France Picks ‘Les Miserables’ Over ‘Portrait Of A Lady On Fire’ As Official Oscar Submission

The Playlist | 9/20/2019 | Gregory Ellwood
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To the shock and dismay of cinephiles across the Western world, France has chosen its International Film Oscar submission and it is not Céline Sciamma’s acclaimed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Instead, as many insiders suspected, the French committee selected Lady Lj’s “Les Miserables.” But before you get in an uproar over what you might believe is an omission of disastrious proportions, there are a number of factors at play in the decision.

Granted, while “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” has been a critical darling (93 on Metacritic) it hasn’t had the social impact that Lj’s “Les Miserables” has had in France itself (71 on metacritic). Lj’s melodrama centers on the almost never-ending conflict between law enforcement and minority residents in some of Paris’ poorest neighborhoods. From a socio-political viewpoint, the film is a rallying cry and numerous notable members of the French filmmaking community including Adele Exarchopoulos, Omar Sy, Vincent Cassel, Mouloud Achour and Romain Gavras, among others, voiced their support publicly for “Les Miserables'” candidacy. It often gets lost in the United States, but in many nations the Oscar submission is a very big deal. Winning this category is a source of pride for their film industry and often these selections make the national news (France even announces a shortlist for its submission). Despite “Portrait” having a female director and **** storyline, “Les Miserables” is, arguably, seen as the more progressive selection to many in France. Especially as it’s the first time France has ever submitted a film from a black filmmaker.

Films - Cannes - Honors - Sciamma - Best

Moreover, while both films left Cannes with individual honors, Sciamma won Best Screenplay for “Portrait” while LJ took the Jury Prize for “Les Miserables,” anyone who has seen both films can recognize that the latter has a better chance of making the shortlist for the International...
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