Following its success at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival, where Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone had its world premiere and snagged the coveted Best Canadian Feature Film prize, Deraspe’s fifth feature is making waves.  As Telefilm recently announced, Antigone has been chosen as Canada’s official contender for the Best International Feature Film category of the 92nd Academy Awards, which take place February 9, 2020!

The drama revisits the Greek tragedy Antigone (by Sophocles) with a modern plot, and themes the director feels it’s important to highlight in this work, she explained in Telefilm’s press release. “Bringing Antigone to the Oscar race is not only a huge honour, it’s also a way for me to highlight the values of empathy, artistry and integrity, which Canadian films exemplify so well,” said Deraspe, who also wrote the script and first found cinema through her passion for visual arts and literature. Hailing from the province of Quebec, the filmmaker’s many accolades include the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize at Turin for Les Loups (The Wolves), while her documentary Le profil Amina (The Amina Profile) competed at Sundance. 

More on the film

Antigone’s story goes like this: When she helps her brother flee prison, a teenaged Antigone (played by Nahéma Ricci, who was recently chosen for the TIFF Rising Stars programme) chooses to listen to her own moral law and inner sense of justice and love and over societal law and external power. The cast also features Nour Belkhiria, Rawad El-Zein, Rachida Oussaada, Hakim Brahimi, Paul Doucet, and Antoine Desrochers.

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The selection process

So how did Antigone become Canada’s pick for the Oscars this year? Well, Telefilm Canada coordinates and chairs the pan-Canadian Selection Committee (without voting right). The committee consists of about 20 members representing key government agencies and national film industry associations.

This year, 16 films were submitted to the committee, nine of which were directed or co-directed by women, proudly noted Christa Dickenson, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada.

Canadian history at the Oscars

And by the way, while the term Best International Feature Film might sound unfamiliar, it’s actually the new name of the category that used to be known as Best Foreign Language Film, for which Canada’s submission has been one of the Oscar race’s final nominees eight times so far! Our contender even took home the gold in 2004; Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares). Fun fact: two other Arcand films were also official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees: The Decline of the American Empire (Le Déclin de l’empire américain)  and Jesus of Montreal (Jésus de Montréal). 

Other nominations around the world

Other nominations submitted from countries all around the world include, Elia Suleiman’s France-Qatar-Germany-Canada-Palestine-Turkey coproduction It Must Be Heaven (submitted by Palestine), and Sebastián Barriuso and Rodrigo Barriuso’s Cuban-Canadian co-venture Un Traductor (A Translator) (submitted by Cuba).  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will share a shortlist of 10 films on December 16, 2019. Then comes (drumroll, please) the big reveal of the category’s five official nominees on January 13, 2020.