Mounia Meddour’s debut feature Papicha has been selected by Algeria to represent the country in the Oscars’ newly-dubbed International Feature Film category – formerly known as the Best Foreign Language Film race. This appears to be the first film chosen for the category by any country this year; typically submissions start to roll in over the summer and into the fall.
Set in the 90s, Papicha centers on Nedjma, an 18-year-old student passionate about fashion design who refuses to let the tragic events of the Algerian Civil War keep her from experiencing a normal life and going out at night with her friend Wassila. As the social climate becomes more conservative, she rejects the new bans set by the radicals and decides to fight for her freedom and independence by putting on a fashion show.
Paris-based Jour2Fête, which confirmed the selection to Deadline, releases in France in October and is handling international sales. The film received praise upon its world premiere in Cannes.
Algeria has previously received four Oscar nominations in the category and won in 1969 for Costa Gavras’ Z.
The International Feature Film name change doesn’t impact any other rules for the category. However, the shortlist for the race has been expanded to 10 from a previous nine. Seven, rather than six, will be chosen by the Phase I International Feature Film Committee, and the additional three will be voted by the International Feature Film Award Executive Committee.