This is the list of the films that are available to voters in the Oscars race for Best International Feature Film. Each country is permitted to enter a single film, as selected by an Academy-approved international board.
An asterisk indicates that TheWrap has seen the film. Links to trailers are provided when those trailers are available.
Director: Florenc Papas
Albania has been submitting films to the Oscars since 1996 but has never been nominated or shortlisted. This year’s entry, “Open Door,” is a road movie in which two sisters journey to visit their traditionally-minded father in the mountains – and along the way, the pregnant but unmarried sister tries to persuade an old classmate to pose as her husband. It premiered at the 2019 Sarajevo Film Festival.
Director: Paula Hernandez
This family drama is set over a New Year’s holiday at a country home, where three generations of one family face a variety of tensions. Paula Hernandez has directed seven films, including 2011’s “One Love,” but this is her first time representing Argentina in the Oscar race.
“Songs of Solomon”
Director: Arman Nshanyan
Biopics of national heroes are a popular genre among international Oscar submissions, and this one deals with composer and cleric Komitas Vardabet, who lived during the time of the Armenian Genocide. One of the producers of the film is Nick Vallelonga, who won an Oscar for adapting his father’s story into the film “Green Book.”
“What We Wanted” *
Director: Ulrike Kofler
Eight years after winning the Oscar for “Amour” and one year after being disqualified for submitting “Joy,” a film with too much English, Austria has gone with a quiet drama about a young couple struggling with infertility issues who are thrust together with another couple with children while on vacation. The film, Ulrike Kofler’s directorial debut, is airing on Netflix.
“Sincerely Yours, Dhaka”
Directors: Tanvir Ahsan, Abdullah Al Noor, Syed Saleh Sobhan, Auneem Krishnendu Chattopadhyay, Golam Kibria Farooki, Mir Mukarram Hossain, Nuhash Humayun, Mahmudul Islam, Rahat Rahman, Robiul Alam Robi, Syed Ahmed Shawki
Bangladesh’s first 15 Oscar submissions each had a single director, but its 16th submission is an anthology project consisting of 11 shorts by 11 different directors. All are set in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.
“Working Girls” *
Directors: Frederic Fonteyne, Anne Paulicevich
Belgium is hoping to get back to the fruitful days of the early 2010s, when the country landed two nominations and one shortlisted film in a five-year stretch. “Working Girls” stars Sara Forestier, Noemie Lvovsky and Annabelle Lengronne as a trio of prostitutes who work on the border between Belgium and France. Fonteyne and Paulicevich are the only directing team to represent Belgium in the Oscar race apart from the Dardenne brothers, who did it four times.
Director: Diego Mondaca
Diego Mondaca’s film is set in 1934, during a war between Bolivia and Paraguay that became known as the Chaco War because it was fought for control of a portion of the Gran Chaco region. Its central characters are a group of indigenous soldiers who are fighting under the command of a German captain.
Teaser trailer (no subtitles)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” *
Director: Jasmila Zbanic
“Quo Vadis, Aida?” is Jasmila Zbanic’s fifth narrative feature, and her second film to enter the Oscar race, after 2006’s “Grbavica: Land of My Dreams” — and like most of her films and most of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Oscar entries, it deals with the war that ravaged the region in the 1990s. The drama is set in Srebrenica, site of the genocide of more than 8,000 men and boys during the Bosnian War in 1995, and centers on a United Nations translator in a camp besieged by the Serbian military.
Trailer (some English, no subtitles)
“Babenco: Tell Me When I Die”
Director: Barbara Paz
Hector Babenco was one of the most acclaimed directors in South American cinema, landing a Best Director Oscar nomination for “The Kiss of the Spider Woman.” But the director, who was born in Argentina but moved to Brazil for good in his early 20s, only represented Brazil in the Oscar race twice – and one of those times, his film “Pixote” was deemed ineligible. Actress and director Barbara Paz co-starred with Willem Dafoe in Babenco’s last film, 2015’s “My Hindu Friend,” and makes her feature directing debut with this documentary about the final years of Babenco’s life, leading up to his 2016 death.
“The Father” *
Directors: Kristina Grozeva, Petat Valchanov
Sharing a title (in translation, at least) with the Anthony Hopkins/Olivia Colman drama, this Bulgarian film is a black comedy that begins when a man who works in advertising arrives late for his mother’s funeral and then gets hopelessly ensnared in the web of white lies he tells to his family and everyone else. Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov also made “Glory,” which was Bulgaria’s Oscar submission three years ago.
Director: Huy Yaleng
Actor-turned-director Huy Yaleng’s drama,in which he also stars, is based on the true story of a cycle rickshaw driver who worked to support his two children despite losing one of his legs. The director became known in Cambodia for films in the horror genre, from which this is a departure.
“The Fisherman’s Diary”
Director: Enah Johnscott
In this drama from co-writer and director Enah Johnscott, a 12-year-old girl inspired by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is determined to attend school in a small fishing village where the education of female children is considered taboo. In December, the film won numerous awards at the Golden Movie Awards in Ghana and the African Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria.
“14 Days, 12 Nights” *
Director: Jean-Philippe Duval
Canada’s original entry, Deepa Mehta’s “Funny Boy,” was deemed ineligible because more than half its dialogue was in English, so the country submitted this drama about a Canadian woman who, after the death of her adopted daughter, travels to Vietnam to meet the girl’s birth mother. Anne Dorval, best known for appearing in five of Xavier Dolan’s movies, plays the lead role.
“The Mole Agent” *
Director: Maite Alberdi
One of a handful of documentaries (or doc/fiction hybrids) in the Oscar international race, “The Mole Agent” is a tale of espionage in an unusual environment: a Chilean nursing home, where a man in his 80s is recruited to go undercover and determine if a female resident is being abused. (But the spy theme isn’t what the occasionally lighthearted but touching movie really ends up being about.) The film premiered at Sundance and has been shortlisted for the International Documentary Association’s IDA Documentary Awards.
Director: Peter Chan
Gong Li, the internationally-known Chinese actress whose other films include “Raise the Red Lantern,” “Farewell My Concubine,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and this year’s live-action remake of “Mulan,” stars as the coach of the Chinese women’s national volleyball team in this decades-spanning sports movie. Ten members of the gold medal-winning 2016 team play themselves in the film, whose director, Peter Chan, was born in Hong Kong and has represented that country in the Oscars international race in the past.
“Memories of My Father”
Director: Fernando Trueba
Spanish-born director Fernando Trueba’s film “Belle Epoque” won the Oscar for Spain in 1994, and more recently his animated film “Chico and Rita” was nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2011. His new film is based on the novel by Hector Abad Faciolince about his father, human rights activist Hector Abad Gomez. The film was part of the official selection at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which didn’t take place but did announce a list of films.
“Land of Ashes”
Director: Sofia Quiros Ubeda
Only the ninth Costa Rican Oscar submission, “Land of Ashes” is the feature debut for writer-director Sofia Quiros Ubeda, who based the film on characters and themes she first explored in the 2017 short “Selva.” Smachleen Gutierrez, who also appeared in that short, stars as a young teenager coping with loss in an environment where the natural and supernatural seem to mingle. The film premiered in the Critics Week section at Cannes in 2019.
Director: Ivan-Goran Vitez
In Ivan-Goran Vitez’s blackly satiric third feature, a divorced father shows up at his daughter’s school with a birthday cake and a rife, taking a class of 9-year-olds hostage because he thinks it’s the only way to spend time with her. The film explores a variety of social issues as corrupt politicians and journalists get involved with and try to capitalize on the crisis.
Conceptual trailer (no subtitles)
“Buscando a Casal”
Director: Jorge Luis Sanchez
Yasmani Guerrero stars as the 19th-century Cuban poet Julian del Casal in this biographical drama that covers the writer’s work, personal life and political activism against the Spanish rule of his country.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Polish-born director Agnieszka Holland has represented Poland twice in the Oscar race, landing a nomination for 2011’s “In Darkness,” but this is the first time a film of hers has been submitted by the Czech Republic. In this sleek, decades-spanning drama based on (but fictionalized from) real events, Ivan Trojan stars as Jan Mikolasek, a Czech healer who used plant-based remedies successfully for years but was accused of being a fraud and eventually jailed after the 1957 death of the Czech president he had been treating. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was in the lineup of the Telluride Film Festival, which did not take place.
“Another Round” *
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
The Danish entry goes into the race as one of the early favorites for a nomination, both for its critical raves and because it’s directed by Thomas Vinterberg, whose 2013 film “The Hunt” was one of five nominations that Denmark received in a seven-year stretch between 2010 and 2016. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and its four stars, including Mads Mikkelsen, shared the best-actor award at the San Sebastian film festival for their performances as high school teachers who decide to test the theory that people are more creative when they stay slightly drunk all day.
“A State of Madness”
Director: Leticia Tonos
The days of Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the 1950s are seen through the prism of a mental institution in this drama, which is based on the memoir of pioneering psychiatrist Dr. Antonio Zaglul. This is the third film directed by Leticia Tonos to represent the Dominican Republic in the Oscar race, tying her with Jose Maria Cabral for the most Dominican entries.
Director: Paul Venegas
“Emptiness” deals with the migrant experience in a different context from which it’s usually seen. The film centers on a man and a woman from China who arrive in Ecuador with different goals but fall under the control of a local gangster.
“When We’re Born”
Director: Tamer Ezzat
A young married man struggles to make enough money to enable himself and his wife to move out of her family’s house in this drama set in a poor section of Cairo. Egypt has submitted 35 films to the Oscars without ever receiving a nomination, second only to Portugal for the most films without ever advancing in the race.
Teaser trailer (no dialogue)
“The Last Ones”
Director: Veiko Ounpuu
Estonian director Veiko Ounpuu, who also represented his country in the Oscar race in 2010 and 2013, shot this film in Lapland using a largely Finnish cast. Set in a small village above the Arctic Circle, it deals with tensions between miners and local reindeer herders, and the conflict between industrialization and traditional ways of life.
Director: Zaida Bergroth
Three years ago, Finland submitted “Tom of Finland,” a biographical drama about the well-known homoerotic artist who went by that name. This year, the country has entered another biopic – but Tove Jansson, the film’s subject, is a wildly different illustrator and author, best known for her Moomins line of children’s books. The film focuses on Jansson’s early life, when she was first creating the Moomin character.
“Two of Us” *
Director: Filippo Meneghetti
Chosen from a shortlist that also included Maiwenn’s “DNA,” Francois Ozon’s “Summer of ’85” and Maimouna Doucoure’s controversial “Cuties,” “Two of Us” is the feature debut for Filippo Meneghetti. The quietly wrenching film stars Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevalier as two retired women who have secretly been lovers for years, hiding the relationship from their friends and families until it is unexpectedly revealed in the wake of a health emergency. It has U.S. distribution from Magnolia Pictures.
Director: Dea Kulumbegashvili
Told in a series of achingly long, static takes, “Beginning” is an austere feature debut for director and co-writer Dea Kulumbegashvili. The film slowly and sometimes shockingly explores the desolate life of a former actress who has married the leader of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in a remote and unwelcoming town. It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, which didn’t take place, and won the FIPRESCI award in Toronto.
Subtitled film clip
“And Tomorrow the Entire World” *
Director: Julia von Heinz
The rise of neo-Nazism across Germany is the backdrop for Julia von Heinz’s drama, in which Mala Emde plays a well-to-do young woman who joins a group of Antifa activists who must decide whether violence is justified in their struggle. The film premiered at this year’s Venice International Film Festival and won an ensemble acting award at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Director: Christos Nikou
Nikou was the assistant director on Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth,” the last Greek film to land an Oscar nomination, and his film shares a sense of deadpan surrealism with that surprise nominee. But “Apples” also gets more sentimental than films like “Dogtooth,” which could help it with more timid voters – and it’s set during a pandemic in which people suddenly develop amnesia, which could make it feel timely. Another sign that the film could get some traction with Oscar voters: Cate Blanchett has recently come on as executive producer through her Dirty Films production company.
“La Llorona” *
Director: Jayro Bustamante
Guatemala has only submitted films to the Oscars twice — once in 1994 with Luis Argueta’s “The Silence of Neto,” and then not until 2015, when Jayro Bustamante’s “Ixcanul” entered the race. “La Llorona” is another Bustamante film, and like “Ixcanul” it is a slow-paced drama that mixes social commentary and mysticism. The lyrical but disquieting film tells the story of a Guatemalan leader who orchestrated a genocide against native Mayans but has his verdict overturned, only to return home to find that his new housekeeper may be summoning up evil spirits. It draws on the Hispanic American myth of the weeping woman, La Llorona, and plays like a languid arthouse version of a horror movie.
“Days of Light”
Directors: Mauro Borges, Enrique Perez, Gloria Carrion, Enrique Medrano, Julio Lopez, Sergio Ramirez
Six different directors tell stories set during a five-day solar storm that disrupts technology in Central America.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Derek Tsang
This drama about a bullied high school girl who turns to a local boy for protection dominated at the 2020 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning eight awards in 12 nominations. It is adapted from the young adult novel “In His Youth, In Her Beauty” by Jiu Yuexi.
“Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”
Director: Lili Horvat
The central character in this psychological drama is a brilliant neurosurgeon who wonders if she’s losing her mind when a fellow doctor with whom she’s having an affair claims he’s never met her. Actress Natasa Stork has won raves for her screen debut in the role of the doctor when the film premiered in Venice and Toronto this year. Hungary is on a roll at the Oscars, with one win (for “Son of Saul”), two nominations and four spots on the shortlist in the last seven years.
Director: Silja Hauksdottir
A new neighbor disrupts the life of a suburban mother who is dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter in this drama. The film recently won six Edda Awards, the Icelandic equivalent of the Oscars, including Best Film, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
This crazed action film, which is based on the short story “Maoist,” takes place in a village that must search for a water buffalo that has escaped from a nearby slaughterhouse. The buffalo and the testosterone-fueled villagers run amok in what is only the third of India’s 53 Oscar entries to be in the Malayalam language. Director Lijo Jose Pellissery has already filmed another film, “Churuli,” since this one premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019.
Director: Joko Anwar
If “La Llorona” is languid arthouse horror, “Impetigore” is a full-on horror movie that mines Indonesian folklore and history to bring the scares. Director Joko Anwar came to prominence with his 2017 film “Satan’s Slaves,” the highest-grossing horror movie in Indonesian history.
“Sun Children” *
Director: Majid Majidi
The issue of child labor comes to the forefront in “The Sun,” in which a quartet of boys who work in the street of Tehran are sent on a search for a buried treasure. Its lead actor, newcomer Rouhollah Zamani, won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for emerging talent at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Director: Tom Sullivan
The seven Irish entries in the Oscar race have alternated between films set elsewhere in the world (Bosnia, Cuba, the Gaza Strip) and stories from Ireland. “Arracht” falls in the latter category, with Donall O Healai starring as a young father who ends up on the run from the British during the Great Famine in the mid 19th century. First-time director Tom Sullivan shot the film, which is both gritty and for long stretches ghostly and lyrical, in a small village in Connemara on the west coast of Ireland.
Director: Ruthy Pribar
“Unorthodox” star Shira Haas won the Best Actress award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (which didn’t take place, but did give out jury awards) for this intimate and powerful mother-daughter drama in which she co-stars with Alena Yiv. Haas plays a teenage girl with a degenerative motor disease, Yiv a free-spirited mother watching her child slip away. “Asia” swept the recent Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, with nine wins in 13 nominations.
Director: Gianfranco Rosi
Perhaps surprisingly opting not to submit the Sophia Loren vehicle “The Life Ahead,” Italy’s selection committee chose a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi to represent the country at the Oscars for the second time in five years. (The first, “Fire at Sea,” was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category but passed over in the international one.) A quiet observational doc that makes use of Rosi’s exquisite eye for composition, the film charts refugees from across the Middle East as they try to cope with their difficult daily lives in a land scarred by conflict.
Trailer (no dialogue)
“Night of the Kings”*
Director: Philippe Lacote
The Ivory Coast has only submitted three films to the Oscars: Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Black and White in Color,” which won in 1976, and two by Philippe Lacote, “Run” in 2015 and this drama, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and also played in Toronto before landing a distribution deal with Neon. A tense drama with a touch of “Arabian Nights,” it is set in a brutal prison in Abidjan, where a young inmate is assigned the risky job of “storyteller” by an aging gangster who controls the prison but may be nearing the end of his reign.
Director: Naomi Kawase
It’s no surprise that this film was on the official lineup for the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival: Director Naomi Kawase has been a Cannes mainstay for years, with seven films screening at the festival since 1997, five of those in the last 10 years. But it might be a surprise that she’s now in the Oscar race, because none of Kawase’s previous films have been selected by the Japanese submission committee. “True Mothers,” based on a novel by Mizuki Tsujimura, deals with a couple whose orderly life is shattered when the birth mother of a baby they adopted comes looking for the child.
Director: Ameen Nayfeh
Ali Suliman, the Palestinian actor best known for the 2006 Oscar-nominated drama “Paradise Now,” stars in “200 Meters” as a father who lives in the West Bank, separated from his son by only 200 meters but also by the wall that runs through that territory. When his son is taken to the hospital and he learns that his permit to travel from Palestine to Israel has expired, he must take a circuitous and dangerous route to sneak in. The film, which is Jordan’s fourth Oscar submission, premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
“The Crying Steppe”
Director: Marina Kunarova
This is the second movie in the running for this year’s Oscars to deal with the Holdomor, a state-caused famine that killed millions in Bolshevik Russia in the 1920s and ’30s. (The other is Agnieszka Holland’s “Mr. Jones,” which was entered in the Best Picture category.) “The Crying Steppe” deals with the famine’s effects in Kazakhstan, where 1.5 million indigenous people were displaced from their homes in the Kazakh Steppe.
“The Letter” *
Director: Maia Lekow, Chris King
The first documentary ever submitted by Kenya (which has only been entering the Oscar race since 2012), “The Letter” explores the recent spate of witchcraft accusations against elderly people in the African country. The film follows a rural woman in her 90s who is accused by some family members but defended by her grandson, a children’s entertainer who lives in Mombasa.
Director: Visar Morina
A Sundance premiere that also screened in Berlin and Sarajevo, “Exile” is another look at the immigrant experience. Its lead character is a pharmacologist who fled Kosovo and lives in Germany – but after he finds a dead rat hanging in the garden of the home, it becomes increasingly unclear if he’s being threatened because he’s a foreigner or if he’s imagining the threats. Misel Maticevic and “Toni Erdmann” actress Sandra Huller star.
“Running to the Sky”
Director: Mirian Abdykalykov
The Abdykalykovs are the first family of Kyrgyzstan’s cinema, with Mirian Abdykalykov representing the country in the 2015 Oscar race with “Heavenly Nomadic” and his father Aktan directing four different films that were submitted to the Academy. (Mirian starred in the first two of those films, “Beshkempir” and “The Chimp,” as a teenager.) Like most of the country’s entries, “Running to the Sky” is set in a rural village and focuses on a young boy who discovers his talent for running could give him new opportunities in life.
“Blizzard of Souls” *
Director: Dzintars Dreibergs
This historical drama is set in Latvia during World War I, and follows a teenage boy who joins the Russian Army and fights in World War I, but becomes disillusioned with the Russians and joins the fight to make Latvia independent. After its late 2019 release in its home country, the film broke box-office records there.
Director: Jimmy Keyroux
Jimmy Keyroux has already been to the Academy Awards with the story he tells in “Broken Keys” – the Student Academy Awards, where he won the 2016 gold medal in the narrative category for a short film called “Nocturne in Black.” That short, about a Syrian musician whose piano has been destroyed in an ISIS takeover, was expanded into this feature, which was selected for the list of films that would have been shown in Cannes this year, had that festival not been canceled.
“This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” *
Director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
Lesotho, a small country entirely within the borders of South Africa, has never before submitted a film to the Oscars. Its inaugural entry is a moody, spiritual reverie in which an elderly widow prepares for her own death but is sidetracked when the government’s idea of progress threatens her village. A mixture of low-key naturalism and evocative fantasy, the film won raves on the festival circuit, including Venice in 2019 and Sundance in 2020.
Director: Karolis Kaupinis
This politically-minded, deadpan comedy takes its inspiration from an actual event in the late 1930s, when a Lithuania geographer came up with the idea that the nation could establish and move to an overseas colony (a “new Lithuania”) if war broke out and it was invaded. The film is shot in black and white and presented in a boxy aspect ratio. The Lithuanian selection committee called it a “modern Don Quixote story.”
Director: Julie Schroell
“River Tales” is the first documentary to be submitted in this year’s Oscar international race, and the second doc to be submitted by Luxembourg after 2016’s “Voices From Chernobyl.” The movie was filmed in Nicaragua, where a local teacher attempted to put on a play exploring the identity of the San Juan River and the people living on its banks.
Director: Emir Ezwan
It’s rare for horror movies to figure in the Oscar race, but Malaysia has submitted one in “Roh,” in which a mother and her two children find a mysterious and menacing young girl in the jungle near their home. Director Emir Ezwan is a former visual-effects supervisor.
“I’m No Longer Here” *
Director: Fernando Frias de la Parra
Mexico had a tough decision to make this year, with Michel Franco’s dark festival favorite “New Order” campaigning hard and suggesting that the country might want to submit a film that wasn’t released by Netflix. But Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron got behind “I’m No Longer” here, which jumps between Monterrey, Mexico and Queen, New York as it tells the story of a young man obsessed with dancing to Cumbia music. “It’s a movie about exile … that by being particular has become universal,” said del Toro.
“Veins of the World”
Director: Byambasuren Davaa
This is the first film in more than a decade from Byambasuren Davaa, the co-writer and co-director of the Oscar-nominated 2003 documentary “The Story of the Weeping Camel.” It explores the collision of tradition and industrialization through the story of a young boy who goes up against mining companies in the aftermath of his father’s death.
Director: Marija Perovic
Montenegro has only been submitting films to the Oscars since 2013, with “Breasts” the second of the country’s seven submissions to be directed by a woman. It deals with three women in their 40s, former best friends, attending their 25th high school reunion after drifting apart over the years. One of the three has been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, a fact that disturbs the others when they learn she’s been hiding her condition.
“The Unknown Saint”
Director: Alaa Eddine Aljem
The debut feature from Alaa Eddine Aljem is a comedy with a delicious setup: A thief hides the money he’s stolen by burying it in a mock grave at the top of a hill, but when he returns to retrieve it years later, he finds that the hilltop is now a shrine devoted to the unknown saint buried there. The film premiered in Cannes’ Critics Week sidebar in 2019.
Director: Eche Janga
The Dutch entry is set on the Caribbean island of Curacao and focuses on a young girl who lives with her father and grandfather in the countryside. Using the magical realism often identified with Latin American literature, the film is the first entry from the Netherlands not in the Dutch language, though the 2015 entry “The Paradise Suite” was in Dutch and a variety of other languages.
Trailer (no English subtitles)
Director: Desmond Ovbiagele
Nigeria has only submitted two films to the Oscars, and last year’s entry, “Lionheart,” was disqualified for being predominantly in English. (Since then, the Academy has ruled that Pidgin English, which was used in that film, will now qualify as a foreign language for the purposes of qualifying.) “The Milkmaid” is largely in the Hausa language, and centers on a Fulani milkmaid who searches for her sister during a period of insurgency in the country.
Director: Milcho Manchevski
Milcho Manchevski directed the first-ever Macedonian Oscar submission (and first nomination), 1994’s “Before the Rain,” and this is his fourth film to represent the country in the race, the most of any Macedonian director. The three-part film begins in the Middle Ages and moves to the present day, telling different stories about different couples trying to have a child.
Director: Maria Sodahis
Stellan Skarsgard starred in last year’s Norwegian Oscar submission, “Out Stealing Horses,” which was directed by Hans Petter Moland – and he’s back in this year’s entry, “Hope,” in which he’s essentially playing Moland. The sensitive drama was directed by Moland’s wife, Maria Sodahis, and tells the semi-autobiographical story of Sodahis’ diagnosis with terminal brain cancer.
“Circus of Life”
Director: Sarmad Khoosat
This film about an elderly Muslim man who inadvertently stirs up a furor when he is filmed dancing at a wedding has itself been the subject of a controversy in its home country. The film was slammed and its release suspended because of its criticisms of fundamentalist religion, but it also won the top prize at South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival when it premiered there in January 2020.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“Gaza, Mon Amour”
Directors: Tarzan Nassar, Arab Nasser
Hiam Abbass and Salim Daw star in this Venice and Toronto Film Festival selection about a fisherman who can’t bring himself to tell a local woman he loves her until he finds a statue of the Greek god Apollo in his fishing net. The film won the NETPAC award in Toronto this year.
Subtitled film clip
“Operation Just Cause”
Directors: Luis Franco Brantley, Luis Pacheco
The short-lived U.S. invasion of Panama in late 1989 (“Operation Just Cause”), which was undertaken to depose and arrest dictator Manuel Noriega, is the focus of this drama. The film details the experiences of a number of people during the operation: a prostitute, an American businessman arrested as a spy, a military officer, a fisherman and a young pacifist.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“Killing the Dead”
Director: Hugo Gimenez
Set in 1978 during the military dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, this drama focuses on two men whose job is illicitly burying the bodies of people who’ve been killed by the state. When they find a living man among the corpses, they realize that they’ll be expected to kill him. This is only the fourth movie to be submitted to the Oscars by Paraguay.
Trailer (no English subtitles)
“Song Without a Name”
Director: Melina Leon
Premiering in the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors Fortnight sidebar in 2017, the atmospheric black-and-white drama “Song Without a Name” was inspired by a 1980s case of child trafficking uncovered by director Melina Leon’s journalist father. Pamela Mendoza plays a young village woman who travels to a private clinic to give birth, only to find that her baby and the clinic have both disappeared overnight.
Director: Brilliante Mendoza
One of the best known Filipino directors internationally, Brilliante Mendoza represents his country at the Oscars for the second time with “Mindanao,” which follows the selection of “Ma’ Rosa” four years ago. The film contrasts the plight of a mother whose daughter has cancer with stories from folklore that dates back to the 16th century.
“Never Gonna Snow Again” *
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert
Poland was the first country to announce its selection in this year’s international race, choosing the odd and haunted comedic drama “Never Gonna Snow Again” in early August, before the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival. “Stranger Things” actor Alec Utgoff stars as a Ukrainian masseuse who becomes a cult figure in the well-to-do Polish community where his clients live. Poland is on a roll at the Oscars recently, with one win and three nominations in the last six years, including back-to-back noms for “Cold War” and “Corpus Christi.”
A replacement Portugese entry after Ana Rocha de Sousa’s “Listen” was found to contain predominantly English dialogue, Pedro Costa’s drama won raves on the festival circuit for its story of a woman from Cape Verde to travels to Lisbon to find her husband, who had left her more than two decades earlier. The title character, played by a nonprofessional actress of the same name, first appeared in Costa’s 2014 film “Horse Money.”
Director: Alexander Nanau
“Collective” is the first documentary ever submitted by Romania, which has the most vital film industry of any country that has never been nominated in this category. Nanau follows a team of journalists who investigate a deadly nightclub fire and uncover a massive, wide-ranging scandal that reaches into the upper echelons of Romanian government.
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
With a directing resume that dates back to 1965 and includes “House of Fools,” “The Postman’s White Nights” and the English-language films “Maria’s Lovers,” “Runaway Train,” “Tango & Cash” and “Duet for One,” Andrei Konchalovsky is one of Russia’s most acclaimed directors – but he’s only represented the country in the Oscar race three times, including for this historical drama that won a special jury prize in Venice. The film deals with the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre, in which dozens of protesting workers were killed by the Soviet army.
Director: Shahad Ameen
Saudi Arabia has only submitted four films to the Oscars, but three of the four entries from the male-dominated society have come from female filmmakers — Haifaa al-Mansour twice, and now Shahad Ameen. This 75-minute, black-and-white drama explores myth and tradition as it tells the story of a a young girl who lives in a fishing village where each family must sacrifice one daughter to sea creatures who inhabit the nearby waters.
Director: Mamadou Dia
NYU graduate Dia, a cinematographer and director, examines religious extremism in his drama about the battle between an Imam and his brother. The film won awards at a number of film festivals in 2019 and 2020, including Locarno and Rotterdam.
“Dara of Jasenovac”
Director: Pedrag Antonijevic
The Serbian entry is a World War II drama that looks at the Holocaust from the perspective of the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia, where Jews and ethnic Serbs were imprisoned and exterminated not by Nazi Germany, but by the Croatian Ustase regime. Biljana Cekic plays the title role of a 12-year-old girl who tries to protect her younger brother in the camp.
Director: Anthony Chen
“Wet Season” is the second feature film from Anthony Chen, who also represented Singapore in the Oscar race with his 2013 debut, “Ilo Ilo.” Yeo Yann Yann won the best-actress award at the 56th Golden Horse Awards for her restrained performance as a schoolteacher who is undervalued at work and going through marital problems and fertility issues at home.
“The Auschwitz Report”
Director: Peter Bebjak
Slovakia’s entry is based on the true story of the Vrba-Wetzler report, when two Slovak Jews escaped from Auschwitz in 1944 and produced a detailed account of the workings inside that concentration camp. Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired the rights to distribute the film in the U.S. Peter Bebjak also directed Slovakia’s 2017 Oscar entry, “The Line.”
Brief behind-the-scenes footage (no subtitles)
“Stories From the Chestnut Woods”
Director: Gregor Bozic
Set in an isolated, wooded region of eastern Italy occupied by ethnic Slovenians, “Stories From the Chestnut Woods” offers a poetic take on the tale of a carpenter and a chestnut seller who meet after the end of World War II. The nonlinear, dream-like film premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival.
Director: Rene van Rooyen
South African writer Dalene Matthee’s 2003 novel “Toorbos” is the coming-of-age story of a young married woman living in the forests of South Africa’s Knysna region in the 1930s. Elani
Dekker and Stiaan Smith play the couple whose marriage evolves over the course of a decade.
“The Man Standing Next” *
Director: Woo Min-ho
The unenviable task of following Bong Joon Ho’s multiple Oscar winner “Parasite,” the first Korean film ever nominated, has fallen to this political drama by Woo Min-ho, who is representing the country in the race for the first time. The film is set in the 1970s in the final days of the reign of President Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who became embroiled in the “Koreagate” scandal.
“The Endless Trench” *
Directors: Jon Garano, Aitor Arregi, Jose Mari Goenaga
This drama begins during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, when a young man hides in a hole beneath his house to avoid being captured and killed by Franco’s forces. The epic story unfolds over almost two and a half hours and in almost a dozen different sections and spans 33 years, as the man spends decades under the house as his wife raises their child. It is available on Netflix.
“You Will Die at Twenty”
Director: Amjad Abu Alala
The forbidding title of the film comes from a prophecy that a village holy man delivers on the birth of a boy, Muzamil. The film follows the boy as he grows up, nears the age of 20 and begins to break out of his superstitious background with the help of watching films. This is the first Oscar entry ever submitted by Sudan, and only the eighth feature film produced in the country.
Director: Ivan Tai-Apin
“Wiren” is based on a true story and tells the story of a deaf boy who was rejected by a university because of his condition, and who then sued the government to force them to adhere to the Convention of the Rights of People With Disabilities. The film is the first-ever Oscar submission from the South American nation of Suriname.
Director: Amanda Kernell
Amanda Kernell follows 2017’s “Sami Blood” with a drama about a divorced mother (Ane Dahl Torp, who also starred in Norway’s 2014 Oscar entry, “1001 Grams”) who abducts her two children and takes them to the island of Tenerife in an attempt to repair their relationship. The film premiered in January 2020 at Sundance, where co-star Sverrir Gudnason also appeared in Viggo Mortensen’s “Falling.”
“My Little Sister”*
Director: Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond
A decade after their first feature, “The Little Bedroom,” was Switzerland’s Oscar entry in 2010, Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond are once again representing the country with this understated but moving family drama that premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger star as siblings, she a playwright with writer’s block and he an acclaimed actor who is dying of cancer.
“A Sun” *
Director: Chung Mong-hong
“A Sun” is the second of writer-director Chung Mong-hong’s five features to be Taiwan’s Oscar entry, after “Soul” in 2013. The film is an impressive two-and-a-half-hour epic about a family whose two sons, A-ho and A-hao, seem to be going in opposite directions in life; it’s intimate but also expansive, lyrical at times and shockingly brutal at others.
“Happy Old Year”
Director: Nawapoi Thamrongrattanarit
In a Thai riff on Marie Kondo, “Happy Old Year” is about a woman who returns to Thailand after three years in Sweden determined to de-clutter her house by getting rid of as many things as possible. Director Nawapoi Thamrongrattanarit is known for the minimalism of his own work.
“The Man Who Sold His Skin”
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Italian actress Monica Bellucci co-stars in this drama about a man who flees the Syrian civil war and encounters a renowned tattoo artist who turns his body into a piece of art. It is Kaouther Ben Hania’s second film representing Tunisia in the Oscar race; she also directed “Beauty and the Dogs,” which was the country’s entry two years ago.
“Miracle in Cell No. 7” *
Director: Mehmet Ada Oztekin
The 2013 Korean film “Miracle in Cell No. 7” has been remade in the Philippines, Indonesia and India, but this Turkish version is the first to enter the Oscar race. An adaptation that makes some significant changes to the original story, it is focused on a mentally challenged village man who is falsely accused of murder. More of a sentimental tear-jerker than the usual Turkish entry, the film is available on Netflix after a very successful 2019 theatrical run in Turkey.
Director: Valentyn Vasyanovych
This dystopian drama, with clear echoes of George Orwell’s “1984,” is set in Eastern Ukraine five years in the future, when a war has left the landscape desolate and uninhabitable. Andriy Rymaruk plays a former soldier with PTSD, who falls into a relationship with a young woman as they work to exhume the corpses of people who didn’t get a proper burial during the war.
Film clip (no dialogue)
Director: Leticia Jorge
The director calls this film a “farcial comedy about family” that “laughs at the tragic.” It follows a squabbling group of brothers and sisters whose father has died, and whose beach house is up for sale.
Trailer (no subtitles)
“Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” *
Director: Anabel Rodriguez Rios
Director Anabel Rodriguez Rios’ documentary “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” chronicles the village of Congo Mirador, which was erected on stilts above Lake Maracaibo. The largely verité film spans a number of years, as the village slowly dies as it is choked by sediment in the water caused by the work of a national oil company and worsened by neglect from a corrupt government.
Director: Victor Yu
Victor Yu, who was raised in Southern California and went to film school at Loyola Marymount, is representing Vietnam in the Oscar race for the second time, after 2016’s “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass.” The story centers on a young couple from a small town, and the film’s title and trailer both make it look as if it’s a swoony romance.