From the golden age of Fellini and De Sica to Sorrentino's oscar buzz this year!
The "Best Foreign Language Film" Category
The Academy Awards initially did not have a category for Foreign Language FIlms. It wasn’t until 1947, 20 years after the first Academy Awards, that an honorary award was given to a non-English Language film. This award was given without the competition of nominees, and wasn't necessarily given every year. It would be almost another decade, until 1956, that the "Best Foreign Language Film" category was created. It is a prestigious award, usually with fierce competition from great filmmakers all over the world. It is considered an award for the entire country of origin of the winning film.
It's worth noting that both the first honorary award, and the first award in the newly-created category both went to Italian Movies!
During the 20th Academy Awards held in 1946 the Italian film "Shoeshine" by Vittorio De Sica became the winner of the first honorary award for a non-English language film. Then, in 1956 Federico Fellini’s "La Strada" was the first winner in the newly-created "Best Foreign Language Film" category. These were two important firsts, and excellent Italian Films have continued to dominate this category. Fellini and De Sica in particular were honored 4 times each, defining a golden age of Italian Filmmaking that lasted throughout the mid-to-late 20th Century.
Italy has won the Foreign Film Oscar 13 times (10 if counting from the creation of the official category in 1956), more than any other single country.
Complete list of Italian Best Foreign Films:
(Including the honorary awards given from 1947 to 1956)
1947 - Scuscià (Shoe-shine) - Vittorio De Sica (Special Award)
1949 - Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief) - Vittorio De Sica (Special Award)
1950 - Le mura di Malapaga (The Walls of Malapaga) – René Clément (Special Award)
1956 - La strada - Federico Fellini
1957 - Le notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) - Federico Fellini
1963 - Otto e mezzo (8 ½) - Federico Fellini
1964 - Ieri, oggi e domani (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) - Vittorio De Sica
1970 - Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) - Elio Petri
1971 - Il giardino dei Finzi contini (The Garden of the Finzi Continis) - Vittorio De Sica
1974 - Amarcord - Federico Fellini
1989 - Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso) - Giuseppe Tornatore
1991 - Mediterraneo - Gabriele Salvatores
1998 - La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) - Roberto Benigni
2013 - La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) - Paolo Sorrentino
The last Italian Film to have won the oscar was Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, and we think it’s about time that Italy takes the stage again! Paolo Sorrentino’s "La Grande Bellezza" (The Great Beauty) is creating plenty of oscar buzz. In fact it just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film! We'll definitely have our fingers crossed this February for another Italian win!