From Afghanistan to Venezuela the submissions for the foreign-language film Oscar bring together work from both newcomers and established names. Screen profiles the submissions from a record 76 countries
Wajma — An Afghan Love Story
Dir Barmak Akram
Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Screenwriting prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year before embarking on a healthy festival career, this documentary-style, ultra-realist film tells the story of Wajma (Wajma Bahar), a middle-class young woman in Kabul whose fateful decision leads to an unwanted pregnancy and a denial of paternity by her boyfriend Mustafa. Locked up and beaten by her father, Wajma is forced into desperate measures. Akram, who impressed with 2008’s Kabuli Kid, directs Afghanistan’s eighth foreign-language Oscar submission since 2002 — hoping to be the first to make the shortlist.
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Dir Robert Budina
Two brothers from Albania emigrate to northern Greece in this tense drama. Each tries to integrate in their own way, with Saimir (Marvin Tafaj) trying to take on the responsibilities of his late parents. But younger brother Vini (Guljem Kotori), an artist, struggles to prove himself and eventually becomes involved in organised crime. Agon premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival last year and has played at international festivals including Saint Petersburg and Shanghai. The film is Albania’s eighth submission since 1996 and was shot in Albania and Greece using both languages.
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The German Doctor
Dir Lucia Puenzo
A premiere in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, The German Doctor centres on Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele (Alex Brendemühl) who arrives in Argentina’s remote Patagonia with a new identity. He moves into a hotel run by German-speaking Eva and her husband Enzo, taking a particular interest in their daughter Lilith. Directed by Puenzo (XXY) from her own novel Wakolda — the film’s Spanish title — The German Doctor won the audience award at Saint Petersburg before winning several awards at Argentina’s Unasur film festival. Samuel Goldwyn Films has picked up US rights.
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Dir Kim Mordaunt
As an English-speaking country Australia infrequently submits films for the foreign-language Oscar but this is the third in a row after last year’s Lore and 2011’s Samson And Delilah (the first Australian submission to make the shortlist). The Rocket was shot in Laos and is about a young boy who leads his family on a search for a new home while entering a rocket competition. A substantial hit on the festival circuit, it premiered at Berlin this year, where it won the Generation Kplus prize and best first feature prize, and also did well at Tribeca winning best actor, best narrative feature and the audience award. It recently won an audience award at AFI Fest. Kino Lorber has taken it on for US distribution.
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Dir Julian Roman Pölsler
Adapted from Marlen Haushofer’s early 1960s bestseller, The Wall is essentially a one-woman show featuring Martina Gedeck (The Lives Of Others) as a woman who wakes up one morning in a spectacular Alpine locale to find she is cut off from the rest of civilization by a wall of glass with only a dog, a cow and a cat for company. Described by Screen as “riveting and emotionally involving though offering few conventional narrative pleasures”, The Wall premiered in competition at the Berlinale in February.
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Dir Shamil Aliyev
Only Azerbaijan’s fifth submission to the foreign-language category, Steppe Man premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in November 2012. Shot in the Azerbaijani language and written by Vidadi Hasanov, the film centres on a young man (Salome Demuria) who lives on the steppes, having learned the wisdom of nature from his father. But when the old man dies he meets a young woman from the village and his life changes irrevocably. Director Aliyev’s first feature, Confession, was made in 2002, and he has worked for national TV as well as state body Azerbaijanfilm.
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Dir Mostofa Sarwar Farooki
The closing film of the Busan International Film Festival in 2012, Television went on to earn a special mention in Dubai’s main competition before a successful run through the international festival circuit. Filmed in the Bengali language, it is a light-hearted comedy set on an island ruled by a hardline Muslim cleric who bans television but is faced with a challenge when the only Hindu family decides to buy one. Director Farooki set up the Chabial film movement, a free-wheeling network of Indian directors who use cable TV as an outlet.
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The Broken Circle Breakdown
Dir Felix van Groeningen
A haunting tale of love, death and bluegrass, The Broken Circle Breakdown has been a worldwide critical hit since it premiered at Berlin’s Panorama earlier this year, fuelled by notable lead performances from Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh. The film kicks off in the hospital where a couple learns their six-year-old daughter may have a terminal illness and twists back through time to when they first met: he is a bearded banjo player and she owns a tattoo parlour, but ends up singing with him. The film won awards for best actor and screenplay in a narrative feature film at Tribeca and has also picked up several European Film Awards nominations including film, director, actor and actress.
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An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker
(Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Dir Danis Tanovic
Tanovic, whose No Man’s Land won the foreign-language Oscar in 2002, looks into the lives of the Roma in his native Bosnia & Herzegovina. Nazif Mujic and Senada Alimanovic re-enact their own real-life story: he is an iron picker, hunting out scrap, she is five months pregnant. When she miscarries, the local hospital sends her home until the couple can come up with $675 (€500) for treatment, an impossible sum. She begins to slowly die. Iron Picker premiered in competition in Berlin this year, winning the best actor prize and the Jury Grand Prix, and opened the Sarajevo Film Festival.
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Dir Kleber Mendonca Filho
Set in the affluent coastal city of Recife, Brazil, this thrilling Short Cuts-like feature examines what happens in an apartment complex when a private security firm is brought in to deal with thefts. Former film critic Filho’s debut feature, which he also wrote, screened in competition in Rotterdam in 2012, winning the Fipresci award. The film’s festival career has included New Directors/New Films in New York and Rio, where it won best fiction feature and screenplay in 2012. Neighbouring Sounds has enjoyed wide arthouse play internationally.
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The Color Of The Chameleon
Dir Emil Hristov
An absurdist spy thriller with Kafka-esque overtones, The Color Of The Chameleon is a dark comedy set in 1989, just before the fall of communism across Eastern Europe. A clean-cut student is recruited by a captain of the secret police to infiltrate a subversive group at his university; a job he eventually comes to relish. Director Hristov, working from screenwriter Vladislav Todorov’s novel of the same name, then cuts to a post-Berlin Wall society where his victims are now in a position of power. Chameleon premiered at Toronto in 2012 before playing at Karlovy Vary this year.
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The Missing Picture
Dir Rithy Panh
The Missing Picture won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year for its painstaking use of clay models and dioramas against historical archive footage to recount the ravages of Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia. Director Panh was 11 when the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh in 1975 and The Missing Picture documents his family’s suffering until he fled to Thailand at the age of 15, later arriving in Paris to study film. Documenting the genocide has become Panh’s life’s work, and this is an eloquent piece in which the models substitute for the missing photographic evidence in the quest to expose the atrocities.
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Dir Louise Archambault
Quebecois director Archambault’s second feature (after Familia) centres around Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard), a young woman with Williams syndrome who has an exceptional musical gift. She has found love with Martin, a fellow member of a choir for developmentally disabled adults, but their families are concerned and Gabrielle must fight for her freedom. Gabrielle is the latest production from Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar producers Luc Déry and Kim McCraw at Montreal-based micro_scope. It features an affecting performance from 23-year-old Marion-Rivard, who has Williams syndrome in real life.
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Dir Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
A French-backed production shot in Chad, GriGris competed at Cannes this year and is the fifth feature from Paris-based, Chad-born director Haroun, whose A Screaming Man won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2010. The film tells the story of GriGris (Souleymane Démé), a poor aspiring photographer with a paralysed leg who nonetheless is an impressive dancer. When his stepfather falls ill, medical bills force him into begging for work from a local crime boss, even as he falls in love with the local prostitute.
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Dir Sebastian Lelio
The third feature from Lelio was a huge crowdpleaser when it premiered in Berlin earlier this year, deservedly winning best actress for Paulina Garcia in the title role (she may well crop up in international acting nominations in awards season). Roadside Attractions picked up Gloria for US distribution and it quickly sold worldwide. Gloria is a 58-year-old divorcee who sees a last chance for love with an older naval officer in this funny, raw, and ultimately enlightening film co-produced with Spain. It is one of the strongest contenders for making the final five nominees.
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Back To 1942
Dir Feng Xiaogang
From the director of Aftershock, this epic drama centres on the famine which ravaged Henan province during the Japanese invasion in 1942, killing an estimated three million people. Zhang Guoli stars as a wealthy landowner who loses everything and must stand by as his family starts to die of starvation. Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody also have roles in Back To 1942, which was the surprise film at the 2012 Rome Film Festival and went on to open in China in late November.
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La Playa DC
Dir Juan Andres Arango
A premiere in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2012, Arango’s debut feature is about a teenager trying to cope with the harsh reality of life on the mean streets of Bogota. Tomas has come to the capital — the Distrito Capital, or DC of the title — with his two wayward brothers, but unlike them he realises he needs a trade to make anything of his life. Serving an apprenticeship at a barbers which specialises in the elaborate hairdos so beloved of Afro-Colombians, Tomas falls in love and is forced to grow up in this edgy coming-of-age title from a notable new film-maker.
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Dir Arsen Anton Ostojic
Halima’s Path tells the story of a strong-willed Muslim woman called Halima (Alma Prica) who tries to find the remains of her son who was killed in the Bosnian war and buried in one of the many mass graves in the region. Understanding that she must first track down her estranged niece in order to find the whereabouts of his body, she uncovers a horrifying truth that affects her present as well as her past. Ostojic’s films have twice represented Croatia in the foreign-language Oscar submission list: 2004’s A Wonderful Night In Split and No One’s Son in 2008. Both were also multiple award-winners on the festival circuit.
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The Don Juans
Dir Jiri Menzel
Czech New Wave master Menzel won the foreign-language film Oscar in 1967 with Closely Watched Trains, made when he was just 28. His latest film, which premiered at Montreal in September, is set in the world of opera. Funny and fast, The Don Juans is about a small-town troupe in the Czech Republic with an eccentric director who plans a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Menzel also wrote the film.
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Dir Thomas Vinterberg
The Hunt is a powerful contemporary drama set in a Danish village in the run-up to Christmas. Mads Mikkelsen is compelling as Lucas, a divorced kindergarten teacher who becomes the subject of a hysterical witch-hunt when a child’s allegations spiral out of control. From Festen director Vinterberg, The Hunt premiered in Competition at Cannes in 2012, where it won the best actor prize. With Magnolia Pictures distributing in the US this tense, claustrophobic drama has been widely sold and featured as a staple of international awards lists since its release — recently winning the Nordic Council Film Prize. It is a strong candidate for the final five.
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Who’s The Boss?
Dir Ronni Castillo
Romantic comedy Who’s The Boss? (Quien Manda?) is only the sixth film to be submitted to the foreign-language Oscar category by the Dominican Republic. Castillo’s feature debut, from a script by Daniel Aurelio, is about Alex and Nathalie, a couple who fail to take their relationships seriously: after three months they break it off and move on. But when they get together, it isn’t quite so easy and they both battle for control. Released in the Dominican Republic in late August, Who’s The Boss? reportedly notched up 50,000 admissions in its opening weekend, making it a significant success for its 26-year-old director.
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Dir Javier Andrade
Two brothers, Paco and Luis, pawn their wealthy parents’ possessions to keep up a freebasing high. Older brother Paco dallies with his married childhood sweetheart and hides behind his rock musician sibling but is happy to benefit from his antics, the latest of which is to pawn the titular porcelain horse, leading to an argument which changes the course of their lives. Andrade’s first feature caused a stir at the Miami International Film Festival when it debuted there in 2012, in particular for its abrupt and jarring finale.
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Winter Of Discontent
Egypt did not submit a film to the foreign-language Oscar category in 2012 following the chaos in the country and it is notable that 2013’s submission is centred on the events which led to the Tahrir Square uprising. Winter Of Discontent depicts torture under the old regime of Hosni Mubarak and attempts by the secret police to quash the revolution. A world premiere at Venice last year, the film stars Amr Waked and Salah Al Hanafy and is about a young computer programmer who is tortured by police. El-Batout’s past films include Eye Of The Sun and Hawi.
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Dir Veiko Ounpuu
Free Range is the story of an aspiring young writer whose girlfriend becomes pregnant at about the same time he is fired from his job, forcing him to take stock and figure out his place in the world. Starring Lauri Lagle, Jaanika Arum and Laura Peterson, Free Range (subtitled Ballad On Approving Of The World) is Ounpuu’s third feature. His 2007 debut Autumn Ball won the Venice Horizons competition. The director’s 2010 film The Temptation Of St Tony was also submitted to the foreign-language Oscar category but did not make the shortlist.
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Dir Ulrika Bengts
The second feature from Bengts, after 2011’s Iris, is about a tyrannical lighthouse keeper and the hold he keeps over his family — something which is threatened when a new assistant arrives. A premiere at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, Disciple follows 13-year-old Karl, who comes to an island in the Baltic Sea in the summer of 1939 as a new government-appointed assistant to lightkeeper Vilhelm (Niklas Groundstroem). Vilhelm says there has been a mistake, as his own son can do the job, but Karl doesn’t want to go back to the orphanage. The outsider brings tensions to an already difficult situation in this beautifully composed film.
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Dir Gilles Bourdos
Bathed in the hazy sunshine of a Cote d’Azur summer in 1915, Renoir is the real-life story of Impressionist painter Pierre-August Renoir and his son Jean Renoir, who would go on to become one of the world’s greatest film-makers, and Andrée Heuschling, the young artist’s model who enchants them both. Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret and Vincent Rottiers star in the film, which was written by director Bourdos and Jérome Tonnerre. Produced by Fidélité Films, Renoir made its world premiere as the closing film of Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2012. Samuel Goldwyn Films released the film in the US earlier this year, where it has grossed more than $2m.
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Dirs Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Gross
This vivid coming-of-age film about two 14-year-old girls growing up in 1990s Georgia in the aftermath of the country’s secession from the Soviet Union stars Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria. The Germany-Georgia-Poland co-production was one of the breakout hits of this year’s Berlinale, winning the Forum’s CICAE prize and going on to become a popular fixture on the festival circuit. Ekvtimishvili, who based the script on her own adolescent experiences of Tbilisi, makes her directorial debut as co-director with regular German collaborator Gross. In Bloom will be released in the US by Big World Pictures and in the UK by Artificial Eye.
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Dir Georg Maas
Juliane Köhler plays a German-born woman living contentedly in Norway with her aging mother, played by Liv Ullmann, in this gripping political thriller. Her life is thrown into chaos when she is confronted with her past as an informant for the Stasi in East Germany. Based on a true story, Two Lives reveals the plight of the so-called Lebensborn children, the offspring of Norwegian women and German soldiers during the Nazi occupation of Norway. A Germany-Norway co-production, the film played at festivals including Palm Springs, Gothenburg and Shanghai and was released in Germany in September by Farbfilm.
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Boy Eating The Bird’s Food
Dir Ektoras Lygizos
Lygizos’ debut feature has wowed festival audiences with its lyrical portrayal of a young man’s battle for survival in modern Athens. Yannis Papadopoulos plays the impoverished Yorgos, who roams the city with his beloved canary, whose food he often has to share. Boy Eating The Bird’s Food first screened at Karlovy Vary in 2012 before going on to festivals including Toronto, where it played in the Discovery section, and Galway, where it won the audience award for best international first film. It is produced by Giorgos Karnavas’s Stefi Productions.
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Dir Wong Kar-wai
Infused with Wong’s breathtaking visuals and poetic story-telling, the director’s decade-in-the-making homage to martial arts master Ip Man, who famously trained Bruce Lee, stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhang Ziyi. The Grandmaster is Wong’s most commercially successful film to date, smashing box office records in China where it has grossed over $45m and taking $6.3m in the US from its release via The Weinstein Company. Produced by Wong’s Jet Tone Films, The Grandmaster made its international debut out of competition at the Berlinale. A film by Wong has yet to be nominated for a foreign-language Oscar.
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Dir Janos Szasz
The winner of the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary this year is a powerful drama about two brothers sent to live with their grandmother to escape an impending war at home. The Notebook is based on the controversial bestselling novel Le Grand Cahier by Agota Kristof, which has been translated into 30 languages. Szasz, whose credits include the award-winning Woyzeck and Opium: Diary Of A Madwoman, co-wrote the adaptation with Andras Szeker. Newcomers Andras and Laszlo Gyemant star.
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Of Horses And Men
Dir Benedikt Erlingsson
The debut feature from Erlingsson, a well-known actor and theatre director in Iceland, is a compelling comedy drama set in an isolated community of horse-breeders and farmers. It is produced by one of Iceland’s best-known film-makers, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, whose Children Of Nature was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar in 1992. Erlingsson won the Kutxa-New Directors’ Award at this year’s San Sebastian film festival and the film won best director at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
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The Good Road
Dir Gyan Correa
Director Correa’s feature debut is a lyrical film of interwoven stories following two children trying to find their way home and the people they meet on the way. Goa-born Correa, who has a background in advertising, travelled around India before deciding to set his film in Gujarat, his wife’s home state. Financed by India’s National Film Development Corp (NFDC), The Good Road won the best Gujarati film prize at India’s National Film Awards earlier this year. Ajay Gehi and Sonali Kulkarni star alongside young actors Keval Katrodia and Poonam Kesar Singh.
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Dir Rako Prijanto
The Clerics (Sang Kiai) is an epic period drama set against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of Indonesia in 1942. Directed by prolific Indonesian film-maker Prijanto and based on an original screenplay by Anggoro Saronto, the film portrays the struggle to establish the Indonesian Sunni strand of Islam known as Nahdlatul Ulama in the face of Japanese power. Ikranagara stars with the well-known Indonesian actress Christine Hakim. Produced by Gope T Samtani’s Rapi Films, The Clerics was released in Indonesia in May.
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Dir Asghar Farhadi
Bérénice Bejo won the best actress prize in Cannes for her role in Farhadi’s follow-up to A Separation, which won the best foreign-language Oscar in 2012. Bejo plays a woman caught between two men; one is her ex-husband (Iranian actor-director Ali Mosaffa), back from Iran to finalise their divorce; the other her new partner (Tahar Rahim), who lives with her, her teenage daughter and his small son in Paris. The Past has played extensively on the international festival circuit, including at Toronto. Sony Pictures Classics has US rights.
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Dir Yuval Adler
Adler’s debut feature is a fast-paced thriller that sidesteps overt political overtones to focus on the complex relationship between an Israeli national security agent and the Palestinian teenager he attempts to persuade to betray his brother, who he suspects is a terrorist. Tsahi Halevy, Shadi Mar’i and Hisham Suliman star in the film, which is written by Adler with Ali Wackad. It is produced by Israel’s Pie Film with Germany’s Gringo Films and France’s Entre Chien Et Loup. Bethlehem premiered in Venice Days this year, where it won the section’s top prize. It also screened at Toronto, and recently swept the board at the Israeli Film Academy awards.
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The Great Beauty
Dir Paolo Sorrentino
At once a satire of contemporary Rome and its religious, social and artistic pretensions and a sweeping ode to the city’s ravishing beauty, The Great Beauty premiered in competition at Cannes in May and is released in the US via Janus Film in November. Picking up where Fellini’s La Dolce Vita left off, Toni Servillo plays a jaded, fading journalist, left to report on Rome’s increasingly crass party scene while growing nostalgic for his own lost youth and opportunities. The film is produced by Italy’s Indigo Film and Medusa Film, with France’s Babe Film and Pathé, and it has picked up four nominations at the European Film Awards for film, directing, screenplay and actor.
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The Great Passage
Dir Yuya Ishii
Ryuhei Matsuda and Aoi Miyazaki star in this offbeat romantic drama from cult director Yuya Ishii, whose credits include Sawako Decides and Mitsuko Delivers. Matsuda plays an introverted young man who blossoms when he lands his dream job as a researcher for a new dictionary. Miyazaki plays the daughter of his landlady whom he gradually grows to love. The film, based on a novel by Shiwon Miura, premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in March and was released in Japan by Shochiku in April.
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The Old Man
Dir Ermek Tursunov
Tursunov’s third film, following the international festival favourite Kelin in 2009 and the Russian crime thriller Seven Days In May in 2012, The Old Man (Shal) is a contemporary retelling of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. Erbulat Toguzakov stars as a grandfather who lives with his daughter-in-law and grandson on the remote steppe. Their isolation means they must treat each other with kindness and respect, values the old man is intent on passing on to the young boy. Orynbekov Moldahan and Isbek Abilmazhinov co-star. The Old Man screened at the Kinoshock Film Festival in Russia where it won the grand prize and the best actor prize, for Toguzakov.
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Mother, I Love You
Dir Janis Nords
Nords’ second feature is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale about a young boy’s relationship with his single mother. Newcomer Kristofers Konovalovs plays Raymond, whose well-meaning attempts to get into his difficult mother’s good graces lead to a series of events that quickly spiral out of control. Vita Varpina plays his mother in the film, which world premiered at Berlin this year in Generation Kplus, where it won the Grand Prix of the international jury for the section. It has also won the Grand Prix for best feature film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and been a box-office hit in Latvia, notching up 27,000 -admissions.
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Dir Lara Saba
Saba’s narrative directorial debut is a fast-paced drama that follows the lives of three people from across Beirut’s class system. Ghida Nouri plays a young woman mourning the loss of her parents in a car crash, Carol Hajj portrays India, a wealthy but unhappily childless woman, and Alae Hammoud plays a 12-year-old boy desperate to escape poverty and an alcoholic mother. Blind Intersections won acclaim at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012 where it screened in the Arabian Nights strand. It opened in Lebanon earlier this year and won the best film prize at Sweden’s Malmo Arab Film Festival in September. The film is written and produced by Nibal Arakji.
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Conversations On Serious Topics
Dir Giedre Beinoriute
A group of children and teenagers, including some suffering from physical or mental disabilities, talk directly to the camera in this ultra-minimalist talking heads documentary by Lithuanian film-maker Beinoriute. The young people’s musings reveal the world around them to be at once sad, amusing, baffling and wonderful. Produced by Jurga Gluskiniene at Vilnius-based Monoklis, Conversations On Serious Topics has screened to acclaim at various documentary festivals in the Baltic region and central and eastern Europe. The film is Beinoriute’s second feature following Balkonas in 2008.
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Dir Christophe Wagner
The seedy side of Luxembourg city comes to the fore in this crime drama about a police officer investigating the murder of his brother, who was also a police officer. Blind Spot is Wagner’s feature debut, -following several documentary films about social issues in Luxembourg and one about the descendants of Luxembourg immigrants now living in the US. Wagner also wrote the original screenplay with Jhemp Hos-cheid and Frederic Ziemet. A co-production between Luxembourg’s Samsa Film and Belgium’s Artemis Productions, Blind Spot was a hit when it was released in the Grand Duchy late last year, scoring more than 20,000 admissions.
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Dir Amat Escalante
The third film from Escalante following Sangre and Los Bastardos is an uncompromising look at the impact of Mexico’s drug wars on ordinary people. Armando Espitia plays Heli, a family man who is drawn into the conflict between the police and the cartels when his 12-year-old sister falls in love with a young policeman. Escalante won the best director prize at Cannes this year and the film has since gone on to play the international festival circuit. Heli is produced by Jaime Romandia of Mantarraya, with Tres Tunas and No Dream Cinema. Le Pacte has French rights, with Network Releasing handling the UK.
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All God’s Children
Dir Adrian Popovici
The first entry to the foreign-language Oscar category from Moldova is a drama intertwining several stories that highlight the topic of sex trafficking of women and children in Europe. At the centre of the film is a young woman (Ina Surdu) who is trying to find her son (Emergian Cazac) in Moldova after being forced into prostitution in Italy. All God’s Children is the fifth film from Romanian director Popovici and is a Romanian-Moldovan co-production between Popovici and Cornelia Palos’s Artis Film with Diametral Film and Moldova Film.
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Ace Of Spades — Bad Destiny
Dir Drasko Djurovic
The second feature from director Djurovic is set in the 1990s in the bleak, messy aftermath of the devastating Balkan conflict in the former Yugoslavia. It follows a former soldier as he returns to his home village and tries to reconnect with his brother — but the horrors of war, and his own role in them, continue to haunt him and gradually spill over into his brother’s life. Written by Obrad Nenezic and starring Predrag Bjelac, Danilo Celebic and Rastko Iankovic, Ace Of Spades — Bad Destiny is Montenegro’s first submission for a foreign-language Oscar as an independent country.
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Horses Of God
Dir Nabil Ayouch
Ayouch’s fifth feature is an energetic depiction of the lives of two boys growing up in the Casablanca slum of Sidi Moumen. Written by Jamal Belmahi, it is based on the novel The Stars Of Sidi Moumen by Mahi Binebine, which was inspired by the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Casablanca in 2003. Horses Of God weaves a compelling tale of how religious fundamentalists can provide purpose to an otherwise dire existence. The film premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2012 and was co-produced and distributed in France by Pierre-Ange Le Pogam’s Stone Angels.
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Soongava: Dance Of The Orchids
Dir Subarna Thapa
Thapa’s debut feature stars Deeya Maskey as a dance teacher who falls in love with one of her female students, played by Nisha Adhikari. Thapa explores the challenges they face as their families react to their relationship, even though they live relatively westernised lives in metropolitan Kathmandu. Soongava: Dance Of The Orchids won the special jury award at the Toronto Gay And Lesbian Film and Video Festival, and has played extensively on the LGBT festival circuit. Thapa also wrote the screenplay and is a producer on the film, a Nepal-France co-production between Virginie Lacombe’s Paris-based Rapsodie Productions and Raphael Berdugo’s Cité Films, with Thapa’s Ami Films.
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Dir Alex van Warmerdam
Veteran Dutch director van Warmerdam blends jet-black humour with dramatic unease as Flemish actor Jan Bijvoet stars as the titular Borgman. He is an enigmatic drifter who brings hell to suburbia when he insinuates himself into the affluent life of a couple and their three children. Hadewych Minis and Jeroen Perceval co-star. Borgman made its world premiere in Competition at Cannes — the first Dutch film to be selected for 40 years — and picked up the best film prize at Sitges. Drafthouse Films has US rights.
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Dir Dana Rotberg
A Maori-language thriller based on a short story by Whale Rider author Witi Ihimaera, White Lies has been adapted and directed by award-winning Mexican film-maker Rotberg. With the film-maker now based in New Zealand, Rotberg’s first feature in over a decade is about the unlikely relationship between a Maori medicine woman, an upper-class lady and the latter’s maid. White Lies stars Whirimako Black, Antonia Prebble and Rachel House and is produced by John Barnett’s South Pacific Pictures. It opened in June in New Zealand and screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at Toronto.
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I Am Yours
Dir Iram Haq
Actress-turned-director Haq’s debut feature stars Amrita Acharia as a Norwegian-Pakistani single mother in Oslo who meets a Swedish film director, played by Ola Rapace. Haq, who starred in Morten Tyldum’s Fallen Angels, also wrote the script for the film, which played in the Discovery section at Toronto this year. It is the first feature to be supported by the Norwegian Film Institute’s New Ways scheme. Norway will be hoping to secure a nomination for a second year running after last year’s submission, Kon-Tiki, made it into the final five.
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Dirs Meenu Gaur, Farjad Nabi
The first film submitted for the foreign-language Oscar by Pakistan in 50 years is this comedy drama about three young men trying to escape the realities of their lives in Pakistan, from documentary directors Gaur and Nabi. Bollywood -legend Naseeruddin Shah stars alongside Pakistani newcomers Amna Ilyas and Khurram Pataras in the film, which picked up four awards including best film at the MISAFF festival in Toronto. The film is released theatrically in the US by FunAsiA.
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Dir Hany Abu-Assad
Assad won the Un Certain Regard jury prize at Cannes this year for his latest feature about three childhood friends and a young woman who are torn apart in a fight for freedom. Waleed Zuaiter, Adam Bakri, Samer Bisharat, Eyad Hourani and Leem Lubany star in the film, which is the first feature to be financed entirely by Palestinian investors, with the support of the Enjaaz Film Initiative. Produced by ZBros, a newly formed Palestinian-American production company, it shot in the West Bank and Nazareth. Assad was nominated in the foreign-language Oscar category for Paradise Now in 2006 and won the Golden Globe.
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Dir Adrian Saba
Writer-director Saba’s debut feature is a cross-generation sci-fi drama set in Lima against the backdrop of a deadly epidemic. Victor Prada plays a cleaner whose job it is to clean up sites where there have been recent deaths, who finds himself looking after an eight-year-old boy whilst trying to track down his family. Saba gained a New Directors Award special mention at San Sebastian last year and won the New Voices award at Palm Springs. Claudia Llosa’s Milk Of Sorrow was the first and only Peruvian film to be nominated for the foreign-language Oscar, in 2010.
Contact La Gris Films www.lagrisfilms.com
Dir Hanna Espia
The debut feature of Filipina director Espia, who also co-scripted the film with Giancarlo Abrahan, centres around an extended Filipino family working in Tel Aviv, who fear that their children may face deportation in the wake of changes to Israel’s citizenship laws in 2009. The film, whose cast includes Irma Adlawan and Mercedes Cabral, won 10 awards including best film in the New Breed section at Cinemalaya this year, while Espia was also nominated for the New Directors Award at Busan, picking up a special mention. A foreign-language Oscar nomination for the film would be a first for the Philippines.
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Walesa. Man Of Hope
Dir Andrzej Wajda
Poland has been nominated nine times in the foreign-language Oscar category but has never won. Four of these nominations were for films directed by veteran film-maker Wajda, most recently Katyn in 2007. Wajda’s latest sees Robert Wieckiewicz playing Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement. The biopic debuted at the Venice Film Festival this year and also screened at Toronto. Backed by the Polish Film Institute, it also stars Agnieszka Grochowska and Maria Rosaria Omaggio. Poland’s last foreign-language Oscar nomination was for Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness in 2011.
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Lines Of Wellington
Dir Valeria Sarmiento
Originally set to be directed by the late Raul Ruiz, the Chilean director’s widow Sarmiento took over directing duties for this historical epic after his death. A world premiere in competition at Venice last year, followed by a Special Presentation at Toronto, the film features an all-star cast including John Malkovich, Marisa Paredes, Melvil Poupaud and Mathieu Amalric and takes place in 1810 during the French invasion of Portugal and the Battle of Bussaco between French forces and the Anglo-Portuguese army. A nomination would be a first for Portugal.
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Dir Calin Peter Netzer
The winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin earlier this year, as well as the Fipresci prize, this is a family drama about an overbearing mother (Luminita Gheorghiu) and her adult son (Bogdan Dumi-trache). If Child’s Pose secures an Oscar nomination it will be the third Golden Bear winner, following The Milk Of Sorrow and A Separation, to do so in five years. Last year’s Romanian submission, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond The Hills, made it to the January shortlist but failed to secure a nomination. Zeitgeist Films has picked up US rights.
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Dir Fedor Bondarchuk
9th Company actor-director Bondarchuk returns with this $30m war epic, the first Russian film to be shot entirely in 3D (also the first Russian IMAX film) and the strongest opener ever for a locally produced film. Written by Ilya Tilkin and -Sergey Snezhkin, the film centres on a love story set against the backdrop of the 1942 battle of Stalingrad, with a cast including Petr Fedorov, Dmitriy Lysenkov and German actors Thomas Kretschmann and Heiner Lauterbach. The film is distributed worldwide by Sony Pictures Releasing International (SPRI). Russia won the foreign-language Oscar in 2004 with Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt By The Sun.
Contact Sony Pictures Releasing International www.sonypictures.com
Dir Haifaa Al Mansour
This acclaimed drama is the first Saudi Arabian feature to be directed by a woman and the first film to be entirely shot in Saudi Arabia — and as a result the first film to be submitted by the country for the foreign-language Oscar. Germany’s Razor Film produced the film with local co-producers Highlook and Rotana. The story is about a young Saudi girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, despite it being forbidden for girls to ride them. Due to the country’s restrictions, Al Mansour had to direct her actors from out of sight in a van. The film world premiered at Venice in 2012 and played widely on the festival circuit. Sony Pictures Classics, the distributor behind last year’s winner, Michael Haneke’s Amour, released Wadjda in the US in September, taking over $1.2m.
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Dir Srdan Golubovic
Golubovic’s third film, which premiered in Berlin’s Forum this year, is based on the true story of a Serbian soldier who risked his life to protect a Muslim civilian during the war in Bosnia, and the interlocking stories that result. With a cast including Leon Lucev and Aleksander Bercek, the film has picked up a slew of prizes, including the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at Sundance and audience awards at the Sofia and Sarajevo film festivals. Golubovic will be hoping to go one better than his previous feature The Trap which made the shortlist in 2007 but didn’t receive a nomination.
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Dir Anthony Chen
Chen’s feature debut world premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year, where he took the Camera d’Or, the first Singaporean film to win. Ilo Ilo is about a Filipina woman who becomes the maid for a Singaporean family and was inspired by the director’s experience of having a Filipina nanny as a child. Chen also won the Sutherland award for the most original first feature at the BFI London Film Festival. Singapore has never before had a foreign-language Oscar nomination.
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My Dog Killer
Dir Mira Fornay
Fornay’s second feature world premiered at Rotterdam this year, where it received a Hivos Tiger Award, and has also screened at Karlovy Vary, Thessaloniki and AFI Fest. The Slovak-Czech co-production (which came out of the Berlin co-production market in 2010) stars Adam Mihal as a teenager who is forced to leave his beloved dog with his skinhead friends while he is stuck in the middle of a family crisis. Fornay’s debut, Foxes, premiered in International Critics’ Week at Venice in 2009.
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Dir Rok Bicek
Bicek’s feature debut premiered in International Critics’ Week at Venice this year, where it was named best film. Loosely based on an experience from the director’s life, it looks at how the suicide of a schoolgirl triggers a rebellion by her classmates who blame the school system. Igor Samobor, Natasa Barbara Gracner and Tjasa Zeleznik star in the film, which was written by Bicek together with fellow Slovenian film-maker Nejc Gazvoda — whose debut A Trip was the country’s Oscar submission in 2012 — and veteran writer-director Janez Lapajne (Short Circuits). Class Enemy won seven awards including best film at the Festival of Slovenian Film.
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Dir Ian Gabriel
Gabriel’s second feature is named after South African prison slang for the four corners of a prison cell (Die Vier Hoeke). The coming-of-age thriller is based on an original idea by Gabriel and Hofmeyr Scholtz, and revolves around a 13-year-old chess genius drawn into Cape Town’s child gang culture. The film features a mix of first-time and established actors and blends Sabela, Tsotsitaal and Cape Afrikaans languages. Gabriel’s previous feature Forgiveness screened at the Locarno film festival in 2004, where it won the Youth Jury Award. Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi won the foreign-language Oscar for South Africa in 2005.
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Dir Kang Yi-kwan
After winning the Fipresci prize for his debut feature Sa-Kwa at Toronto in 2005, Kang’s latest feature stars Seo Young-ju as a 15-year-old on probation who is reunited with the mother he thought was dead. A premiere at Toronto last year, the film won the Special Jury prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival, with Seo picking up the best actor award. The film was released in South Korea in November 2012. The country is yet to receive a foreign-language nomination, despite strong contenders including Pieta, Mother and Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring.
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15 Years And One Day
Dir Gracia Querejeta
With a story that centres on a mother who sends her wayward son to stay with his ex-military grandfather after he is expelled from school, Spanish writer-director Querejeta’s latest feature won best film and screenplay at Spain’s Malaga film festival in April. Querejeta previously won the best screenplay award at San Sebastian in 2007 for Seven Billiard Tables. Maribel Verdu, who starred in Y Tu Mama Tambien, heads the cast of the film, which was produced by Tornasol Films. The company co-produced the 2010 foreign-language Oscar winner, Juan Jose Campanella’s Argentine entry The Secret In Their Eyes.
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Eat Sleep Die
Dir Gabriela Pichler
Pichler’s debut feature is about a 20-year-old woman, played by Nermina Lukac, who lives with her father in a small Swedish village and suddenly loses her job at a factory. The film world premiered in Venice International Critics’ Week in 2012, winning the Audience Award. It also won the AFI Fest’s New Auteurs Grand Jury Award, played at Toronto, Busan and Karlovy Vary and swept the board at Sweden’s National Film Awards, The Guldbagge, picking up best film, director, screenplay and actress prizes. Eat Sleep Die has also been nominated for the European Film Awards Discovery Fipresci prize and has sold to 36 countries.
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More Than Honey
Dir Markus Imhoof
This documentary, which world premiered at Locarno in 2012, explores the bee population decline and its global impact for the future. Kino Lorber has US rights for the Switzerland-Germany-Austria co-production, which won several prizes at the 2013 German Film Awards and Swiss Film Awards. It is the first time Switzerland has put a documentary forward for the -foreign-language category. Imhoof’s drama Das Boot Ist Voll was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar in 1982.
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Dir Chung Mong-Hong
Spiritual horror Soul premiered at the Taipei Film Festival earlier this year, before screening in Toronto. Joseph Chang stars as a young sous chef whose soul becomes possessed by a psychopath, with martial arts veteran Wang Yu (aka Jimmy Wong) as his father. Chung’s first feature, Parking, screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2008. He won the best director trophy at Taiwan’s 2010 Golden Horse Awards for his second film, The Fourth Portrait. Taiwan has made the best foreign-language film category shortlist of nominees on three occasions and won the Oscar in 2000 for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
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Dir Nattawut Poonpiriya
This horror thriller from debut writer-director Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya stars French-Thai actor David Asavanond as a sadistic drug-dealer who terrorises three Thai students at a New Year’s Eve party. Asavanond was named best actor at the Thailand National Film Association Awards in March, with the film also picking up best editing and best screenplay awards. The film has been picked up for the US by Birch Tree Entertainment with plans for an early 2014 release. It is produced by Thailand’s GMM Thai Hub (GTH), which was behind the country’s highest-grossing film of all time, Pee Mak Phra Khanong.
Contact GTH www.gth.co.th
The Butterfly’s Dream
Dir Yilmaz Erdogan
Erdogan’s fifth feature is a $15m romance set against the backdrop of 1940s wartime Turkey and centres on two poets who fall in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy businessman. Kivanc Tatlitug, Belcim Bilgin and Mert Firat star in the film, which has been a box office hit in Turkey. Actor-writer-director Erdogan’s first feature, Vizontele, broke Turkish box office records in 2001. The closest Turkey has come to a foreign-language Oscar is making the shortlist with Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys in 2008.
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Dirs Serge Avedikian, Olena Fetisova
World premiering as part of Karlovy Vary’s East Of The West film programme earlier this year, this $2.7m biopic is the feature debut of directors Fetisova (who also wrote the script) and Avedikian, who also stars in the film as the Armenian born, Georgian-raised director who came to prominence with his 1965 historical drama Shadows Of The Forgotten Ancestors, but was banned from film-making by Soviet ideologues. A co-production between Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia — the three countries in which he worked — and France, the film also screened at the Odessa International Film Festival and collected the Golden Duke award for the best Ukrainian film.
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Dir Sean Ellis
The UK’s entry for the foreign-language Oscar is British film-maker Sean Ellis’s Philippines-set crime drama about Oscar Ramirez and his family, who escape their impoverished life in the rice fields for the capital city of Manila. The film won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The UK has submitted films for consideration for the foreign-language category just 10 times previously and only two made it to the nomination stage, the Welsh films Hedd Wyn in 1993 and Solomon And Gaenor in 1999. Ellis was nominated for an Oscar for his short film Cashback in 2004.
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Dir Alfredo Soderguit
Premiering in the Generation section at Berlin this year, children’s animation Anina centres on a girl (voiced by Federica Lacano) whose palindrome name leads to her being bullied at school. After getting into a fight with another girl, the pair are given an unusual punishment. With a background in children’s animation, Soderguit founded the Palermo Animation studio in 2003, going on produce several animation pieces. Anina is based on one of the books he illustrated. The Uruguay-Colombia co-production also played at the BFI London Film Festival in the family section. Uruguay is yet to receive a foreign-language Oscar nomination.
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Breach In The Silence
Dirs Luis Alejandro Rodriguez, Andrés Eduardo Rodriguez
Directed by Venezuelan film-making brothers Andres and Luis Rodriguez, Breach In The Silence centres on a 19-year-old deaf mute girl who steals her siblings away from her parents to stop them being abused. Vanessa Di Quattro stars alongside Juliana Cuervos, Ruben Leon, Caremily Artigas and Jonathan Pimentel. Playing at several festivals including Vancouver, Cairo and Seattle, it is the debut feature of the brothers, who previously worked as social workers with abandoned children before making the film and have drawn on their experiences. Venezuela is yet to secure a foreign-language Oscar nomination.