The 2024 Oscars race has officially begun, with “Thunder” marking the official entry for Switzerland in the International Feature Film category.
Directed by Carmen Jaquier, “Thunder” is a coming-of-age story focused on a teenage girl (Lilith Grasmug) who is forced to leave a nunnery after her elder sister dies in mysterious circumstances. Set in 1900, the film marks Jaquier’s first feature. “Thunder” premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win Swiss Film Awards, an Emerging Swiss Talent Award at Zurich, a Special Jury Prize in Rome, and a best director prize in Marrakech. Its Oscars recognition was announced during this year’s Locarno Film Festival on August 4.
In a statement about its decision, the selection jury said, “Set in an archaic mountain scenery, liberation and sisterhood are at the center of this timely feminist period film. Carmen Jaquier’s uniquely sensual first feature skillfully explores sexuality and faith and captivates with its nuanced mise-en-scène and evocative imagery.”
“Thunder” is produced by Flavia Zanon and Joëlle Bertossa of Close Up Films, the Geneva-based company that has partnered with international coproductions like “I Am Not Your Negro” and “The Plough.”
The 2024 Oscars will take place March 10, 2024. The ceremony ushers in new rules from the Academy Board of Governors, including updated demands on countries submitting films for the Best International Feature Oscar, new promotional campaign restrictions following last year’s infamous “To Leslie” debacle, and General Entry eligible release dates. For the International Feature Film category, selection committees around the world, in every country that submits a movie for Oscar consideration, must comprise at least 50 percent filmmakers (artists and/or craftspeople).
The shift, according to IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, could “decrease the political bias in some of these selections, but if Iran doesn’t want to submit a banned filmmaker, this new rule is unlikely to make a difference.”
Thompson continued, “That means that the Academy, in a move designed to improve the quality of the foreign-language films submitted each year, is telling each country, from Brazil and Iran to France and Timbuktu — including government-run selection committees — how to pick their Oscar films.”
Bill Kramer, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, pointed to the Academy’s newfound emphasis on international cinema last year. “All Quiet on the Western Front” won the 2023 Academy Award for Best International Feature.