Photo via Venice Film Festival

Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s comedy El Ciudadano Ilustre has been chosen to represent Argentina in the US Oscars and the Goya Awards in Spain. The national contender for “Best Foreign Film” was chosen today by the local Academy of Arts and Cinematic Sciences. Was it the right pick?

El Ciudadano Ilustre has definitely seen an impressive performance at the box office with more than 300,000 spectators, but selling a ton of tickets alone does not warrant an Oscar nomination let alone an award — otherwise the honor would have surely gone to Me Casé con un boludo.

The judges may have been swayed by the “minimalistic realism” of the plot and the brilliant performances from the protagonists (who, by the way, include Oscar Martínez who claimed the Volpi Cup for Best Actor two weeks ago in the Venice International Film Festival for his appearance in this very film). Perhaps it was the almost archetypal Argentine characters and the local touches that make this comedy a great national representative. Mariano Cohn, one of the film’s directors, told Teleshow “El Ciudadano Ilustre is a film that forces you to look at Argentina through a mirror.”

Oscar Martinez, protagonist in El Ciudadano Ilustre, has already claimed an award in Venice. Photo via Clarin

The plot is simple but effective: having turned down prestigious awards all over the world, Daniel Mantovani, Literature Nobel Prize winner, takes up an opportunity to visit his hometown in Argentina — the inspiration for all his books — after 40 years of living in Europe. The trip takes a turn for the worse, however: when you’ve used real people as characters in your novels, you have to be ready to face the consequences!

The flurry of international awards is a good omen for Argentina’s Oscar nominee. But despite the excitement surrounding the news today, protagonist Martínez didn’t seem to be too caught up with the Oscar buzz: “The truth is, the Oscars don’t excite me that much […] I won’t lose sleep over it.” He insists that Cannes and Venice are more important to him. Here’s hoping the Academy isn’t one to hold a grudge.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — there’s still a long way to go. The comedy will have to compete with about 100 other films to even reach the Hollywood red carpet, and the competition is huge. This year, Spain’s Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar), Chile’s Neruda (Pablo Larraín) and France’s Elle (Paul Verhoven) have already joined the race and are seen as clear favorites.

Last year Argentina’s choice for the Oscars was El Clandirected by Pablo Trapero and starring Guillermo Francella and Peter Lanzani, but the historical crime drama did not make it past the first hurdles and didn’t manage to reach the ceremony. It did, however, see success in Madrid at the Goya awards, taking home Best Latin American Film. This hardly came as a surprise — Argentina’s track record at the Madrid award ceremony is pretty impressive. The Argentine-Spanish film Truman, starring Ricardo Darin, was a hit there last year, winning a total of five awards including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film.

As far as the Oscars are concerned, Argentina has been nominated for “Best Foreign Film” seven times: La historia oficial (1985) and El secreto de sus ojos (2009) were lucky enough to win, but La Tregua (1974), Camila (1984), Tango (1998), El Hijo de la Novia (2001) and Relatos Salvajes (2015) were left to find satisfaction in the honor of a nomination alone.

The country’s success is not restricted to just this category, however. Last year, Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone won Best Original Screenplay for the multi-award winning Birdman, and Gustavo Santaolalla won Best Soundtrack for Brokeback Mountain (2006) and Babel (2007) in two consecutive years.

Could this be another year of victory for Argentine cinema? Fingers crossed.