Canada Sends 'It's Only the End of the World' to the Oscars

Gaspard Ulliel in Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World.
Shane Laverdière, courtesy of eOne Films.
Canada is sending Xavier Dolan to the Oscars once again! In an announcement made today via Facebook livestream, Telefilm Canada honcho Carole Brabant confirmed that Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World would be our official submission to the Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. (Read the Cinemablographer review of It’s Only the End of the World here.) The event arguably the largest international platform to expose a Canadian film to audiences worldwide and the selection was decided by the Pan-Canadian committee of industry peers chaired by Telefilm. 

It’s Only the End of the World marks the third time that a film by the 27-year-old director has represented Canada in the Oscar race after his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother and 2014 hit Mommy, which was a surprise omission from the December shortlist. Other submissions this year include My Life as a Courgette (Switzerland), Very Big Shot (Lebanon) , Port of Call (Hong Kong), The Age of Shadows (South Korea), Eva Nova (Slovakia), and frontrunner Toni Erdmann (Germany).

The selection of Dolan’s film comes as no surprise since it’s the only eligible film with any international profile. It’s Only the End of the World premiered at Cannes earlier this year where it divided critics, but was then vindicated by winning the Grand Prix—the highest honour ever for a Quebecois film at Cannes and a feat  in Canadian cinema matched only by Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter. Dolan addressed the Cannes reactions when a member of the press broached the topic following the announcement by saying that an event like Cannes inspires a variety of passionate responses, but that the selection as the Oscar pick gives it a second chance for audiences to discover it. All this is a constellation of opinions of critics, he said, but that the film deserves exposure to portions of the industry beyond the media.

The film features an impressive line-up of international stars including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and Spectre’s Léa Seydoux, which could help garner attention to the sweltering family drama about a young man’s return home to tell his family that he his dying. Other worthy options for submission included Anne Émond’s Les êtres chers (which would have been my choice and would have benefited from media attention for female filmmakers) and Philippe Falardeau’s Harper-era satire My Internship in Canada (which is great, but probably not as funny for non-Canadians). Breakout TIFF hits Maliglutit and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves are eligible next year and both films have upcoming festival commitments that may have been compromised by a last minute qualifying run. While Dolan's film is nowhere near as bad as the Cannes reviews suggested, it faces a tough battle in a race driven by critical endorsements and passionate support.

It’s Only the End of the World had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month where it arguably performed better (but remained divisive). Dolan’s film had TIFF Bell Lightbox buzzing with excitement with three simultaneous screenings to accommodate intros with stars Nathalie Baye and Gaspard Ulliel and Q&As. The screenings, staggered fifteen minutes apart, enabled Dolan to show the film in the beautiful 35mm film in which it was shot. In true Canadian fashion, however, there are only two prints of the film, so technicians had to move the reels from one projector to another during the screening. They’ll have to print some more if the film lands a nomination.

It’s Only the End of the World is now playing in Toronto and Montreal. It opens in Ottawa at The ByTowne on Sept. 30.