Here is the list of the 93 films that have been submitted to the Academy for the Oscars Best International Feature Film category for 2021, with descriptions and links to trailers, when available.
These films were all included on lists of films sent to voters in the category, but some have not had their qualifying runs or been vetted by the Academy. While some may turn out to be ineligible before the Academy releases its official list of qualifying films in December, instances of films not qualifying after being made available to Oscar voters are infrequent.
An asterisk indicates TheWrap has seen the film.
Albania: “Two Lions to Venice”
Director: Jonid Jorgji
Film-festival afficionados may be attracted to Albania’s entry, because the “Venice” in the title is the Venice Film Festival. The film follows happily married Albanian filmmakers who are bringing a movie to the Venice, but who encounter some porn stars along the way and decide to make an adult film while they’re in Italy.
Director: Djafar Gacem
Over the last two decades, the Algerian movies that have fared best at the Oscars have dealt with the country’s stormy relationship with France as it fought for independence after World War II. “Heliopolis,” which was initially submitted to the Academy last year but withdrawn when the pandemic made theatrical distribution impossible, is set in a city where civilians were massacred after protesting French colonial rule.
Trailer (no subtitles)
Argentina: “The Intruder”
Director: Natalia Meta
Frequent Almodovar actress Cecilia Roth plays a voice actress who fears she’s being possessed by creatures from her dreams. The thriller is based on a novel by C.E. Feiling and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.
Armenia: “Should the Wind Drop”
Director: Nora Martirosyan
The first feature from Nora Martirosyan deals with an auditor tasked with determining if a small airport in an isolated republic in the Caucases is up to international standards. The film was included in the official selection of the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival, and later screened at Toronto, Tokyo and Angouleme festivals.
Trailer (subtitles in French)
Australia: “When Pomegranates Howl”
Director: Granaz Moussavi
Made by an Iranian director and set in Afghanistan, this drama is based on the true story of a young Afghan orphan who meets an Australian photographer who may help him realize his dreams of being in movies. Director Granaz Moussavi is best known for her short films, experimental video work and avant garde poetry.
Austria: “Great Freedom”
Director: Sebastian Meise
Winner of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year, “Great Freedom” stars Franz Rogowski as a man who is imprisoned in post World War II Germany for being gay, and Georg Friedrich as the convicted murder who becomes his cellmate and closest friend.
Azerbaijan: “The Island Within”
Director: “The Island Within”
A Western Asian spin on “The Queen’s Gambit?” The lead character in Azerbaijan’s entry is a chess master with parent problems, but in this case the chess star is male, with a domineering father and coach. As an important match approaches, the player hides on an island whose only occupants are an old man and some wild horses.
Director: Abdullah Mohammad Saad
The central figure in this psychological drama is an obsessed professor of medicine (Azmeri Haque Badhon) who finds another teacher at her school sexually abusing a student. The film screened in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year, where it was the first-ever selection from Bangladesh.
Director: Laura Wandel
Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, Laura Wandel’s feature debut “offer(s) an uncommonly cold and unflinching depiction of childhood far removed from even the faintest glimmers of sentimentality,” TheWrap’s Ben Croll wrote. The film’s long, unbroken takes and child’s-eye-level photography puts the viewer in the place of a young girl who finds herself and her brother mercilessly bullied at school.
Bhutan: “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”
Director: Pawo Choyning Dorji
This Palm Springs International Film Festival audience-award winner is about a city-bred schoolteacher and aspiring singer-songwriter who teaches in a remote mountain town in the Himalayas.
Bolivia: “The Great Movement”
Director: Kiro Russo
Russo’s second film to represent Bolivia at the Oscars (after 2016’s “Dark Skull”) follows a laid-off miner on a week-long walk to La Paz to appeal for his job. When he’s taken ill, he turns to a homeless man who may have healing powers.
Subtitled film clip
Bosnia and Herzegovina: “The White Fortress”
Director: Igor Drljaca
A coming-of-age story that also examines the class system and corruption in modern-day Sarajevo, “The White Fortress” stars Pavle Cemerikic as a teenager who runs afoul of a local mobster and also romances an upper-class girl.
Brazil: “Private Desert”
Director: Aly Muritiba
While many observers of the Oscar race expected Brazil to submit the acclaimed, Netflix-distributed drama “7 Prisoners,” the country’s selection committee instead went with this love story from young filmmaker (and former prison guard) Aly Muritiba (“Rust”). Antonio Saboia plays a police officer who is fired for excessive violence and then travels across the country in search of a woman he met online.
Director: Ivaylo Hristov
A comedy that deals with the hot-button subject of immigration, “Fear” deals with a Bulgarian schoolteacher who is ostracized by the residents of her small village when she takes in a refugee from Mali. The movie won the best-film award at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Cambodia: “White Building”
Director: Kavich Neang
This film’s title comes from a massive apartment building in Phnom Penh that was built in the early 1960s but demolished in 2017. It follows three residents in the building, which had become an artists’ enclave, in the time just before it was destroyed.
Cameroon: “Hidden Dreams”
Director: Ngang Romanus
Cameroon’s fourth-ever Oscar submission (one of which was disqualified), “Hidden Dreams” is set in the 1980s and deals with a British-trained scout who is sent to a small village.
Trailer (no subtitles, but largely English)
Canada: “Drunken Birds”
Director: Ivan Grbovic
The second feature from Canadian cinematographer and director Grbovic jumps back and forth in time and place, moving between a drug cartel in Mexico and a new life in Montreal for a rich drug lord’s wife and his former driver, who fled their home country in the hopes of reuniting in a safer environment.
Chad: “Lingui, the Sacred Bonds”
Director: Mahamat Saleh Haroun
When a 15-year-old girl in a small village becomes pregnant, the girl and her single mother must battle the legal and religious forces that try to prevent her from getting an abortion. The film premiered in Cannes this year and was acquired by MUBI.
Chile: “White on White”
Director: Theo Court
Court won the prize for best director in the Horizons section at the 2019 Venice Film Festival for this period drama set in the 19th century. Chilean star Alfredo Castro stars as a photographer who develops an obsession with the child bride of a wealthy landowner after he’s hired to photograph the couple.
China: “Cliff Walkers”
Directors: Zhang Yimou
This is the eighth time that one of Zhang Yimou’s films has represented China in the Oscars international race, and he is responsible for both of the country’s nominations with 1990’s “Ju Dou” (directed with Yang Fengliang) and 2002’s “Hero.” His new film is a spy thriller that is set in the days before World War II and follows Chinese agents trying to uncover and reveal human experimentation being done by the Japanese army in the puppet state of Manchukuo.
Colombia: “Memoria” *
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Weerasethakul is one of the foremost auteurs on the arthouse circuit, and he represented his native Thailand at the Oscars with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” in 2010. This time, he’s representing Colombia with his first film ever set outside Thailand, a dreamy puzzle that stars Tilda Swinton as an archaeologist who keeps hearing a loud boom that nobody else can hear. But the plot is almost irrelevant – what counts is Weerasethakul’s slow, meditative and almost hallucinogenic style, which resists conventional explanation but is strangely haunting.
Costa Rica: “Clara Sola” *
Director: Nathalie Alvarez Mesen
A quiet character study that somewhere along the line morphs into a Costa Rican version of “Carrie,” “Clara Sola” mixes religion, mysticism and sexuality in its tale of a 40-year-old woman under the thumb of a domineering mother. The film premiered in the Directors Fortnight section at this year’s Cannes.
Director: Danilo Serbedzija
Screenwriter-actress Lana Baric plays the title role in this film about a woman who is under constant pressure from those around her to have a child, even after suffering four miscarriages. Director Serbedzija last represented Croatia in the Oscar race for his 2010 black comedy “72 Days.”
Czech Republic: “Zatopek” *
Director: David Ondricek
Ondricek, whose father is famed cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, last represented the Czech Republic at the Oscars with “In the Shadow” nine years ago – and he’s been working on a film about famed Czech runner Emil Zatopek for longer than that. The biopic, which received a rousing ovation as the opening-night film at this year’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, stars Vaclav Neuzil as the eccentric runner who became a national hero but then was stripped of his Communist Party membership when he advocated for democratic reforms.
Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
An animated documentary made by a Danish director about an Afghan refugee, “Flee” is in the running to be the third film ever nominated for both Best International Feature Film and Best Documentary Feature, and it could conceivably add Best Animated Feature to that slate as well. Neon picked it up for U.S. distribution after its premiere at Sundance.
Dominican Republic: “Holy Beasts”
Director: Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas
The husband-and-wife team of Guzman and Cardenas also directed the 2015 Dominican Oscar entry, “Sand Dollars.” Six years later, they reunite with that film’s leading actress, Geraldine Chaplin, who plays an actress who comes to the Dominican Republic to complete the final, unfinished film of real-life Dominican director Jean-Louis Jorge, who died in 2000.
Director: Alfredo Leon Leon
The first announced entry was this drama in which Natalia Reyes (“Terminator: Dark Fate”) plays a young woman abducted by drug smugglers whose small submarine is sinking. A thriller set almost completely in a single confined space, the film played in the 2020 AFI Latin American Film Festival before becoming the first Ecuadorian movie to play in theaters after the pandemic.
Director: Ayten Amin
Selected as an official entry in the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival, “Souad” examines the conflict between the lure of social media and the strict rules of conservative religion through the person of a teenage girl. While Egypt has been submitting films to the Oscars since 1958, Ayten Amin is the first woman to ever have a film representing the country.
Estonia: “On the Water”
Director: Peeter Simm
A coming-of-age film with abundant comedic elements, “On the Water” deals with a shy teenage boy growing up in Soviet Estonia in 1982. Director Simm is best known for his 1980 drama “Ideal Landscape,” which was banned while Estonia was part of the Soviet Union.
Finland: “Compartment No. 6” *
Director: Juho Kuosmanen
This unlikely road movie features Seidi Haarla as a Finnish student headed to a remote town to study ancient petroglyphs and Yuriy Borisov as a boorish Russian miner with whom she must share a sleeping compartment on a train from Moscow to Murmansk, above the Arctic Circle. A gentle character study that moves slowly but pays off handsomely, the film shared Cannes’ grand prize with Asghar Farhadi’s “A Hero” and signed a distribution deal with Sony Pictures Classics.
France: “Titane” *
Director: Julia Ducournau
It won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, so it makes perfect sense that France chose “Titane” as its Oscar entry. But this is also a film that’ll show just how bold Oscar voters can be – a blood- and sex-soaked chronicle of a woman in her 30s who has sex with a car and then masquerades as a missing teenage boy. The Neon release is strong and original and deeply disturbing, the kind of film that in the past probably would have needed to be saved by the executive committee (which no longer has the ability to save anything) to make the shortlist.
Red-band trailer (no dialogue)
Georgia: “Brighton 4th”
Director: Levan Koguashvili
Georgian wrestler Levan Tediashvili made his acting debut in this film and won one of the movie’s three Tribeca Film Festival awards. He plays a former Olympic wrestler who travels from Georgia to see his son in Brighton Beach, New York, site of a large community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Germany: “I’m Your Man” *
Director: Maria Schrader
British actor Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) uses his perfectly chiseled looks to good effect in “I’m Your Man,” a sci-fi romance in which he plays an android programmed to be the perfect man for a skeptical, workaholic 40something businesswoman. The film from actress-director Maria Schrader, fresh off winning an Emmy for directing the miniseries “Unorthodox,” premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival and will be released in the U.S. by Bleecker Street.
Director: Georgis Grigorakis
Greece’s Oscar entries tend to veer between adventurous, often surreal films like the surprise 2010 nominee “Dogtooth” and last year’s “Apples” and more conventional, straightforward films. “Digger” belongs in the latter camp with its story of a rural farmer whose life is upset by a huge mining company and by his returning son; the film has won awards at Berlin, Sarajevo and Thessaloniki festivals.
Director: Gessica Geneus
Actor-turned-director Gessica Geneus’ drama, which is based on a true story, is only the second Oscar submission for Haiti. Its title character is a girl who dreams of escaping from the poor neighborhood where she lives with her mother, sister and brother.
Hong Kong: “Zero to Hero”
Director: Jimmy Wan
This biopic about So Wa Wai, the first athlete from Hong Kong to win gold at the Paralympic Games, was originally titled “On Your Mom, Get Set, Go!” It is the top-grossing local film in Hong Kong this year.
Hungary: “Post Mortem”
Director: Peter Beregendy
A few countries typically submit horror movies to the Oscars each year, and Hungary’s entry puts its horror in a stylish period setting. It takes place in 1918, where a young girl and a photographer who specializes in taking photos of the dead meet in a village where strange things are happening.
Iceland: “Lamb” *
Director: Valdimar Johansson
The feature debut of co-writer/director Johansson, “Lamb” is an offbeat and disquieting horror drama about about a rural couple (Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Guonason) who take in a child whose form is best left for the filmmaker to reveal. Bold, baffling and thoroughly creepy, the film premiered in Cannes and was released in the U.S. by A24.
Director: P.S. Vinothraj
An angry, troubled man takes his young son on a road trip through rural southern India to bring back the wife who has left him in this drama from first-time director P.S. Vinothraj. The jury at the International Film Festival Rotterdamn called the film “a lesson in pure cinema.”
Director: Kamila Andini
Arawinda Kirana plays the title character, a high school student who is determined to go to college even if it means turning down proposals of marriage from multiple men.
Iran: “A Hero” *
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Asghar Farhadi has directed five of Iran’s last 12 Oscar submissions, and his films “A Separation” (2011) and “The Salesman” (2016) brought the country its only two Oscars in the category and made it the only country to win twice in that time. Like his other winning films, “A Hero” is a meticulous examination of an escalating moral dilemma, with Amir Jadidi playing a man trying to persuade his creditor to forgive a debt that has landed him in prison.
Director: Haider Rashid
The “Balkan route,” a risky path that refugees take as they travel from Turkey to Eastern Europe is the setting for Rashid’s drama. The director says he based the film entirely on true stories of and from refugees who made the trip.
Director: Sean Breathnach
Irish writer Donal Ryan’s 2013 novel “The Thing About December” served as the basis for this drama about a reclusive young man who inherits his parents’ land when they expectedly die.
Israel: “Let It Be Morning”
Director: Eran Kolirin
When a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen tries to return to his home in Jerusalem after a wedding, he is blocked from doing so by Israeli soldiers in this drama from “The Band’s Visit” director Kolirin. The Palestinian cast of the film refused to attend the Cannes Film Festival when that festival classified the film as Israeli, but it became that country’s official submission when it won the 2021 Ophir Award.
Italy: “The Hand of God” *
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Sorrentino’s movies can usually be counted on for their extravagance, a quality that helped his “The Great Beauty” win the Oscar in 2014. But “The Hand of God,” while not without plenty of flourishes, is also Sorrentino’s most personal film, recounting the semi-autobiographical tale of a young man learning to love cinema (while also having a crush on his aunt, losing his virginity to a neighbor, etc.). Filippo Scotti plays the lead, which is to say he portrays a younger version of Sorrentino in the Netflix film.
Japan: “Drive My Car” *
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
“Drive My Car” is based on a Haruki Murakami short story, but that’s the only thing that’s short about this languid three-hour drama in which the credits don’t roll until 40 minutes have passed. The story of a theater director and the young woman hired to drive him as he stages a new version of “Uncle Vanya” won the screenplay award at Cannes, as well as the FIPRESCI and Ecumenical Jury awards.
Director: Mohamed Diab
Egyptian-born writer-director Mohamed Diab represented Egypt in the Oscar race with “Clash” in 2016, but now he is the Jordanian submission with this story of a teenage Palestinian girl who was conceived using the smugged sperm of her imprisoned father. The film premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Kazakhstan: “Yellow Cat”
Director: Adilkhan Yerzhanov
The lead character in this drama is obsessed with actor Alain Delon in Jean Pierre Melville’s hard-boiled 1967 French New Wave classic “Le Samourai,” and he gets his chance to mix it up with gangsters, corrupt cops and femme fatales in a small Kazakh town in Yerzhanov’s quirky film.
Kenya: “Mission to Rescue”
Director: Gilbert Lukalia
South Korea’s 2021 Oscar submission is based on a true story of the rescue of Korean diplomats from war-torn Somalia, and Kenya’s entry is set on the Kenya-Somalia border and based on the rescue of a French tourist who was abducted by the Somali terrorists in Al-Shabaab. It is only the sixth movie to be submitted to the Oscars by Kenya.
Kosovo: “Hive” *
Director: Blerta Basholli
Over the last four years, Kosovo has submitted three strong, subtle dramas directed by women, with first-time director Blerta Basholli telling the story of a real-life woman who started her own business after her husband disappeared and was presumed dead during the civil wars of the 1990s. An understated tale of female empowerment in the face of enormous loss, the film became the first movie to win the audience, jury and directing prizes at Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic competition.
Kyrgyzstan: “Shambala” *
Director: Artykpai Suyundukov
The harsh reality of life in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan is blended with the lure of folk legends in this mystical drama. The film features a standout performance from 10-year-old Artur Armanaliev.
Latvia: “The Pit”
Director: Dace Puce
The central character in Puce’s drama is a 10-year-old boy who is taken by his grandmother to the Latvian countryside, where he tricks a girl who is rude to him into falling into a pit. The repercussions of that event consume the town in this film, which premiered at the Tallin Black Nights Film Festival in 2020.
Lebanon: “Costa Brava, Lebanon”
Director: Mounia Akl
Nadine Labaki, who directed Lebanon’s 2018 Oscar nominee “Capernaum,” is the lead actress in this year’s entry, about a family who flee Beirut to live in a healthier environment in the mountains. The film screened in Venice and Toronto, winning the NETPAC prize at the latter festival.
Director: Jurgis Matulevicius
Based on a 1961 short story by Antanas Skema, “Isaac” begins in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during World War II, when dozens of Jews were publicly tortured and killed in what became known as the Lietukis Garage massacre. It then jumps forward two decades to follow a director who wants to make a film about the massacre and a photographer friend who harbors guilty secrets about the event.
Luxembourg: “Io sto bene”
Director: Donato Rotunno
This drama concerns the relationship between a man who has spent most of his life away from his native Italy and a young female artist who has left that country to look for a life elsewhere. The director, Rotunno, previously represented Luxembourg in the Oscar race with 2015’s “Baby(a)lone.”
Malawi: “Fatsani: A Tale of Survival”
Director: Gift Sukez Sukali
Only the second film from Malawi to enter the Oscar race, “Fatsani” deals with a young girl who has to work on the streets after her school is shut down.
Subtitled (largely English) trailer
Malaysia: “Hail, Driver!”
Director: Muzzamer Rahman
Income disparity and class divides in Malaysia are the subject of “Hail, Driver!,” which finds Amerul Affendi playing an aspiring writer who works as the private driver for a rich woman.
Director: Alex Camilleri
This film about a Maltese fisherman forced to take up black market fishing to support his family premiered at Sundance in January 2021. Kino Lorber picked up U.S. distribution rights after the festival.
Mexico: “Prayers for the Stolen” *
Director: Tatiana Huezo
The latest in a series of strong dramas that have dealt with the effect of Mexico’s drug culture on young people, first-time director Tatiana Huezo’s film follows a series of young girls growing up in a remote town that is under the brutal control of a cartel. Netflix is distributing the film in the United States.
Montenegro: “After the Winter”
Director: Ivan Bakrac
While many of the films from the former Yugoslavia deal with the dark aftermath of the country’s dissolution, “After the Winter” is focused on five friends who have spread out across the region but who remain in touch with each other. The film takes place over the course of a single year.
Morocco: “Casablanca Beats” *
Director: Nabil Ayouch
Part “Dead Poet’s Society” and part “8 Miles,” “Casablanca Beats” finds a former rapper heading to a community center to teach teens how to find their voices in hip-hop music. Wrap reviewer TK called it “a world cinema hip-hop musical, replacing dialogue with freestyle bars and tapping into a flow that it rides from the opening bookend all the way to the close.”
Netherlands: “Do Not Hesitate”
Director: Shariff Korver
Set in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, “Do Not Hesitate” creates a tense thriller out of a simple misunderstanding: A group of Dutch soldiers staying with a broken-down truck accidentally shoots a goat and then is confronted by a 14-year-old boy who says he’s the goat’s owner.
North Macedonia: “Sisterhood”
Director: Dina Duma
This drama about teenage girls hinges on what has become a familiar plot point: the uploading of a sexually explicit video to social media, which in this case fractures the relationship between two best friends and destroys the girl whose tape they uploaded.
Norway: “The Worst Person in the World” *
Director: Joachim Trier
Renate Reinsive won Cannes’ best-actress award for her performance in this romantic drama about a young woman trying to figure out love and career and who she wants to be. With a light touch and some wry cinematic tricks, director Trier (“Oslo, August 31”) has made a Norwegian version of “Frances Ha” that should be one of the category’s top contenders.
Palestine: “The Stranger”
Director: Ameer Fakher Eldin
A moody character study of a troubled doctor who lives in the Golan Heights but yearns to be elsewhere, “The Stranger” is also a portrait of a place where checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers seem to exist for no reason at all. Ameer Fakher Eldin’s directorial debut premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Panama: “Plaza Cathedral”
Director: Abner Benaim
Benaim is the director of the documentaries “Invasion” and “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name,” Panama’s Oscar submissions in 2014 and 2018, respectively. But this film, which gives him three of his country’s eight Oscar entries, is a piece of narrative fiction about a depressed middle-aged woman whose live changes when a wounded 14-year-old boy arrives at her door.
Paraguay: “Nothing but the Sun”
Director: Arami Ullon
Paraguay’s first Oscar submission was Ullon’s 2015 documentary “Cloudy Times,” and its fifth entry is the director’s new doc. “Nothing But the Sun” is the story of Mateo Sobode Chiqueno, who for four decades has been using a tape recorded to preserve the stories and songs of the indigenous Ayoreo people, who have been relocated and driven away from their traditional culture.
Peru: “Powerful Chief”
Director: Henry Vallejo
This drama follows an indigenous man who comes to the city of Puno and tries to find a way to survive despite having no home and no money. It was chosen over “Fever Dream” by Claudia Llosa, the director whose 2009 film “The Milk of Sorrow” remains Peru’s only Oscar nominee in 27 submissions.
Poland: “Leave No Traces”
Director: Jan P. Matuszynski
In 1983, Polish high school student and aspiring poet Grzegorz Przemyk was killed by Poland’s communist police force because of his opposition to the regime that had instituted martial law. This film stars “Corpus Christi” actor Tomasz Zietek and is based on a book by Cezary Lazarewicz.
Portugal: “The Metamorphosis of Birds”
Director: Catarina Vasconcelos
One year after submitting “Vitalina Varela,” one of the most adventurous films in last year’s international race, Portugal has entered a hybrid work that mixes documentary and fiction. The film is based on childhood memories from Vasconcelos’ family members but also uses painting, photography and staged tableaus; it has won numerous awards at film festivals around the world, beginning in Berlin early in 2020.
Romania: “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” *
Director: Radu Jude
Romania finally landed its first Oscar nomination last year with the documentary “Collective,” and now it’s trying to get another with the latest provocation from a director whose “Aferim!” and “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” were richly deserving but overlooked Oscar submissions. “Bad Luck Banging” is a bold and uncompromising piece of work that starts with a few minutes of hard-core pornography and ends with a half-hour argument in which all the participants are masked; it’ll test just how daring voters can be.
Trailer with English voiceover
Russia: “Unclenching the Fists” *
Director: Kira Kovalenko
“Unclenching the Fists” is only the second film from a female director ever submitted to the Oscars by Russian. (Anna Melikian’s “Mermaid” was the first in 2006.) This powerful story of a young woman who yearns to escape her suffocating small town life won the Un Certain Regard award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Trailer (no dialogue)
Saudi Arabia: “The Tambour of Retribution”
Director: Abdulaziz Alshlahei
Saudi actor Faisal Al-Dokhei won the acting award at the Cairo International Film Festival for his performance as the son of an executioner who falls in love with the daughter of a wedding singer. The film is Saudi Arabia’s fifth Oscar submission, and only the second from a male director.
Director: Ivan Ikic
As a film student, Ivan Ikic made a documentary about a love triangle that developed in an institute for people with mental disabilities; years later, he fashioned that story into a narrative feature using non-professional actors from the institution.
Singapore: “Precious Is the Night”
Director: Wayne Peng
A period murder mystery set in the 1960s, “Precious Is the Night” is the first narrative feature from documentary and music-video director Wayne Peng. In the film’s production notes, Peng calls this “a story about beautiful people with ugly hearts and intentions.”
Slovakia: “107 Mothers”
Director: Peter Kerekes
Documentary filmmaker Peter Kerekes was researching a nonfiction film when he came across the story of a women’s prison where inmates who have recently given birth are allowed to keep their children with them until the age of three. He fashioned the subject matter into a narrative feature, but shot it in the prison with actual inmates.
Director: Miroslav Mandic
This film is, in effect, a dramatic Slovenian twist on the American comedy “50 First Dates”: It’s set in a retirement home, where two residents who are suffering from dementia continually strike up a romance of sorts even though they always forget that they’ve met before.
Somalia: “The Gravedigger’s Wife”
Director: Khadar Ahmed
The first-ever Somali Oscar submission is a study of the effects of poverty, as a poor gravedigger must try to make enough money to pay for life-saving treatment for his ailing wife. First-time director based the film, which premiered in Cannes, on a death in his own family.
South Africa: “Barakat”
Director: Amy Jephta
Playwright and theater director Amy Jephta’s family drama is the first feature film to focus on the Cape Muslim community, which is made up of around 200,000 Muslims who live in and around Cape Town. TK plays a widowed mother who invites her four sons to a feast for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr so they can meet the non-Muslim doctor with whom she’s fallen in love.
South Korea: “Escape From Mogadishu” *
Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
Two years after its first nomination (and win) with “Parasite,” South Korea has gone with a large-scale action drama based on the true story of how North and South Korean diplomats teamed up to escape from the beseiged of Mogadishu during the Somali Civil War in 1990. Part political thriller and part “Argo”-style action flick, the film is South Korea’s highest-grossing film of 2021.
Spain: “The Good Boss” *
Director: Fernando Leon de Aranoa
Instead of selecting Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” with Penelope Cruz, the Spanish Oscar committee opted for “The Good Boss,” which stars Cruz’s husband, Javier Bardem. The actor plays the ambitious and duplicitous owner of a factory in this black comedy from the director of “Mondays in the Sun” (which, by the way, was selected as Spain’s Oscar submission over Almodovar’s “Talk to Her” in 2002).
Director: Ronnie Sandahl
Martin Bengtsson was signed to play professional soccer at the age of 15 and retired when he was 19, a short career that nonetheless led to his autobiography, “I skuggan av San Siro.” Writer-director Ronnie Sandahl adapted that book for this film, which won the best Nordic film and best actor awards at the Gothenburg Film Festival.
Director: Eli Grappe
Premiering in the Critics Week section at Cannes, “Olga” mixes sports and politics in its story of a Ukrainian gymnast whose training was disrupted by the 2013 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv. Switzerland was nominated five times and won twice between 1961 and 1990, but it has been shut out since then.
Taiwan: “The Falls”
Director: Chung Mong-hong
Many of this year’s Oscar entries were made at least partially during the pandemic, but this one is about the pandemic: It stars Alyssa Chia and Gingle Wang as a mother and daughter whose relationship is tested as they quarantine together during the early days of COVID-19. It is the second consecutive Taiwanese submission for Chung Mong-hong, who also directed last year’s entry, “A Sun.”
Thailand: “The Medium”
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
The second horror film to be submitted by Thailand in the last three years, after 2019’s “Krasue: Inhuman Kiss,” “The Medium” is set in the Isan region of Thailand, where a documentary crew arrives to shoot a local medium who may be possessed by a spirit (initially) assumed to be benign. The documentary angle gives the film a found-footage element.
Tunisia: “Golden Butterfly”
Director: Abdelhamid Bouchnak
A year after receiving its first Oscar nomination for “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” Tunisia has entered a drama about a policeman with a dark past whose life is impacted when he meets a small boy. Director Bouchnak is best known for the 2018 drama “Dachra,” as well as for a series of short films and TV series in Tunisia.
Trailer (no English subtitles)
Turkey: “Commitment Hasan”
Director: Sehim Kapanoglu
Director Kapanoglu first represented Turkey in the Oscar race with 2010’s “Honey,” the third film in a trilogy that also included “Eggs” and “Milk”; he returned to the race in 2019 with “Commitment” (or “Commitment Asli”), the first film in a second trilogy that now also includes “Commitment Hasan.” The new film deals with a rural farmer coming to terms with his past in preparation for making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ukraine: “Bad Roads”
Director: Natalia Vorozhbyt
Three years ago, Ukraine submitted the brilliant “Donbass,” in which director Sergei Loznitsa used 13 different stories to tell surreal, disturbing stories set during the mid-2010s war. This year, the country has gone with a film that tells four different stories during that same war, with director Vorozhbyt adapting her “chamber theater” play for the screen.
United Kingdom: “Dying to Divorce”
Director: Chloe Fairweather
Welsh documentary filmmaker Fairweather shot five years of footage to tell the story of Turkish lawyer Ipek Bozkurt, who works to find justice for women abused by their husbands. The film won the Amnesty International Prize at the Thessaloniki Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the Monte Carlo Film Festival.
Uruguay: “The Broken Glass Theory”
Director: Diego Fernandez
This black comedy focuses on an insurance investigator who arrives in a small town only to encounter an inexplicable (and no doubt intentional) series of car fires.
Uzbekistan: “2000 Songs of Farida”
Director: Yalkin Tuychiev
Deemed ineligible because of submission problems when it was entered into last year’s Oscar race, “2000 Songs of Farida” was resubmitted this year. The film is a family drama set in 1920 as the Russian Revolution spreads into neighboring colonies, threatening to change the lives of a rural landowner and his four wives.
Trailer (no dialogue)
Venezuela: “The Inner Glow”
Directors: Andres Eduardo Rodriguez, Luis Alejandro Rodriguez
Still looking for its first Oscar nomination, Venezuela has submitted a drama about a single mother who is diagnosed with a brain tumor but must continue to care for her 6-year-old daughter. The directors, who are known for their documentaries, made this narrative film in four weeks.
Vietnam: “Dad, I’m Sorry”
Directors: Tran Tranh, Ngoc Dang Vu
The only Oscar entry to be based on a web series, this comedy-drama hybrid is one of the top-grossing Vietnamese films of all time in its home country. Co-director Tran stars as a middle-aged motorbike rider who is perpetually beleagured by his family and neighbors in a poor section of Ho Chi Minh City.