qualities in the making of Kumawood movies, a call that has always fallen on deaf ears.
That incessant complaint of quality is likely to be the undoing of the Kumawood movies in any history-making venture to get to the Academy Awards.
According to the Academy, submissions must be in 35mm or 70mm film or in a 24- or 48- progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distributor Master.
Image characteristics – image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 JPEG (2000); and image and sound format suitable for commercial motion picture theatre.
But wait, there’s more!
The audio must be in a Digital Cinema Package (DCP), typically in 5.1 or 7.1 channels of discrete audio. The minimum of a non-mono configuration of the audio must be Left, Center, Right.
It’s also a fact that, majority of the Kumawood movies is not released in theatres but theatre release is one of the requirements of getting a movie accepted.
The Academy Awards state that the movie must be first publicly exhibited for at least 7 consecutive times in a commercial motion picture theatre for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.
A 14-member Committee has been formed to oversee the submission and selection of a Ghanaian film for the Oscars, which is being spearheaded by accomplished Ghanaian filmmaker, Leila Djansi.
Leila’s expertise would come in handy in the Committee’s work, but why add her to such a group of judges when she is an active filmmaker, whose movies can be in contention to represent the country?
The setting up of the Committee is in order, but there’s no regulation or rule at the Oscars, which stipulates that the identities of the members should be shrouded in some form of secrecy. If we know Ms. Djansi is part of the group, we should know the rest of the members too.
For countries like Brazil, the Ministry of Culture oversees the collection, review and submission of movies to the Academy. In Britain, the British Association of Films & Television (BAFTA) handles such task.
The Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture in Ghana can also collaborate with other bodies involved in this historic venture and make a good case for the country.
The voting for the Best Foreign Language Film Award is in 4 phases; both local and international.
The Ghana Committee for the Foreign Language Film will go through their own process of reviewing the submitted movies based on the rules and regulations of the Academy. They will then submit just 1 movie from Ghana to compete with thousands of other movies submitted by other countries.
In the USA, the Foreign Language film Award Committee will view the eligible submissions and vote via secret ballot to select 9 short-listed films.
The Committee will sit again, review the 9 movies and cut it down to 5 films.
Final voting shall be restricted to only active and life Academy members who have viewed all 5 motion pictures nominated for the award.
A win for country
The foreign-language Oscar officially goes to the country that submits the film, not the director who made it but the director gets to accept and keep the statuette — a trophy that sports his or her name, in addition to the name of the country and the film title.
Funding is an essential tool for filmmaking, and a good showing at the Oscars would throw some spotlight in the movie business in Ghana, where potential companies and foreign donors would like to invest in projecting our story – positively.
This is the reason the Ministry, various organizations within the film industry and filmmakers in the country must consider the opportunity a blessing; a blessing to get noticed and get funding, and a blessing to now do things right – in making quality movies that meet international standards.