The Oscar nominations aren’t announced until January 23, but the race has already begun in the best foreign-language film category.
Every country is invited to submit what it considers its best film of the year to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), with one film accepted from each country.
Last year there were 85 films in the longlist of entries for consideration in the category – a record-breaking number – before the contenders were whittled down to a nine-strong longlist and, eventually, the five nominees put forward to the final Oscar vote: Denmark’s Land Of Mine, Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, Australia’s Tanna, Germany’s Toni Erdmann and eventual winner, The Salesman from Iran. (For insight into how the shortlisting process works, read Screen’s 2015 interview with producer Mark Johnson, chairman of AMPAS’s foreign-language film award committee.)
This year’s national submissions have already started to be announced. The with Screen keeping track of the submissions as they are announced below:
Morocco: Razzia (Nabil Ayouch)
The streets of Casablanca provide the centrepiece for five separate narratives in Nabil Ayouch’s social drama, which received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Three of Ayouch’s previous films have been put forward by Morocco as its Oscar submission – Mektoub (1998), Ali Zaoua: Prince Of The Streets (2000), and Horses Of God (2013).
Cambodia: First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie)
Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung recounts the horrors she suffered as a child under the rule of the deadly Khmer Rouge. The Netflix-backed drama premiered in Cambodia earlier in the year and screened at the Telluride Film Festival before playing in Toronto. It is due to get a small theatrical run in the US.
Pakistan: Saawan (Farhan Alam)
Based on real events that highlight societal injustices, Farhan Alam’s drama is set in the remote deserts and revolves around and a nine-year old disabled boy who is rejected by his father, intimidated by society and harassed by friends before beginning a perilous journey to reunite with his family. The film was written and produced by Mashood Qadri through production company Kalakar Films.
Mexico: Tempestad (Tatiana Huezo)
Huezo’s hard-hitting documentary follows two connected narratives of women who have suffered the brutal consequences of human trafficking in Mexico. Jim Jarmusch collaborator Jim Stark (Down by Law) is executive producer alongside brothers Nicolas and Sebastian Celis, producers of Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film, Roma.
Bulgaria: Glory (Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva)
Inspired by true events, this tragicomedy charts the story of a railroad worker who finds millions in cash on the tracks and turns the money in to the police. The film premiered at the Antalya film festival and went on to play at the Edinburgh film festival. Film Movement has US and English-speaking Canadian rights.
Kosovo: Unwanted (Edon Rizvanolli)
Actor-turned-director Edon Rizvanolli’s feature debut is a social drama about a teenage boy who lives in exile in Holland with his mother. Produced by 1244 Productions and Asfalt Films, the feature premiered at Karlovy Vary.
Vietnam: Father And Son (Luong Dinh Dung)
Luong Dinh Dung’s film is based on the director’s short story about a young boy who falls ill and is taken on a journey to see all the sights he has wanted to see. It won the won the best cinematography award at the Milano International Film Festival, the best foreign feature and special jury awards for cinematography at the Arizona Film Festival, and the best storyline award at the Boston Film Festival.
United Kingdom: My Pure Land (Sarmad Masud)
British-Pakistani director Sarmad Masud’s debut is the first Urdu-language film to be Britain’s selection for the category and tells the true story of a mother and her two daughters who survived a siege on their home by relatives in rural Pakistan. My Pure Land is produced by Bill Kenwright Films with Independent handling international sales.
Czech Republic: Ice Mother (Bohdan Sláma)
Bohdan Slama’s film about a grandmother who goes through a series of life changing events had its international premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the best screenplay award. It also screened at Sydney, Karlovy Vary and Vancouver. The Match Factory Are Handling International Sales.
Egypt: Sheikh Jackson (Amr Salama)
FIPRESCI winner Amr Salama’s feel-good Michael Jackason-themed film nabbed the Egyptian Oscar nomination on the eve of its world premiere in Toronto. The film is co-produced by Film Clinic and The Producers and stars Ahmad Alfishawy and Ahmed Malek.
Lebanon: The Insult (Ziad Doueiri)
Doueiri’s film centres on a simple dispute between Toni, a Lebanese Christian, and Yasser, a Palestinian refugee and building site foreman, over a trivial plumbing issue. It won Palestinian actor Kamel El Basha, one of the film’s two male leads, the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor in Venice.
The director ran into trouble after returning from the festival when he was detained by Lebanese authorities who accused him of shooting some scenes from his previous film The Attack in Israel. He was released and attended Toronto with the film.
The Netherlands: Layla M. (Mijke de Jong)
This Islamic extremism drama follows a Dutch-Moroccan teenager who is radicalized by anti-Muslim policies in the Netherlands. The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival and Netflix snapped up international rights.
Poland: Spoor (Agnieszka Holland)
Agnieszka Holland’s latest premiered in competition at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It follows an elderly woman who lives alone in the Klodzko Valley, where a series of mysterious crimes are committed. Despite being convinced that she knows who or what is the murderer, nobody believes her.
Ireland: Song of Granite (Pat Collins)
Pat Collins’ (Silence) SXSW hit tells the life story of seannós singer Joe Heaney, interweaving narrative and documentary film. The film features performances by Lisa O’Neill, Damien Dempsey, Seamus Begley. Oscilloscope are releasing the film in the US.
Spain: Summer 1993 (Carla Simón)
The first film from Carla Simón won the best feature and first feature awards after premiering at Berlin’s Generation Kplus. It follows an orphan in 1993 Catalonia who goes to live with her uncle’s family following the death of her mother. Worldwide sales are handled by New Europe Film Sales.
Romania: The Fixer (Adrian Sitaru)
The Fixer follows a trainee journalist who gets a chance to prove himself with a story about a scandal involving an underage prostitute, though finds himself reaching his moral limits as a result. Adrian Sitaru’s film premiered at last year’s Toronto. MPM Film represents the film internationally.
Greece: Amerika Square (Yannis Sakaridis)
Yannis Sakaridis’ second film premiered at the Busan International Film Festival and will have its US premiere this autumn. Amerika Square follows two friends, a tattoo artist and a “banal” Greek racist, who come together in Athens’ Plateia Amerikis (America Square) because of the journey of a Syrian refugee. World sales are handled by Patra Spanou Film Marketing & Consulting.
Hungary: On Body and Soul (Ildikó Enyedi)
Director Ildikó Enyedi’s Golden Bear winner follows two people working at an abbatoir, who both dream themselves as deers in love at night but find that finding that love in real life is more difficult. On Body and Soul’s world sales are handled by Films Boutique.
Japan: Her Love Boils Bathwater (Ryota Nakano)
This film follows a terminally ill woman who tries to put her affairs in order as she searches for her husband and tries to put her daughter on the right path. Ryoya Nakano’s film won three Japan Academy prizes earlier this year, including best actress for Rie Miyazawa. Hakuhodo DY Music & Pictures Inc. are handling worldwide sales.
Norway: Thelma (Joachim Trier)
Joachim Trier’s fourth feature opened the Norwegian Film Festival last month, screened in Toronto and is due to play New York in September. The supernatural thriller follows the titular Oslo student and her attraction to another woman, which draws overwhelming emotions and inexplicable powers into the open. Memento Films International is handling international sales.
Finland: Tom Of Finland (Dome Karukoski)
Dome Karukoski’s drama chronicles the life and times of the titular Finnish, gay artist. Aleksi Bardy wrote the screenplay for the film, which tells the life story of Touko Laaksonen, a man who would become known around the world by his nom de guerre “Tom Of Finland”. The film opened this year’s Goteborg Film Festival. Protagonist Pictures handle sales. Kino Lorber picked up US rights and Peccadillo Pictures took UK rights, where it was released in August 2017.
South Korea: A Taxi Driver (Hun Jang)
Hun Jang’s story of a taxi driver who takes a German reporter from Seoul to Gwangju to cover the 1980 uprising has been a smash hit in South Korea, passing 10million admissions and taking more than $70m at the local box office, making it the country’s highest grossing film of the year. Well Go USA Entertainment picked up US rights.
Belgium: Racer And The Jailbird (Michaël R Roskam)
The film, about a racetrack romance between a driver and gangster, received its world premiere in Venice and also screened at Toronto. Director Michaël R Roskam’s debut feature Bullhead was nominated for the foreign language Oscar in 2012. Wild Bunch is handling international sales, with Neon releasing in the US later this year.
Palestine: Wajib (Annemarie Jacir)
Annemarie Jacir’s wry father and son comedy-drama premiered in competition in Locarno over the summer, where it was warmly received by critics and won three independent awards, the FICC/IFFS Prize, the Youth Jury Environment Prize, and the ISPEC Cinema Award. Paris-based Pyramide International handles sales.
Germany: In The Fade (Fatih Akin)
Fatih Akin’s thriller won Diane Kruger the best actress award at Cannes for her portrayal of a women seeking justice after her husband and son die in a terrorist attack. The film screened at Toronto and The Match Factory handles worldwide sales.
Sweden: The Square (Ruben Östlund)
Ruben Östlund’s art-world satire won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and played as a Special Presentation at Toronto. Magnolia pre-bought US rights in September 2016 and plans a New York and Los Angeles release on October 27 ahead of a national roll-out.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Men Don’t Cry (Alen Drljevic)
The film, set two decades after the war ended in Yugoslavia, follows a diverse group of veterans who gather at a remote mountain hotel to undergo group therapy. Men Don’t Cry premiered at Karlovy Vary, where Picture Tree International boarded international rights.
Switzerland: The Divine Order (Petra Volpe)
The period drama, set in 1971, follows a housewife who embarks on a campaign for women’s voting rights. It received its international premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the audience award for narrative as well as best actress in an international feature for Marie Leuenberger. TrustNordisk handles international sales.
Nepal: White Sun (Deepak Rauniyar)
Deepak Rauniyar’s second feature tells the story of a family divided by civil war who come together to lay their father to rest. The film travelled the 2016 festival circuit widely, premiering at the Venice Film Festival and winning the Interfilm award at Toronto. The Match Factory represents international rights.
Iraq: The Dark Wind (Hussein Hassan)
A love story set against the backdrop of the Yazidi genocide, The Dark Wind premiered as the closing film of last October’s Busan International Film Festival. The film also won the UNESCO cultural diversity award at the 2016 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
Dominican Republic: Woodpeckers (José María Cabral)
José María Cabral’s prison romance was the first film from the Dominican Republic to play at Sundance, where it competed for the grand jury prize this year. It also played at Seattle, Miami and Guadalajara, where it won three awards. Film Factory have boarded for worldwide sales, with AZ films and Outsider Pictures acquiring distribution rights for America and Canada respectively.
Azerbaijan: Pomegranate Orchard (Ilgar Najaf)
Premiering at Karlovy Vary in July, it won the grand jury prize at the Eurasian International Film Festival weeks later. Pomegranate Orchard follows the return home of a man to make amends at his father’s modest house surrounded by pomegranate trees.
Turkey: Ayla: The Daughter Of War (Can Ulkay)
Can Ulkay’s debut feature is set in 1950 during the Korean war, where a Turkish soldier decides to care for an abandoned five-year-old girl. It is due for release in Turkey in October, and is produced by Turkish company Digital Sanatlar.v