Oscar Foreign Language Film Race 2017: The Contenders (So Far)

“The Square” and “In the Fade” are among the top contenders as countries begin making their Oscar selections

These are the films that have been announced as their countries’ official selections for the 2017 Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film.

Submission does not guarantee acceptance — they must still be vetted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, which will release the official list of qualifying films in early October.

This list will be updated as more countries announce their entries, and finalized once the Academy announces the official list of contenders.

An asterisk indicates that TheWrap has seen the film.

Director: Gentian Koci
“Daybreak” is the 11th Albanian film to be submitted to the Oscars since 1996, though the country is still looking to land its first film on the shortlist. Ornela Kapetani won the best-actress award at the Sarajevo Film Festival for her performance as a mother who loses her apartment and moves in with her one-year-old son to serve as the live-in caretaker for an elderly woman.
English-language featurette (with stills, no footage)

“Road to Istanbul”
Director: Rachid Bouchareb
This is the sixth time Bouchareb has represented Algeria in the Oscar race, with three of his previous films — 1995’s “Dust of Life,” 2006’s “Days of Glory” and 2010’s “Outside the Law” — landing nominations in the category. It follows a woman who travels to Syria in search of her daughter, who has joined the Islamic State.
Subtitled trailer

“Happy End” *
Director: Michael Haneke
Haneke’s 2012 drama “Amour” not only won the foreign-language Oscar, it was one of the few non-English films to be nominated for Best Picture. But “Happy End” figures to be a much tougher sell to Academy voters – a dark and enigmatic satire on wealth, dissatisfaction and social media, it is considerably tougher, more off-putting and less emotional than “Amour,” though the director’s cold mastery of his craft remains impressive.
Subtitled trailer

“Pomegranate Orchard”
Director: Ilgar Najaf
Inspired by Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” Najaf’s slow-paced drama deals with a prodigal son who returns to his family’s home (which includes a large orchard) after being away for a dozen years.
Film clip (no dialogue)

“Racer and the Jailbird”
Director: Michael B. Roskam
The last time Roskam collaborated with actor Matthias Schoenaerts was on the 2011 crime drama “Bullhead,” which was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar. Like that film, this one is set against the criminal underworld in Belgium, where the gangster played by Schoenaerts falls for an upper-class race car driver played by Adele Exarchopoulos. Neon acquired North American rights out of the Berlin Film Festival.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Dark Skull”
Director: Kiro Russo
Russo’s drama is set in a tin mine in the town of Huanuni, where a young man takes over his late father’s job but causes problems with his fellow workers.
Subtitled trailer

Men Don't Cry

“Men Don’t Cry”

“Men Don’t Cry”
Director: Alena Drljevic
The main characters in Drljevic’s film are middle-aged veterans of the Yugoslav War who meet for group therapy at a hotel in the mountains. The director’s narrative-feature debut won awards at both the Sarajevo Film Festival and the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this summer.
Subtitled trailer

“Bingo: The King of the Mornings”
Director: Daniel Rezende
In case you didn’t get your fill of big-screen clowns in “It,” Brazilian director Daniel Rezende offers the true story of actor Arlindo Barreto, who found success playing a clown on a popular morning TV show, but was contractually forbidden from revealing his true identity.
Trailer (no subtitles)

Directors: Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov
When a railway worker discovers a bundle of cash on the tracks and turns it in to the authorities, Bulgarian officials try to turn the man into a working-class hero to distract from their own corruption scandal. The social-realism drama won awards at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Film Fest Gent and the Golden Rose Bulgarian Feature Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

“First They Killed My Father” *
Director: Angelina Jolie
Jolie’s dark drama is based on a memoir by Loung Ung, who was a child when the brutal Khmer Rouge regime took over her country and plunged it into years of repression. The Netflix film won positive reviews out of the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, though it will have to be accepted by the Academy, which demands that a film have “substantial creative input” from its submitting country. Jolie has Cambodian citizenship and enlisted Ung to co-write the screenplay and Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Pahn to produce.
Trailer (no dialogue)

“A Fantastic Woman”
Director: Sebastian Lelio
The prolific director Lelio last represented Chile in the Oscar race with the affecting character study “Gloria.” His new film focuses on a young transgender woman whose middle-aged lover has died, and who is treated with suspicion and scorn by his family and by the authorities. Transgender actress Daniela Vega has won raves for her performance.
Subtitled trailer

“Guilty Men”
Director: Ivan Gaona
First-time director Gaona has won raves for the way he stages a number of tense scenes in his drama, which is set in rural Satander during a time in 2005 when the paramilitary groups were under orders to disarm and disband. The film mixes a love triangle with occasionally ambiguous stories of men up to no good at a time and place where lawlessness prevailed.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Quit Staring at My Plate”
Director: Hana Jusic
This realist drama about a young woman in the aftermath of her father’s stroke won the Fedeora Award for Best European Film at last year’s Venice Film Festival. Mia Petrievic plays the 24-year-old working-class woman adjusting to life no longer under the thumb of her tyrannical father.
Subtitled trailer

“Ice Mother”
Director: Bodhan Slama
Zuzana Kronerova stars as a grandmother who begins to explore new friendships and experiences – including winter swimming, hence the title – in the aftermath of her husband’s death. The film premiered this year at Tribeca, where it won the award for best screenplay.
Subtitled trailer

“You Disappear” *
Director: Peter Schonau Fog
A brain-teaser in more ways than one, Fog’s film is based on a novel by Christian Jungersen and deals with a headmaster who is arrested for embezzlement, and whose defense rests on the idea that a brain tumor forced him to do things that he otherwise would never have done. A plot twist reinforces the questions about identity vs. chemistry.
Subtitled trailer

“Woodpeckers” (“Carpinteros”)
Director: Jose Maria Cabral
Jose Maria Cabral represented the Dominican Republic in the Oscar race five years ago with “Check Mate,” and is back with a story set in adjacent male and female prisons, where inmates communicate by sign language between the two institutions. The film, in which a risky romance develops between two prisoners, premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Ana Cristina Barragan
A hit on the festival circuit, this coming-of-age story focuses on an 11-year-old girl who is so shy that she can barely speak to anyone but her parents. The film has won plaudits for its subtlety, and the way writer-director Barragan sketches a troubled childhood with a minimum of dialogue.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Sheikh Jackson”
Director: Amr Salama
This comedy, set in the summer of 2009, focuses on a young imam who grew up as a Michael Jackson fanatic, and whose life begins to unravel when the King of Pop dies. It recently screened at the Toronto Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Rainer Sarnet
Shot in black-and-white and drawing from old Estonian folklore as well as a novel by Andrus Kivirahk, “November” is set in a small village whose inhabitants share their world with ghosts, the devil and strange supernatural servants called kratts. Oscilloscope bought the rights out of Tribeca, where the film won a cinematography award.
Subtitled trailer

“Tom of Finland”
Director: Dome Karukoski
A biopic of the homoerotic artist Touko Laaksonen, who went by the name Tom of Finland, Karukosi’s film won the Fipresci Award when it premiered at the 2017 Goteborg Film Festival. It follows Laaksonen, played by Pekka Strang, from his return to a repressive, anti-gay society in Finland after serving in World War II, to his battles with censorship and his eventual embrace as a key creator of gay iconography.
Subtitled trailer

“120 Beats Per Minute” *
Director: Robin Campillo
One of the most acclaimed films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Campillo’s drama follows the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the rise of the ACT UP activist group in Paris. The film won the Grand Prix at Cannes, where it also landed a U.S. distribution deal with The Orchard.
Subtitled trailer


“Scary Mother”
Director: Ana Urushadze
The lead character in Urushadze’s drama is a middle-aged woman whose family life suffers when she shows her husband part of an erotic thriller she’s written. At this summer’s Sarajevo Film Festival, the film won the Heart of Sarajevo award as the festival’s top film.
News story, includes clips (no subtitles)

In the Fade

“In the Fade”

“In the Fade” *
Director: Fatih Akin
Diane Kruger won the best-actress award at Cannes for this drama, in which she plays a woman who seeks revenge when her husband and son are killed in a bombing. Akin’s acclaimed drama “The Edge of Heaven” was Germany’s Oscar submission a decade ago, and its failure to be nominated was one of the snubs that caused the Academy to alter its method of choosing foreign-language nominees.
Subtitled trailer

“Amerika Square”
Director: Yannis Sakardis
Themes of immigration and racist nationalism make Sakardis’ drama a timely one, with its story of an unemployed man in his 30s who lives with his parents but rages against the immigrants he sees around him. Makis Papadimitriou plays the embittered man who hits upon the idea of poisoning immigrants, a scheme that brings together the stories of a variety of other Athens residents.
Subtitled trailer

“Mad World”
Director: Wong Chun
This drama stars Shawn Yue as a former financial analyst who was blamed for the death of his mother and hospitalized for bipolar disorder. He is released into the custody of his father (Eric Tsang), a truck driver who is reluctant to take responsibility for his son.
Subtitled trailer

“On Body and Soul”
Director: Ildiko Enyedi
Enyedi hasn’t made a feature film in 18 years, but she has returned with an unusual romance about two abattoir employees who discover that they each have the same recurring dream about deer in the snow.
Subtitled trailer

“Under the Tree”
Director: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurosson
A young man fighting for the right to see his daughter moves in with his parents, who are in the middle of a dispute of their own — this one with neighbors over a tree that casts too big a shadow for the neighbors’ liking.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Amit V Masurkar
This political black comedy deals with a young government clerk dispatched to oversee an election in a dangerous jungle town. The film premiered at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Trailer (no subtitles)

Director: Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo
Set in the Tirang village in Java, this film tells the stories of a number of villagers who live in extreme poverty. The Indonesian committee that made the selection lauded the “honesty and innocence of the dialogue that takes place amid hypocrisy and a humanitarian crisis.”
Subtitled trailer

Director: Narges Abyar
The Iranian revolution of the 1970s, in which the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power, is seen through the eyes of a young girl living in Yazd in Abyar’s drama. To cope with the bloodshed and chaos around her, young Bahar creates her own vivid fantasy world.
Subtitled trailer

“The Dark Wind”
Director: Hussein Hassan
Hassan’s film, which is set during the Islamic State takeover of Northern Iraq and subsequent genocide of the Yezidi people, drew angry protests from Yezidi viewers when it first screened at the 2016 Duhok International Film Festival. But his story of a woman who is abducted, sold into slavery and raped by ISIS has been well-received elsewhere, winning the top jury prize in Dubai.
Subtitled trailer

“Song of Granite” *
Director: Pat Collins
Collins’ film is about Joe Heaney, one of the greatest of the traditional Irish sean-nós singers, but it’s anything but a traditional biopic; instead, it’s a luminous and challenging black-and-white fantasia of songs, poems, stories and often wordless vignettes. The film debuted at this year’s SXSW and includes documentary footage of Heaney along with scenes in which the singer is played by Colm Seoighe, Michael O’Chonfhlaola and Macdara O Fatharta.
Subtitled clip

“Her Love Boils Bathwater”
Director: Ruyota Nakano
Rie Miyazawa won the Japan Academy Prize as best actress for her performance as a woman who sets out to heal family rifts after learning she has terminal cancer, and Hana Sugsaki won the supporting-actress award for playing her daughter. The film also won top prizes at the Japanese Movie Critics Awards and the Hochi Film Awards.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Road to Mother”
Director: Akan Satayev
Satayev’s drama presents a look at decades of Kazakh history through the story of several generations of a family, from the 1930s to the present day. The film, whose producers include Aliya Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, won awards at the country’s Tulpar film awards, as well as at festivals in Crimea and Croatia.

“Kati Kati”
Director: Mbithi Masya
Only the second Kenyan entry, following “Nairobi Half Life” in 2012, “Kati Kati” is a fantasy about a young woman who arrives in the afterlife with no memories of her life on earth. Directed by a member of the house-funk group Just a Band, the film won the FIPRESCI prize at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Edon Rizvanolli
The dark spectre of the Balkan wars, a frequent subject in Oscar submissions from this region, surface again in “Unwanted,” which deals with a teenage boy who had fled his war-torn country to live in the Netherlands. This is the directorial feature debut for Rizvanolli, who is better known as an actor.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Aktan Abdykalykov
A former horse thief is pushed to take up his old trade again in the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishtek. The film won the CICAE prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Trailer (no English subtitles)

“Dearest Sister”
Director: Mattie Do
Financed on Indiegogo and premiering at Fantastic Fest last year, “Dearest Sister” is a rare horror film in the Oscar race. The first-ever entry from Laos, it deals with a girl from the country who moves to the city to care for a cousin who has gone blind but can communicate with the dead.
Subtitled trailer

“The Chronicles of Melanie”
Director: Viestur Kairish
This black-and-white biographical drama tells the true story of Melanija Vanaga, who was sent to Siberia in 1941 as part of the Soviet Union’s mass deportation of people they thought would oppose their occupation of Latvia, Estonia and Moldavia. Savine Timoteo plays the woman who survived for 16 years, partly by writing letters to the husband whose fate is a mystery to her.
Subtitled trailer

“The Insult”
Director: Ziad Doueiri
A Christian mechanic and a Palestinian construction worker get in an argument that has country-wide repercussions in Doueiri’s political drama about the lingering wounds of the Lebanese Civil War. Kamel El Basha won the best-actor award at the Venice Film Festival for his performance.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Sarunas Bartas
The violent conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution are the backdrop for this drama, which was well received when it premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The lead characters are a young couple who drive a humanitarian aid truck and meet a number of war reporters, one of whom is played by French actress Vanessa Paradis.
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Director: Laura Schroeder
The second of this year’s entries to star Isabelle Huppert (“Happy End” being the other), “Barrage” follows three generations of women over a weekend reunion. Huppert’s real-life daughter, Lolita Chammah, is also in the cast, playing a woman looking to make things right with both her mother (you know who) and her teenage daughter (Themis Pauwels).
Subtitled trailer

Director: Tatiana Huezo
Over the last 20 years, the only Oscar foreign-language nominees that could be called documentaries are “The Missing Picture” in 2013 and “Waltz With Bashir” in 2008, and those are far from conventional docs. But every year a few countries submit nonfiction films, and this year Mexico is trying to buck the trend with the timely “Tempestad.” In the film, director Huezo (“The Tiniest Place”) tells the stories of two women who have been the victims of human trafficking in Mexico.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Nabil Ayouch
Ayouch’s previous films include “Mektoub,” “Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets” and “Horses of God,” all of which represented Morocco in the Oscar foreign-language race. His new film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this year, jumps between 1982 and 2015 as it tells interweaving stories that take place in Casablanca and contain occasional references to the classic Hollywood film named for the city.

“White Sun”
Director: Deepak Rauniyar
Danny Glover is among the producers of this Nepalese production, which is set during the civil war that lasted from 1996 to 2006. It tells the story of a small village whose residents must transport the dead body of a former mayor to a spot where he can be cremated, although almost all the adult males who by custom must handle that task have left the village because of the war.
Subtitled trailer

“Layla M.”
Director: Mijke de Jong
The radicalization of a young Islamic woman in Amsterdam is the focus of “Layla M.,” which links the rise of terrorism to anti-Muslim policies in the West. But the lead character, played by Nora El Koussour, is an assertive woman who finds that her voice has no value in Jordan, where she moves with her new husband. The film premiered in Toronto in 2016 and was later acquired by Netflix.
Subtitled trailer

“Thelma” *
Director: Joachim Trier
Trier won acclaim for Norwegian films like “Oslo, August 31st” but found a rockier reception for his English-language debut “Louder Than Bombs.” He’s back in the foreign-language arena with “Thelma,” a creepy supernatural thriller about a young woman whose seeming supernatural powers lead to dark family secrets.
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Director: Farhan Alam
Alam’s survival story won awards at film festivals in Madrid and Naples. The cinematographer-turned-director based his film on the true story of a disabled child who was abandoned in the remote deserts of Pakistan.
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Director: Annemarie Jacir
The Palestinian custom of hand-delivering wedding invitations to each guest is the basis for the action in Jacir’s drama. It follows a man who’s been living in Italy but has returned to Nazareth to hand out the invitations to his sister’s wedding, and the father with whom he has a contentious relationship.

“Beyond Brotherhood”
Director: Arianne Benedetti
Maria Conchita Alonso co-stars in his drama about a young brother and sister who choose to live on the streets rather than be separated after their parents are killed. This is the first feature to be directed by Benedetti, who also wrote and acted in the film.
Subtitled trailer

“Rosa Chumbe”
Director: Jonatan Relayze
The title character in Relayze’s film is a veteran policewoman from Lima who’s forced to care for her young grandson after her daughter runs off with her life savings, leaving the child behind. The task is complicated by Rosa’s gambling and drinking problems.
Trailer (no subtitles)

Director: Agnieszka Holland
Holland has represented Poland once before in the Oscar race, when her World War II drama “In Darkness” landing a nomination in 2012. In recent years she has frequently directed episodes of American television shows like “House of Cards” and “The Killing,” but “Spoor” take her back to her homeland for a crime drama set in a remote village. The film won the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

“Saint George”
Director: Marco Martins
The third feature from “Alice” director Martins, “Saint George” tells the story of a boxer who becomes a debt collector to support his family. The film casts light on the economic crisis that hit Portugal in 2011, when budget cuts sent debt soaring and made many families unable to pay their loans.
Subtitled trailer

“The Fixer”
Director: Adrian Sitaru
The leaders of the influential New Romanian Cinema – Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu and Corneliu Porumboiu – have represented the country in the Oscar race five times in the last dozen years, but have never been nominated. This year’s director, Adrian Sitaru, uses some of their casual naturalism in his story, based on a true event, of a journalist working to land an interview with one of two underage Romanian girls returned to their home country after being sold into prostitution in France. The 14-year-old non-professional actress Diana Spatarescu won praise for her performance as the young victim, but the film’s focus is less on sex trafficking than on the ethics of journalism.
Subtitled trailer

“Loveless” *
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
One of the best movies to screen at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this harrowing domestic drama from Zvyagintsev takes a harsh look at Russian society, as the young son of a self-centered couple disappears. Many thought the often-political Russian selection committee would go for a film less critical of the country, but the director’s track record (his last film, “Leviathan,” was nominated in this category) and the film’s unsparing brilliance overcame political considerations.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Requiem for Mrs. J.”
Director: Bojan Vuletic
Last year, the Swedish “A Man Called Ove” landed an Oscar nomination for its character study of an elderly man scheming to kill himself after the death of his wife. This year, “Requiem for Mrs. J.” finds an elderly widow planning to commit suicide on the anniversary of her husband’s death – and yes, this is a comedy too, one that won raves in Berlin earlier this year.
Subtitled trailer

“The Line”
Director: Peter Bebjak
Actor-turned-director Bekjak won the best-director award at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, where his crime drama premiered. The film is set in the fall of 2007 and deals with a group of smugglers who ferry contraband from Ukraine to the EU.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“The Miner”
Director: Hanna Antonia Wojcik Slak
This drama is based on the true story of a Bosnian mine worker who discovered the bodies of thousands of victims of post-World War II killings in an abandoned mine. The mine owner and the authorities would prefer to ignore the past, but the man fights to bury the dead.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“A Taxi Driver”
Director: Jang Hoon
The Gwangju Uprising of 1980, in which the South Korean military killed hundreds of people protesting the Chun Doo-hwan government, is the backdrop for this film in which Song Kang-ho plays a taxi driver who takes a German journalist (Thomas Kretschmann) to the scene of the massacre, and then has to keep him safe afterwards. It was the top-grossing film of the last year at the Korean box office.
Subtitled trailer

“Summer 1993”
Director: Carla Simon
Simon drew on her own experiences for this story of a three-year-old girl who is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents die of complications from AIDS. The film won the award as the best first feature at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

The Square

“The Square” *
Director: Ruben Ostlund
A sharp satire of the art world that continues Ostlund’s fascination with the awkward, uncomfortable situations into which human beings always blunder, “The Square” won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Elisabeth Moss has a small role in the film, which contains a fair amount of English dialogue and also includes an astounding scene (excerpted below) in which Terry Notary’s performance-artist character rampages through an elegant charity gala in full ape-man mode.
Film clip

The Divine Order

“The Divine Order”

“The Divine Order”
Director: Petra Volpe
In Switzerland, surprisingly, women did not win the right to vote until 1971. Volpe’s film centers on a young mother who joins the suffrage movement, and won three awards at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it premiered.
Subtitled trailer

“Small Talk”
Director: Huang Hui-chen
This documentary is an attempt on the part of director Huang Hui-chen to understand her mother, a lesbian Taoist priestess who had often been absent during Huang’s childhood. Based on intimate conversations between mother and daughter, the film won the best-documentary award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Subtitled trailer

“By the Time It Gets Dark”
Director: Anocha Suwichakornpong
The main character in this drama is a director attempting to make a film about the 1976 Thammasat University massacre, in which Thai government forces and paramilitaries attacked students who were protesting the return to Thailand of former military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn. That central plot line is woven together with the stories of several other characters.
Subtitled trailer

Director: Can Ulkay
Set during the Korean War, Ulkay’s drama focuses on a Turkish sergeant who finds an orphaned young girl and shelters her on his army base until the war ends.
Trailer (no subtitles)

“Black Level”
Director: Valentyn Vasyanovych
Director Vasyanovych was the cinematographer on the acclaimed 2014 film “The Tribe,” and he also served as cameraman on this drama about a wedding photographer in a crushing midlife crisis. The entire film was reportedly improvised, with the director and his two stars, Kateryna Molchanova and Konstantin Mohnach, the only ones on set.
Trailer (no dialogue)

“My Pure Land”
Director: Sarmad Masud
A year after submitting “Under the Shadow,” which was set in Iran and made by an Iranian-born director based in England, the UK has submitted a film set in Pakistan from a Nottingham-based director. “My Pure Land” tells the true story of a Pakistani mother who must defend her land from the 200 mercenaries sent by her uncle to take it from her.
Subtitled trailer

“El Inca”
Director: Ignacio Castillo Cottin
Another entry based on a true story, “El Inca” deals with professional boxer Edwin Valero, an undefeated Venezuelan champion who won every single fight by knockout. His career ended when he was arrested on suspicion of killing his wife.
Subtitled trailer

“Father and Son”
Director: Luong Dinh Dung
“Father and Son” is adapted by director Luong Dinh Dung from his own 1995 novel. The central character is a young boy who becomes ill, and whose father, a fisherman, takes his son on a last trip around the country before his death.
Subtitled trailer