This is a list of the 87 films submitted to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
This 2018 race will include an Oscar winner for Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”), two films from directors of previous Oscar foreign-language winners (“Never Look Away” from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and “Sunset” from Laszlo Nemes) and the movie that won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (“Shoplifters”).
Volunteers from all branches of the Academy will view all the qualifying films and vote for their favorites, with the top six choices moving to a shortlist along with three additional choices made by the Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee. Phase 2 committees will then determine the five nominees.
Also Read: 'Shoplifters' Cannes Review: Is the Seventh Time a Charm for Hirokazu Kore-eda?
Last year, a record 92 countries submitted films to the Oscars.
Here are the eligible films, with links to trailers when available. An asterisk indicates that TheWrap has seen the film.
Also Read: Larry Karaszewski and Diane Weyermann to Replace Mark Johnson as Oscars Foreign-Language Heads (Exclusive)
“Rona Azim’s Mother”
Director: Jamshid Mahmoudi
Jamshid Mahmoudi has now represented Afghanistan twice in the Oscar race, and his brother Navid (who produced this film) has done so once. “Rona Azim’s Mother” is set among a community of Afghan refugees living in Iran, and focuses on a man trying to care for his aging and ailing mother. The film premiered at the Busan Film Festival in Australia.
“Until the End of Time”
Director: Yasmine Chouikh
In what is an unlikely family story, Yasmine Chouikh is representing Algeria in the Oscar race 16 years after her mother, Yamina Bachir Chouik, did the same with “Rachida.” (They are the only two women directors to represent the country at the Oscars.) Her film deals with a recently widowed woman who falls into a romance with a gravedigger in the cemetery where her husband has been buried.
“El Angel” *
Director: Luis Ortega
Premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year, Luis Ortega’s drama is based on the true story of a young serial killer who was dubbed “the Angel of Death” after his arrest. Lorenzo Ferro plays the charming but amoral young man, who went from petty theft to a string of killings in Buenos Aires in the 1970s.
Director: Alexander Kott
“Spitak” deals with a man searching for his wife and daughter in the aftermath of the devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Director Alexander Kott is best known in Russia for making five movies in the Yolki comedy series.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Benjamin Gilmour
With dialogue in both English and Pushto, Benjamin Gilmour’s drama follows an Australian soldier who is tortured by his actions in Afghanistan, and who returns to the country to seek forgiveness from the family of a man he killed. The film was shot in Afghanistan in dangerous conditions after the Pakistani secret service read the script and withdrew permission to shoot in that country.
“The Waldheim Waltz” *
Director: Ruth Beckermann
One of an unusually large number of documentaries submitted this year, “The Waldheim Waltz” finds Ruth Beckermann (“Paper Bridge,” “East of War”) going into her own film archives to chronicle the 1986 Austrian presidential campaign of former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, whose activities in the Germany army during World War II came to light during the campaign. The Waldheim story by extension examines the country’s whitewashing of its complicity during World War II.
“No Bed of Roses”
Director: Mostafa Sarwar Farooki
This is the third time that Mostafa Sarwar Farooki has represented Bangladesh in the Oscar race, after 2010’s “Third Person Singular Number” and 2013’s “Television.” “No Bed of Roses” stars Irrfan Khan, one of the best-known Indian actors internationally, as a famous director whose family is torn apart by scandal; the film stirred up some controversy because it is based on the real case of a prominent author and director from Bangladesh.
“Crystal Swan” *
Director: Darya Zhuk
The first Belarusian Oscars entry in 22 years, “Crystal Swan” tells the story of a club kid and aspiring DJ in the mid-1990s who is desperate to escape the squalor of her newly-independent homeland for the promise of America. TheWrap called the film “tough but irresistible,” with a breakout performance from star Alina Nasibullina that hearkens back to the enterprising, unapologetic heroines of ’80s films like “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Working Girl.”
Director: Lukas Dhont
First-time feature director Dhont’s drama about a transgender teen was one of the hits of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, winning the Camera d’Or as the festival’s best first film and the Queer Palm as its best LGBT entry. Featuring a remarkable performance by Victor Polster, the film tells the story of an aspiring ballet student undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender confirmation surgery; in Cannes, TheWrap called it “a wrenching drama that you think is about finding acceptance until it threatens to become about the impossibility of that very thing.”
Also Read: 'Girl' Film Review: Transgender Teen Drama Is a True Cannes Discovery
Director: Rodrigo Patino
Rodrigo Patino’s thriller is about a soccer player who gets involved in human trafficking in an attempt to raise the money for an organ transplant for his son. Bolivia has submitted 10 films to the Oscars since 1995, two of which were disqualified.
Trailer (no subtitles)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
“Never Leave Me”
Director: Aida Begic
Of the 18 films submitted to the Oscars by Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1994, three have been directed by Aida Begic, second only to the four from Danis Tanovic. “Never Leave Me” focuses on three young Syrian refugees living in a mythical Turkish city, Sanliurfa.
“The Great Mystical Circus” *
Director: Caca Diegues
Caca Diegues’ first film in more than a decade traces five generations in a circus family, with Jesuita Barbaso playing a master of ceremonies who runs through the entire film without ever aging. Based on a poem by Jorge de Lima, the film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it was in the Special Screenings section, out of competition.
Director: Iliann Djevelekov
Iliann Djevelekov’s drama deals with the owner of an advertising agency who begins watching his family, friends and employees via spy cameras, and gradually becomes obsessed. The film, Djevelekov’s second, won awards at the Sofia International Film Festival and the Golden Rose Film Festival.
“Graves Without a Name”
Director: Rithy Panh
Cambodia has submitted films to the Oscars seven times over the last 24 years, with Rithy Panh directing three of those films, including the only Cambodian film to be nominated, the adventurous documentary “The Missing Picture.” That film used clay figurines to tell the story of the Khmer Rouge genocide, whose victims included many members of the director’s family – and “Graves Without a Name” continues to tell an intensely personal story of loss and grief, with Panh searching for the burial site where his family members were dumped after being killed.
“Family First” *
Director: Sophie Dupuis
Set in the working-class Verdun borough of Montreal, Sophie Dupuis film is a family drama in a family that has connections with drugs and crime, with an older brother trying to simultaneously escape the life and protect his volatile younger sibling. “Family First” (previously titled “Watch Dog”) won three awards and was nominated for five others at the 2018 Prix Iris, an awards ceremony devoted to the cinema of Quebec.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“…And Suddenly the Dawn”
Director: Silvia Caiozzi
Chile is the reigning champion in the Oscar foreign-language race, winning the award earlier this year with Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman.” Their followup is the first film in more than a decade from director Silvio Caiozzi, who previously represented Chile in the Oscar race in 1990 (“The Moon in the Mirror”) and 2000 (“Coronation”). The film deals with a writer who returns to him hometown after being away for decades; more than three hours long, it won the Grand Prize of the Americas at last year’s Montreal World Film Festival.
Director: Jiang Wen
Jiang Wen’s action comedy is a follow-up to his previous films “Let the Bullets Fly” and “Gone With the Bullets,” making it one of the most action-oriented entries in this year’s race. (In between, the actor-director had a role in the Star Wars movie Rogue One.) It follows a spy who returns to China seeking revenge against the man who killed his martial-arts master.
“Birds of Passage” *
Directors: Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra
Ciro Guerra directed the first Colombian film ever nominated for an Oscar, 2015’s “Embrace of the Serpent.” His new film, co-directed with his ex-wife Cristina Gallego, is a far cry from that mysterious black-and-white adventure; it starts out as an examination of the old customs of the Wayuu people of northern Colombia in the 1970s, but turns into a blood-soaked chronicle of the ways in which the drug trade transformed the country.
Director: Alexandra Latishev Salazar
The first narrative feature directed by actress/writer/producer/director Alexandra Latishev Salazar is a drama about a college student who is bored with a life of classes and rugby training. A new relationship offers her some hope for excitement, but the fact that she’s secretly pregnant is a substantial roadblock.
International trailer (no dialogue)
“The Eighth Commissioner”
Director: Ivann Salaj
Election meddling and crooked politics come into play in “The Eighth Commissioner,” a Croatian comedy about a disgraced (but framed) politician who travels to a remote island without phone or internet. His mission is to oversee the island’s first fair and valid election, though a string of predecessors have failed at that task. The film is based on a novel by Renato Baretic.
Director: Olmo Omerzu
Olmo Omerzu was named the best director at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival for “Winter Flies,” which follows two teenage boys who take a spontaneous road trip in a stolen car. Jan Frantisek Uher and Tomas Mrvik make their acting debuts in the comedy. .
“The Guilty” *
Director: Gustav Moller
A thriller set entirely in a single room, Gustav Moller’s film deals with a police officer who’s been demoted to desk work as an emergency dispatcher, and who attempts to track down a kidnapped woman without leaving his post. The director maintains tension despite the confined setting, as the crime turns out to be more complex than the officer initially imagines. Magnolia Pictures bought the U.S. distribution rights to the film, which won the Audience Award in World Cinema at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Director: Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias
When a gardener returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his father, he is pushed to attend religious services that conflict with his evangelical Christianity. At the same time, his family cries out for him to avenge the death of his father, who was murdered at the hands of the police. Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias uses a variety of shooting styles for his film, which premiered at last year’s Locarno Film Festival.
“A Son of Man” *
Directors: Luis Felipe Fernandez-Salvador (Jamaicanoproblem)
An American teenager joins his father on a hunt for Inca gold in Ecuador in this unusual narrative/documentary hybrid in which the director documents an actual trip he took with his real-life estranged son. The film, which was in the works for 10 years, was shot in mountainous jungles largely by cameras mounted on drones.
Director: Abu Bakr Shawky
Director Abu Bakr Shawky’s road-trip movie began life as an NYU student film but ended up in the main competition at this year’s Cannes, a rare feat for a first-time director. It follows Beshay, a man who has lived in a leper colony since his father left him there as a child, and a young orphan who tags along on Beshay’s quest to find his family. “It’s one of the very few Cannes films to deserve the term sweet,” wrote TheWrap from that festival.
“Take It or Leave It”
Director: Liina Triskina-Vanhatalo
A 30-year-old construction worker is faced with a life-changing decision when he learns that an ex-girlfriend is about to give birth to his child, which she doesn’t want to keep. Triskina-Vanhatalo’s drama is the 16th Oscar entry from Estonia since 1992, with only one of them, 2014’s “Tangerines,” landing a nomination.
Subtitled teaser trailer
Director: Teemu Nikin
The lead character in Teemu Nikin’s dark morality tale is a mechanic who has a side job killing old and sick pets for much less than the vets charge, though he does so only after lecturing the owners on how they’ve failed their pets. The story of an unlikely animal-rights activist has its share of twists and turns, and won the screenplay award at Finland’s Jussi Awards..
“Memoir of War”
Director: Emmanuel Finkiel
France always has a wealth of entries to choose from, with “Memoir of War” winning out over a shortlist that also included the late Claude Lanzmann’s final Holocaust documentary, “The Four Sisters,” and Gaspar Noe’s transgressive drugs-and-disco rave “Climax.” Emmanuel Finkiel’s drama is adapted from the Marguerite Duras novel about a young woman (Melanie Thierry) whose husband is arrested by the Germans in occupied France during World War II. France has more nominations in the category than any other country, 63, but it has not won in 26 years.
Director: Zaza Khalvashi
Georgia’s first submission, 1996’s “A Chef in Love,” was nominated for an Oscar, but 22 years and 17 entries later the country is still waiting for its second nomination. Nama Khalvashi’s drama focuses on a girl who is entrusted with guarding a mountain spring reputed to have healing powers; the director has said the film is based on ancient Georgian mythology.
Trailer (no dialogue)
“Never Look Away” *
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has had a rocky last few years. He directed the brilliant “The Lives of Others,” which scored an upset victory over “Pan’s Labyrinth” at the Oscars in 2007, and then made his English language debut with the Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie debacle “The Tourist” in 2010. “Never Look Away” is his first film since then, and it returns to “Lives of Others” territory as it chronicles the life of an artist over three decades of post-World War II Germany.
German trailer (no subtitles)
Also Read: Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 'Never Look Away' Ahead of Venice
Director: Dora Masklavanou
Ever since the surreal “Dogtooth” became an unexpected Oscar nominee in 2011, Greece has alternated between submitting similarly offbeat films (“Attenberg,” “Chevalier” and more conventional ones (“Little England,” “Amerika Square”). “Polyxeni” belongs in the more straightforward camp, focusing on a 12-year-old girl who is adopted by a family in Constantinople after the death of her parents.
“Operation Red Sea”
Director: Dante Lam
A war film inspired by the evacuation of Chinese citizens and foreign nationals during the 2015 Yememi Civil War, Dante Lam’s action epic has made almost $600 million worldwide and is the second-highest-grossing film ever in China. Although Lam is known as an action director from the John Woo school, this is the second time he has represented Hong Kong in the Oscar race, after 2015’s cycling film “To the Fore.”
Director: Laszlo Nemes
Two years after his harrowing Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” won the Oscar, director Laszlo Nemes is back with a period piece that views a Europe that is crumbling on the eve of World War I through the prism of a hat shop in Budapest. As in “Son of Saul,” Nemes’ camera rarely leaves the face of his lead actor, in this case Juli Jakab, as he creates a chaotic, challenging environment in which the audience has to fight to get its bearings. TheWrap’s Toronto Film festival review called it “an audacious step for a director who prefers immersion to exposition.”
“Woman at War” *
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
A twisted comedy/drama hybrid about a mild-mannered middle-aged woman who roams the Icelandic countryside taking down power lines with a bow and arrow, “Woman at War” is the work of a director with a great eye, a great fondness for silliness and a passionate environmental message. “He’s a prankster with a purpose, an artist unafraid to get goofy,” wrote TheWrap of Erlingsson, who previously represented Iceland in the Oscar race with 2013’s brilliantly weird “Of Horses and Men.”
“Village Rockstars” *
Director: Rima Das
India has submitted 51 films to the Oscars since 1957, received three nominations in that time, but none since 2001’s “Lagaan.” This year’s entry tells the story of a young girl from a remote village in Assam who yearns to buy a guitar and start a rock band; director Rima Das also wrote, produced, shot, edited and designed the film, and she enlisted her niece, Bhanita Das, to play the lead role. It is the first Assamese language film selected by India to compete at the Oscars.
“Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts”
Director: Mouly Surya
Mouly Surya’s film is part spaghetti Western, part grindhouse revenge tale, part Indonesian drama. Its central character is a woman who takes action against a group of robbers who rape her and try to steal her livestock. The film received favorable reviews after its premiere in the Directors Fortnight sidebar to last year’s Cannes film Festival.
“No Date, No Signature”
Director: Vahid Jalilvand
Iran has won the Oscar twice in the last six years, both times with films directed by Asghar Farhadi. But Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows” was in consideration for the Spanish entry this year, so Iran went with Vahid Jalilvand’s story of a forensic pathologist who is torn over whether he contributed to the death of a child. Before submitting “No Date, No Signature,” Iran considered withdrawing from the race over the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions against the country.
Director: Mohamed Al-Daradji
In March, this film became the first Iraqi film in 27 years to screen in cinemas in its home country. Mohamed Al-Daradji’s drama is based on a real-life suicide bomber, and takes place entirely in and around a Baghdad train station over the course of one night. It is the third film by the director to be submitted in the Oscar race, out of a total of nine submissions from Iraq.
“The Cakemaker” *
Director: Ofir Raul Grazier
When Oren, an Israeli businessman, dies unexpectedly, his death brings his widow together with Thomas, a German baker with whom Oren had a secret relationship. A gentle but complex story that deals with grief, religion and sexuality, the film qualified by the Oscars by winning the Ophir Award, Israel’s version of the Oscar.
Director: Matteo Garrone
“Dogman,” which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is the story of a small-town dog groomer and part-time drug dealer whose violent encounters with a local thug push him to the breaking point. Marcello Fonte won the best actor award in Cannes for his performance as a mild-mannered man who seems to relate more to canines than humans. Matteo Garrone also directed the acclaimed 2008 film “Gomorrah,” which caused a minor furor when it did not make the Oscar foreign-language shortlist.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Although Japan has 12 Oscar nominations, only two of those have come in the last 37 years, with the country often struggling to make the right submission choices. But Hirokazu Kore-eda is the most acclaimed filmmaker to represent the country in the Oscars race in years, and “Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Kore-eda follows a tightly knit family living in poverty and making ends meet through petty crime. “Not only does ‘Shoplifters’ skillfully entwine several disparate threads he’s explored over his prolific career,” wrote TheWrap’s Ben Croll, “it does so with the understated confidence and patient elegance of an artist who has fully matured.”
Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy
Samal Yesltamova won the best actress award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for her performance as an undocumented woman who abandons her baby in Moscow in the dead of winter. Sergey Dvortsevoy directed “Tulpan,” the 2008 drama that was the Kazakh Oscar submission that year.
Subtitled film clip.
“Supa Modo” *
Director: Likarion Wainaina
When it became the first Kenyan film ever accepted by Cannes, Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rakiki” figured to have the inside track to be the country’s third-ever submission. But the Kenyan government banned the gay-themed drama from being shown in the country – and even when Kahiu sued and the Kenyan High Court overturned the ban, “Supa Modo” was chosen instead. The feel-good film, which premiered in Berlin this year, deals with a young girl who wants to become a superhero in spite of her terminal illness.
“The Marriage” *
Director: Blerta Zeqiri
When TheWrap spoke to director Blerta Zeqiri after seeing a short film of hers in 2012, she told us that she was hoping to make a film about gay rights in Kosovo, a country in which “not even one gay person can express their sexuality openly.” “The Marriage” ventures into that arena by telling the story of a couple who are about to be married when the groom-to-be’s former gay lover arrives in town from abroad.
“To Be Continued”
Director: Ivars Seleckis
Produced for the centenary of Latvia, Ivars Seleckis’ documentary follows a group of young children over the course of two years. The children were selected to be a cross-section of the country in location, background and out look – “seven children at the intersection of various historical, social and economic processes,” according to the National Film Centre of Latvia, which chose the film over seven others submitted for consideration.
Trailer (no English subtitles)
Director: Nadine Labaki
The story of a young boy in a Beirut slum who sues his parents for bringing him into the world, Labaki’s film won a 15-minute standing ovation when it premiered in Cannes this year. TheWrap’s Ben Croll described this Sony Pictures Classics release as “‘Slumdog Millionaire” scrubbed of empty flash and infused with blistering geopolitical resonance.” This harrowing film marks the third time Labaki has represented Lebanon in the Oscar race, after 2007’s “Caramel” and 2011’s “Where Do We Go Now?”
“Wonderful Losers: A Different World”
Director: Arunas Matelis
One of the nine documentaries submitted in this year’s Oscar race, Matelis’ film chronicles the Giro d’Italia (or Tour of Italy) bicycle race from the vantage point of the cyclists at the back of the pack, and the medical teams who attend to the fallen racers.
Director: Govinda Van Maele
Things are not what they seem in “Gutland,” in which a scruffy German drifter arrives in a small Luxembourg town hoping to lay low. But everybody in town – including Vicky Krieps, who made a splashy Hollywood debut last year in “The Phantom Thread” – notices him, and it turns out that they are hiding plenty of their own secrets.
Director: Gjorce Stavreski
A son’s concern for his father goes awry in “Secret Ingredient,” a blend of comedy and drama that centers on a young man who steals marijuana from drug dealers and bakes a cake for his father, who has cancer. When his father’s health improves, the neighbors want the recipe and the drug dealers want their stash back. Macedonia received a nomination for its first submission, “Before the Rain” in 1994, but has failed to advance in the race since then.
“The Road to Sunrise”
Director: Shemu Joyah
One of two countries submitting to the Oscars for the first time (Niger is the other), Malawi has entered the race with Shemu Joyah’s drama about two prostitutes looking for freedom from a life of exploitation.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
The last time a film was nominated both for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture was 2012, when Michael Haneke’s “Amour” landed in both categories. “Roma” is a strong contender to do the same this year, because Alfonso Cuaron’s luminous black-and-white drama based on his childhood memories was one of the biggest hits of the fall festivals. The Netflix release is, essentially, a love letter to a nanny who helped raised Cuaron and his siblings, in the process becoming a member of the family. In his review from the Venice Film Festival, TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde wrote, “Alfonso Cuarón has created a heartfelt masterpiece of mood and nostalgia, one that reminds us that his gifts as a storyteller and an interpreter of the human experience are not dictated by scale of production.”
Trailer (English titles)
Director: Gojko Berkuljan
A retired detective goes back to work when his daughter, a journalist investigating the disappearance of political figures in the 1990s, suddenly disappears. Gojko Berkuljan’s drama runs a succinct 81 minutes and delves into the political landscape in Montenergo over the past three decades.
Director: Nour-Eddine Lakhmari
“Burnout” marks the second time that Nour-Eddine Lakhmari has represented Morocco in the Oscar race, the first being “Casanegra” in 2009. The film tells several different stories that take place in Casablanca, together creating a portrait of the different social and economic classes in the city.
Trailer (subtitles are in French, not English)
Director: Shivam Adhikari
A historical drama set in the 1930s, “Panchayat” stars Saroj Khanal as a village leader accused of a crime during the Panchayat era of self-governance. Nepal was nominated for its first Oscar submission, 1999’s “Caravan,” but none of its entries since then have landed a nomination.
Trailer (no dialogue)
“The Resistance Banker” *
Director: Joram Lursen
World War II isn’t the instant Oscar bait it used to be in this category, but it invariably figures into a number of submissions every year. “The Resistance Banker” tells the true story of Walraven van Hall, a banker in the occupied Netherlands who defrauded the Nazis to funnel money to the Dutch resistance. The film, which is now playing on Netflix in both dubbed and subtitled versions, was a huge hit in its home country and set a new record for nominations at the Golden Calves, the Dutch version of the Oscars.
“Yellow Is Forbidden” *
Director: Pietra Brettkelly
Documentary director Pietra Brettkelly has represented New Zealand in the Oscar race twice in the last three years, with her documentary “A Flickering Truth” serving as the country’s 2016 entry. This film, which premiered at Tribeca this year, focuses on Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei as she prepared for a 2017 Paris show and hoped for acceptance in France’s snobbish haute couture world.
“The Wedding Ring”
Director: Rahmatou Keita
“The Wedding Ring,” which screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in late 2017, is the first submission ever from Niger and the second feature from director Rahmatou Keita. It follows a young woman who returns to her village in Niger after attending school in France and moving away from the traditional and mystical customs of her homeland.
“What Will People Say”
Director: Iram Haq
The clash of cultures takes center stage in “What Will People Say,” the story of a teenage girl whose parents emigrated from Pakistan to Norway. When she allows a boy in her room, it’s normal behavior for a Norwegian teen but a huge disgrace to her family, who quickly ship her off to relatives in Pakistan to learn the traditional ways. Director Iram Haq based the film on a similar experience in her own life
Director: Asim Abbasi
One of the most adventurous films made in Pakistan, Asim Abbasi’s family drama concerns two sisters, one who moved to London while the other stayed in Pakistan, who reunite when their father falls ill. The film ends with a 10-minute, continuous, single-take shot, while a five-episode web series that serves as a prologue was also made for YouTube.
Director: Raed Andoni
The third documentary to be submitted to the Oscars this year finds a group of former Palestinian prisoners re-enacting their brutal interrogations at the hands of Israeli security forces. The film by Raed Andoni, himself a former prisoner, won the top documentary award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
Directo: Abner Benaim
Actor, musician, political activist and occasional politician Ruben Blades has been Panama’s most popular star around the world for years, and Abner Benaim’s documentary follows him both at home and performing around the world. Benaim previously represented Panama in the Oscar race with his 2014 documentary “Invasion.”
Director: Marcelo Mastinessi
Ana Brun won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at this year’s Berlin Film Festival for her performance as a middle-aged gay woman who falls on hard times when her longtime partner is sent to jail for fraud. The film marks only the third time Paraguay has submitted a film to the Oscars.
Director: Oscar Catacora
“Eternity” is set in a remote village high in the Andes, where an elderly couple are waiting for a visit from their son. The film was the first feature ever shot in the indigenous Aymara language, which is spoken in parts of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. It won two awards, including best film, at the International Film Festival of Guadalajara.
Trailer (no English subtitles)
Director: Chito S. Rono
Inspired by real events, Chito Rono’s drama is set on a remote island where it’s only possibly to get a cell signal atop a group of strange rock formations. The lead characters are a young woman who’s moved away to find work and marry a foreigner, and her brother who’s stayed on the island to take care of his parents.
“Cold War” *
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Poland won the Oscar in 2015 for Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” a film with which “Cold War” shares a style and look. The drama is shot in black and white in an almost square aspect ratio, as was “Ida” – and like that film, it is ravishing and haunted, although “Cold War” is a movie of the flesh where “Ida” was of the spirit. Its lead characters, a couple loosely based on the director’s parents, move through a divided post World War II Europe, fighting for love as they meet in different cities at different times.
Director: Joao Botelho
Portugal currently has the longest losing streak in the Oscars foreign race: It has submitted 35 films since 1980 without a single nomination. Joao Botelho has been responsible for two of those submissions: “Hard Times” in 1988, and now “Peregrinacao” (“Pilgrimage”), an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Fernao Mendes Pinto.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” *
Director: Radu Jude
Romania is one of the countries that has inexplicably never landed an Oscar nomination despite a vibrant filmmaking scene (South Korea is another), and Radu Jude is trying for the second time to end that streak of futility. Three years after representing his country with the exceptional “Aferim!,” Jude returns with a blackly comic, patiently paced film about a modern theater director trying to stage a piece about the 1941 massacre in which Romania allied with the Nazis to kill tens of thousands of Jews in Odessa. The film recently won the top prize at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.
Also Read: 'I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians' Takes Top Honor at Karlovy Vary
Director: Konstantin Khabensky
Between 2010 and 2017, five of the eight Russian Oscar submissions dealt with aspects of World War II – but the country’s two nominations in that time, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” and “Loveless,” are contemporary stories. Russia has nonetheless gone back to a war story with “Sobibor,” which stars Christopher Lambert and Konstantin Khabenskiy in the story of a Jewish Soviet solder who led an uprising in the Sobibor prison camp.
Teaser trailer (no dialogue)
Director: Dejan Zecevic
Veteran film and television director Dejan Zecevic is representing Serbia with this drama about three university students whose professor has come up with a “Tetris” theory that human nature will always move from order to chaos. The students set up separate experiments to test the theory.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Mike Wiluan
Call it an Eastern Western: Director Mike Wiluan was inspired by the Western genre in creating this revenge tale set in the time when Java was a Dutch colony. The film features the heavy use of martial-arts action – and yes, some of its cowboys do ride buffaloes instead of horses.
Director: Martin Sulik
Slovakia has submitted 22 films to the Oscars since 1993 – and seven of those have been directed by Martin Sulik, five more than any other Slovakian director. A road movie about two elderly men, one the son of a Holocaust victim and one the son of a Nazi killer, stars “Toni Erdmann” star Peter Simonschek and legendary Czech director Jiri Menzel.
Director: Janez Burger
Films from Janez Burger have represented Slovenia in the Oscar race three times, though his 2011 drama “Silent Sonata” was disqualified because of a submission error. “Ivan” is the story of a young mother who is torn between her newborn son and the man with whom she is having an affair.
“Sew the Winter to My Skin”
Director: Jahmil X.T. Qubeka
“Sew the Winter to My Skin” tells the story of John Kepe, a real-life Robin Hood who operated in South Africa in the early days of Apartheid, stealing livestock and from white colonist farmers and giving them to impoverished indigenous communities. The film from Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (“Of Good Report”) is set in the 1950s, when Kepe evaded a manhunt for more than a decade. It premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Director: Lee Chang-dong
Critics’ surveys at this year’s Cannes Film Festival made Lee Chang-dong’s slowly-unfolding drama the festival’s clear critical favorite. The story of a country boy and aspiring writer whose budding romance with a young woman is sidelined when she returns from a trip with an intimidating new friend (beau?) played by Steven Yeun. “Though the narrative moves towards a wholly unpredictable conclusion, it takes its unhurried time getting there, even if you always feel that a true master of the medium is guiding you,” wrote TheWrap in Cannes.
Director: Javier Fesser
The Spanish committee that chooses Oscar entries has been known to make odd, politically-oriented choices (they don’t like Pedro Almodovar, for instance), and this year they picked “Champions” over the Spanish-language drama “Everybody Knows,” starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem and directed by Asghar Farhadi, who’s brought two foreign-language Oscars to Iran. In its place, the committee sent this huge Spanish hit about a basketball coach who has a meltdown and is sentenced to community service, in the form of coaching a team of amateur players with intellectually disabilities. The film is a straight commercial play, hugely sentimental but effective.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Ali Abbasi
In Cannes, where it won the top award in the Un Certain Regard section, Abbasi’s movie became known as the “troll sex” film, because it features, yes, a couple of trolls having sex. But they can also pass for humans, making “Border” an allegory for how we treat outsiders. “It’s creepy and disturbing and freaking, with enough room to find whatever subtext you’re looking for,” wrote theWrap in Cannes.
Director: Markus Imhoof
In 1981, Markus Imhoof made “The Boat Is Full,” a drama about refugees in World War II that was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar; in 2013, he represented Switzerland in the Oscar race with “More Than Honey,” a documentary about honeybee colonies. “Eldorado” has things in common with both of those films: It’s also a documentary, but one that looks for common ground between today’s European refugees and the child that the director’s family took in during WWII.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“The Great Buddha +”
Director: Huang Hsin-yao
Two security guards in a Buddha statue factory get more than they’ve bargained for when they start looking through security-cam footage in this black comedy from director Huang Hsin-yao, who made the film as an extension of his 2014 short “The Great Buddha.” The film won the NETPAC Award at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, as well as five Golden Horse Awards and five Taipei Film Awards.
“Malila: The Farewell Flower”
Director: Anucha Boonyawatana
Still looking for its first Oscar nomination, Thailand has submitted a film that is more daring than the historical epics it often favors. “Malila: The Farewell Flower” is the story of a gay relationship between a farmer and a artist who creates floral arrangements but is dying of cancer. The film won awards at the Singapore International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival and Outfest.
“Beauty and the Dogs”
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
A female college student in Tunisia attends a party where she’s sexually assaulted – but reporting the assault to the police only starts her down a dark, but finds herself in a nightmarish system stacked against women at every turn. Composed of only nine long shots, the film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and was released in the U.S. by Oscilloscope.
“The Wild Pear Tree” *
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
This is the fifth time that Turkey has been represented by a film from the acclaimed auteur Ceylan, who was also responsible for the Turkish submissions “Distant,” “Three Monkeys,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “Winter Sleep.” But none of those have ever been nominated for Oscars and only “Three Monkeys” made the shortlist. “The Wild Pear Tree” focuses on an aspiring writer and recent college graduate who seems destined for failure; as usual with films from Ceylan, it is slowly paced and built around lengthy conversations – “a narrative of disillusionment,” in the words of TheWrap’s Ben Croll.
International trailer (no dialogue)
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
You have to give Ukraine credit for submitting a film that casts the country in the harshest light imaginable. Loznitsa is a virtuoso filmmaker of both narrative films and documentaries, and the episodic “Donbass” is part black comedy, part cry of rage over the violence and corruption that runs rampant in his country. In Cannes, Ben Croll called it “the uncompromised vision of a high-level international auteur.”
Also Read: 'Donbass' Review: Jarring War Film Reminds Us That No One Is Safe
“I Am Not a Witch” *
Director: Rungano Nyoni
This British entry, made by a director born in Zambia but raised in Wales, screened an unfinished version in Directors Fortnight at Cannes in 2017, and won a BAFTA Award in February. Rungano Nyoni visited actual camps for “witches” before making this magical-realist satire about a young girl who is accused of having supernatural powers in an unnamed society where even the government embraces superstition.
“A Twelve-Year Night”
Director: Alvaro Brechner
The third Oscar submission for Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner is inspired by the true story of the 12 years that Jose “Pepe” Mujica spent in solitary confinement under the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1972 to 1984. Years after his release, Mujica was elected president of Uruguay.
Director: Gustavo Rondon Cordova
A selection in the Critics Week section of Cannes in 2017, Rondon Cordova’s drama deals with a father and son who are forced to go into hiding in Caracas after the 12-year-old boy runs afoul of a local gang.
Directors: Tran Buru Loc and Nguyen Le Phuong Khanh
Vietnam has submitted films regularly to the Academy since 1993, but only its first submission, “The Scent of Green Papaya,” has been nominated. “The Tailor” is focused on fashion, telling the story of a young girl in the 1960s whose family owns a celebrated tailoring house; the film jumps through time but celebrates the era of ao dai, or traditional Vietnamese long dress.
“10 Days Before the Wedding”
Director: Amr Gamal
Yemen has only submitted one previous film to the Oscars, two years ago. “10 Days Before the Wedding” uses the long-delayed marriage of a young couple to explore the aftermath of the 2015 war in the country. It is believed to be the first film shot and screened there since the conflicts that devastated much of the country.