Welcome to South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years, an evocative timeline of why we are Proudly South African, apart from our legends, our landscapes, our national parks, and so much more. Nkosi sikelele Africa. God bless Africa.
This post was initially published on March 2nd 2017, updated and republished on 25 April 2021 (last update 26 April).
South African Oscar Winners & Nominees Over The Years
South Africans should take special note on the night of the 93rd Academy Awards, 2021, as some of this country’s finest, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed (writers and directors) and Craig Foster (Host & Founder of Sea Change Project), are in the run for the Best Documentary (Feature) category with “My Octopus Teacher“.
Documentary Feature 2021 Oscar WINNER “My Octopus Teacher”
“My Octopus Teacher” Trailer:
Having already won the BAFTA for Best Documentary at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, My Octopus Teacher will be among the favorites in its category, and will have to prove itself better than Collective, by Romanians Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana.
This is not the first time South Africa has had representation at the Academy Awards. Over the years, many South Africans have graced the Oscars red carpet, both as nominees and winners, proof of this country’s deep-rooted talent as well as a good eye for the arts.
Proud South African Oscar wins, nominations and submissions throughout the years
1937 (the 9th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Basil Rathbone (South African born British actor) – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Romeo and Juliet
1938 – Basil Rathbone – Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, If I Were King
1966 – Ted Moore (South African born cinematographer) – WON the first South African Oscar for A Man For All Seasons.
1972 – Janet Suzman (University of the Witwatersrand’s Alumni) – Nominated for Best Actress, Nicholas and Alexandra
1986 – Caiphus Semenya (South African composer and musician) – Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, The Color Purple
1988 – Jonas Gwangwa (important figure in South African jazz for over 40 years) – Nominated for Best Music, Original Score, and Best Music, Original Song, Cry Freedom
1990 (the 62nd Academy Awards Ceremony) – Mapantsula (Zulu, Afrikaans, Sesotho, English), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film. It appeared on the official AMPAS ( Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ) press release in 1989 but not on the 2007 updated list. Therefore Paljas is considered as South Africa’s official first submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category. It is possible that Mapantsula, although submitted,has not been screened for the Foreign Film committee for some reason.
1992 – Stephen Goldblatt (South African born), Best Cinematography – The Prince of Tides, nominated.
1996 – Stephen Goldblatt (South African born), Best Cinematography – Batman Forever, nominated.
1997 – Paljas (Afrikaans) – Director Katinka Heyns – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2003 – Charlize Theron (a Benoni born South African and American actress and film producer ) – WON Best Actress, the first South African actress to ever win an Oscar, for Monster
Charlize Theron’s 2003 Oscar Win acceptance speech:
I’m going to thank everybody in South Africa, my home country… And my mom.
2003 – Ronald Harwood (Cape Town-born playwright) – WON for Best Adapted Screenplay, The Pianist Harwood’s love for the theatre and films started when he was a child and his mother took him to the theatre in Cape Town.
2004 – Yesterday (the first ever feature-length isiZulu film), Director Darrell Roodt – Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film
2005 – Charlize Theron – Nominated for Best Actress, North Country
2005 (78th Academy Awards Ceremony) – Tsotsi – WON Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first non-French-language African film to win in this category.
Gavin Hood’s Oscar acceptance speech for Tsotsi, which he directed:
Nkosi sikelele Africa. God bless Africa.
Our stories … are about the human heart and emotion.
2009 – Jerusalema (Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Sotho), Director Ralph Ziman – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2010 – White Wedding (Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, English), Director Jann Turner – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2010 – District 9, Director Neill Blomkamp (South African–Canadian film director, film producer, screenwriter, and animator) – Nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay (Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell)
“District 9“, Official Trailer:
2011 – Life, Above All (in Northern Sotho), Director Oliver Schmitz – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film, made the January Shortlist. Life, Above All received 10-minutes standing ovations at its world premiere at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival.
2012 – Beauty (Afrikaans), Director Oliver Hermanus – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
“Beauty“, Official Trailer:
2013 – Herbert Kretzmer (South African-born English journalist and lyric writer) – Nominated for Best Music, Original Song for Les Misérables, song “Suddenly” (together with Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg)
2013 – Little One (Zulu), Director Darrell Roodt – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2014 – Four Corners (Afrikaans), Director Ian Gabriel – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2015 – Elelwani (Venda), Director Ntshavheni wa Luruli – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film
2016 – Margaret Sixel (South African-born, Australian film editor ) – WON Best Film Editing, Mad Max: Fury Road
2016– “The Two of Us” (isiZulu) – directed by Ernest Nkosi – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.
2017 (89th Academy Awards) – “Noem My Skollie (Call Me Thief)“, (Afrikaans) – directed by Daryne Joshua – Submitted for Best Foreign Language Film.
Noem My Skollie producer, Moshidi Motshegwa, said referring the support the cast and crew received at home : “The greatest affirmation an artist can get is from their own tribe. We are ecstatic to have this affirmation!”
2018 – Revolting Rhymes, directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer., Best Animated Short Film, Nominated. Revolting Rhymes is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s and Quentin Blake’s classic fairy-tale book of the same name. It was produced by Magic Light Pictures and animated by Magic Light’s Berlin studio along with Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation.
2019 – Charlize Theron, “Bombshell” – Best Actress in a Leading Role. Nominated.
2021 – My Octopus Teacher, Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed (writers and directors) and Craig Foster – Best Documentary, Nominated. Good luck!
Even if no Oscar is brought home, what matters are the passion and dedication of each actor, director, make-up artist, costume designer, editor, of the entire crew backing-up a motion picture which puts South Africa, proudly, on the Academy Awards map once again.
Initially wrote for the Huffington Post SA in 2017 and updated in 2018, published on 13 February 2018, republished on my blog on 24 April 2021.