A record number of 76 countries submitted their film entries to the 86th Oscar Awards best foreign language film category whose deadline expired on October 1, surpassing last year’s total of 71 entries.
Those who beat the deadline included Albania, Azerbaijan, Chad, China, Indonesia and Moldova, which was one of two countries (the other is Saudi Arabia) that are first time entrants. Pakistan sent an entry for the first time in 50 years while Montenegro submitted its first film as an independent country.
The Philippines has submitted Transit by Hannah Espia as its entry but two other submitted films listed Tagalog as one of the main languages of their films. These are United Kingdom’s Metro Manila by Brian Ellis and Singapore’s Ilo-ilo by Anthony Chen.
The synopses for the last 21 films in the category are as follows:
Albania—Agon by Robert Budina
The film tells the story of two Albaian brothers, Saimir and Vini who try to integrate in the life of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. Saimir is engaged to a Greek young woman and works as a repairman in his would-be-father-in-law’s repair shop. But Vini, who does not want to be dependent on Saimir, befriends Ben, a human trafficker closely related to the local Albanian mafia. He earns easy money and lives in luxury, but in the meantime he discovers the terrible destiny of many girls who have become prostitutes. He falls in love with Majlinda, a prostitute, and seeks the help of his brother Saimir, pulling him into violence. This is Albania’s 8th submission with no nomination.
Afghanistan—Wajma by Barmak Akram
The film is the story of Wajma, a modern, middle-class young Afghan woman living in Kabul with her mother and brother. She keeps a secret relationship with Mustafa. When Wajma discovers that she’s pregnant, her world begins to disintegrate, specially when Mustafa does not accept paternity, contending that Wajma must not have been a virgin when they consummated their relationship.
Her father returns from his military assignment and tells Wajma she’s disgraced the family and completely ruined her prospects. He beats her and locks her away before confronting Mustafa, who denies any knowledge of Wajma’s pregnancy. When Wajma’s desperation drives her to extreme measures, the entire family must reevaluate the options for her future and well-being.
This is Afghanistan’s 8th submissions since it started sending in film entries in 2002 and still has no nomination.
Argentina—Wokolda by Lucia Puenzo
The film unfolds In 1960’s Patagonia when a German physician meets an Argentinean family and follows them on the long desert road to Bariloche where Eva, Enzo and their three children are going to open a lodging house by the Nahuel Huapi lake. Unaware of his true identity, they accept him as their first guest. They are all gradually won over by this charismatic man, by his elegant manners, his scientific knowledge and his money—until they discover they are living with one of the biggest criminals of all times. He turns out to be the Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, infamous for performing human experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
This is Argentina’s 40th submission and has already won two Oscars namely, 1985’s The Official Story by Luis Puenzo (father of Lucia Puenzo) and 2009’s The Secret in their Eyes by Juan Jose Campanella. It had also four nominations.
Azerbaijan—Steppe Man by Shamil Aliyev
The film tells the story of a young steppe man who lives far from the cities, closely communicating with nature. He is taught by his father Ulu all the tricks of the prairie life. Shortly after his father’s death, a new chapter begins in his life as he meets a girl who came from the village. For him the acquaintance with her is a step into a large and therefore unknown life. This is Azerbaijan’s 5th submission with no nomination.
Cambodia—The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh
The film recreates through clay figures, archival footage, and narration, the atrocities that Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979. This is Cambodia’s 3rd submission after 1994 and 2012.
Chad—Grigris by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
The film is about Grigris, a 25-year-old man who dreams of becoming a dancer although one of his legs is paralyzed. He knows this is really a challenge but he pursues his dream. But his dreams are shattered when his uncle falls seriously ill. To save him, he decides to work for petrol smugglers.
This is Chad’s 2nd submission, the first was in 2003 with the film Abouna, also directed by Haroun.
China—Back to 1942 by Feng Xiaogang
The film is based on Liu Zhenyun’s novel Remembering 1942, about a major famine in Henan, China, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It follows the story of Master Fan, a wealthy landlord in wartime Henan. When the village is suffering from famine, Fan still has plenty of food to feed his family and the villagers. A group of bandits come and rob the village, eventually burning it down to the ground. Fan’s son died in the process of stopping the bandits.
Fan flees his hometown with his daughter, wife and daughter-in-law. They are also accompanied by a servant, Shuanzhu. Along their way west, they meet Xialu, a fellow villager, and the latter’s family. They decide to flee together, but Fan’s food supply and money are robbed by NRA soldiers amid the chaos caused by Japanese bombing. Master Fan’s family members die one by one. He is eventually forced to sell his daughter into prostitution in return for food. Losing hope on life, he retreats eastward, planning to die somewhere near his home. On his way back, he meets a little girl who has just lost her mother. He adopts the girl as his granddaughter and they carry on their journey.
This is China’s 27th submission and it already had two nominated films before—1990’s Ju Dou and 2002’s Hero, both directed by Zhang Yimou.
Denmark—The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg
The story is set in a small Danish village around Christmas, and follows a man who becomes the target of mass hysteria after being wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a child. Lucas is a member of a small, close-knit, Danish community who works at a local kindergarten. A divorcé, Lucas struggles to maintain a relationship with his son due to his antagonistic wife, but enjoys wholesome interaction with the school children. Additionally, his co-worker Nadja makes advances towards him and eventually moves in as his girlfriend. This is soon ruined when nursery pupil Klara, who is also the daughter of Lucas’ best friend, Theo, wrongly accuses Lucas of showing his genitals to her. All the adults in the community readily believe her story and Lucas is shunned by the majority of the community as a sexual predator. The pressure causes him to break up with Nadja, and even his son is publicly ostracized.
This is Denmark’s 51st submission and it already won three Oscars for 1987’s Babette’s Feast by Gabriel Axel, 1988’s Pelle the Conqueror by Billie August and 2010’s In a Better World by Susanne Bier. It also boasts of six nominations and one film included in the January shortlist.
Ecuador—Porcelain Horse by Javier Andrade
This film focuses on Paco Chavez whose life is filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll. His younger brother Luis is a punk musician. Paco spends his days smoking crack and making love with his high school sweetheart Lucia, who is married to a gay music business executive who also happens to be involved in a relationship with Luis. But when Luis decides to steal a porcelain horse from his parents’ house in order to pawn it for drugs, a violent fight erupts between the two brothers and their father with tragic consequences for all.
Egypt—Winter of Discontent by Ibrahim El-Batout
The film is a raw depiction of torture during the Hosni Mubarak regime and attempts by the secret police to quash the 2011 Egyptian revolution. This is Egypt’s 29th submission with no nomination.
Estonia—Free Range by Veiko Ounpuu
The film dwells on the story of a young writer who faces an urgent decision about his future when learning of his girlfriend’s pregnancy. This is Ecuador’s 3rd submission with nop nomination.
(Next week: storylines of the final film entries)
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