This Sunday, Americans will root for their favorite Academy Award nominees with the same enthusiasm given to a favorite football team, in the hopes that the Academy will recognize the phenomenal attributes of the films they’ve spent a year anticipating, attending and applauding.

On the other side of the world, viewers in Greece, Canada, Mexico, Algeria and Denmark will also be keeping their fingers crossed as they wait for the Academy’s Oscar verdicts, which are broadcast to millions outside the U.S. each year.

But will these countries’ Oscar enthusiasts crowd around their televisions in support of their respective nominees for Best Foreign Language Film? Or have foreign audiences become as enraptured with the magic of American Hollywood as their U.S. counterparts?

The Best Foreign Language Film category, which was introduced in 1957, consists of five nominees that were produced in another country and include little or no English dialogue. Since the Academy permits only one film from each country to be submitted, the nominations tend to be heavily associated with their countries of origin.

Often, these small tastes of international creativity are taken for granted by American audiences, who are unfamiliar with the foreign cultures and languages represented in the category’s lineup. However, a closer examination of each culture’s public perception of film reveals a lot about the unique aspects of the submissions we unceremoniously group together under the title “foreign language.”

LSA senior Lanette García, a first-generation Mexican-American student, said her interest in Mexico’s nomination, “Biutiful,” stemmed more from an enthusiasm for the fame of the movie’s off-screen makers than its onscreen stars.

“I wasn’t as interested in seeing the plot as I was in the people making it,” she said. “I know that two of the movie’s producers, including Guillermo del Toro, have done some really great work, so I wanted to watch it more to see the efforts of the people behind the scenes.”

García also said plots like that of “Biutiful,” which present profound economic and social issues to their audiences, are not uncommon in Latin American cinema.

“Spanish-language movies usually involve some sort of social commentary, more so than in the United States. I know that this theme does occur sometimes in American cinema, but it comes up more often in Mexican movies.”

The focus on harsh and unsympathetic thematic material is not exclusive to Mexican cinema. Business sophomore Andrew Simon said that visiting his family’s native Greece made him aware of the country’s tendency to avoid sugarcoating the subject matter of its films.

“I’ve noticed that there never seems to be a happy ending in Greek movies, and that they tend to be much more dramatic and sad,” Simon said. “I think that the subject matter in most Greek movies would be considered very intense for American audiences, even for our comedies; they tend to be a lot hornier and use much less sophisticated humor.”

This especially holds true for Greece’s nomination, “Dogtooth,” which tells the horrifying story of a father who has refused to allow his children to make contact with the outside world since their births.

Though both García and Simon had seen some of the Best Picture nominees from the United States, neither had watched the movies from the countries whose cinemas they had described — a concerning trend regarding the actual popularity of these films.

Simon thought this tendency for mainstream American media to drown out smaller foreign or independent films in their countries of origin could possibly be held at bay if Greece were to receive recognition in the form of an Oscar.

“Winning this award would be very important for Greece mainly because their most popular movies and TV shows are from the United States,” he said.

Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in Canada. For Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Nicole Gellman, who has not seen Canada’s nomination, “Incendies,” a win would be an important distinguishing event for a country whose media has been completely hijacked by American television and movies.

“I’ve lived in Windsor, Ontario, Canada all my life, and I’ve grown up with mainstream Hollywood movies,” Gellman said. “Canadian movies and television shows are few and far between. I honestly don’t think that I could name a Canadian movie off the top of my head; I’m certain that I’ve seen more foreign films from France or Spain than I have from Canada.”

For Gellman, Canadian influences in cinema are limited to the actors and actresses with whom Americans are already familiar.

“I know Canadian actors well,” she said. “We have Jim Carrey and Kiefer Sutherland and many other amazing actors, but I don’t differentiate between Canadian and American films. I’m sure that it’s because our media has become so Americanized.”

Nominations like “Incendies” emphasize the obscurity of the guidelines by which countries choose their Oscar film nominations. Though its director and producers are Canadian, its plot centers around two Lebanese siblings returning to the Middle East in search of the truth about their mother’s role in the Lebanese Civil War.

Do countries select the movies that are most popular, or do they focus on the ratings they have received? Should a nomination be a celebration of the culture and people of its home country, or an outstanding presentation highlighting the skills of its directors and producers?

With the swelling popularity of American blockbuster movies made possible by Hollywood’s extravagant budgets, the disparity in foreign cinema between supporters and viewers becomes starkly apparent. Despite the fact that foreign producers and directors receive strong general encouragement for their efforts to expand the influence of non-American cinema, the fact remains that the films they create acquire more moral support than actual audience traffic.

While some hope exists that this trend can be reversed through international exposure from awards like the Oscars, moviegoers’ actions suggest that seeing competitive cultural relevance in foreign films requires a fundamental shift in the public’s perception of modern media — something that a press boost and a golden statuette alone can’t provide.

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