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The Academy Announces 87 Foreign Films Competing for Award

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 87 films from South-east Europe and around the world that will be competing this year for the Best Foreign Language Film award. Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on January 22, 2019. The ceremony will take place on February 24, 2019.

Below are this year’s submission from all the South-East European countries (and more!):

Belarus was the first country to announce its submission this year with Darya Zhuk’s drama Crystal Swan. Set in the 1990’s, a peripatetic young DJ is derailed by a typo in a forged US Visa application, forcing her to a backwater village where she is determined to fake her way to the American dream. This will mark the third Belarusian submission so far.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has selected the drama Never Leave Me directed by Aida Begić. This co-production with Turkey tells the story of three displaced Syrian boys living a difficult life as refugees in the magical, mythical Turkish city of Sanliurfa. Searching for recovery from a traumatic past, the children cross the path from destructiveness and hostility to meaningful existence and love. Bosnia won this category in 2001 with Danis Tanović’s No Man’s Land.

Bulgaria has chosen Ilian Djevelekov’s Omnipresent. The film’s protagonist is Emil, a writer and owner of an advertising agency who gradually becomes obsessed with spying on his family, friends and employees with hidden cameras. In October 2017, this feature triumphed at Bulgaria’s Golden Rose film festival, winning Best Film, Best Actor and Actress, as well as the Audience Award categories. In 2009, Stephan Komandarev’s The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner made the shortlist but was not nominated.

Croatia will be represented by Ivan Salaj’s political comedy drama The Eighth Commissioner. It tells the story of an ambitious politician caught in a scandal and exiled to a remote island to keep him out of the public eye. There, he is tasked with organizing local elections – something his seven predecessors have failed to accomplish… Croatia has never been nominated in this category in the past.

Czech Republic has chosen Olmo Omerzu’s road-trip comedy Winter Flies. The story follows two mischievous adolescent boys who embark on a journey of misadventure and self-discovery. This film made its worldwide debut in July at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where it won the Best Director category. Czech Republic has been nominated three times for the foreign language category, and won in 1996 with Jan Svěrák’s Kolya.

Estonia has selected Take It or Leave It directed by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo. The film tackles themes of responsibility, single parenthood, and economic inequality. It tells the story of a 30-year-old construction worker who suddenly becomes a single parent when his ex-girlfriend delivers a baby girl, and informs him that she’ll put the child up for adoption unless he wants to take care of her. This is the third time Estonia has chosen a movie from producer Ivo Felt, whose 2014 Tangerines directed by Zaza Urushadze received the country’s only nomination.

Georgia has chosen Namme directed by Zaza Khalvashi. This lyrical feature had its international premiere at the Tokyo Film Festival. It is the story of a family determined to protect an ancient and venerated water source at all costs. Set in an idyllic rural location where Muslims and Christians live peacefully side by side, the ancient healing qualities of the water are threatened by the construction of a hydroelectric power station, which is blamed for the loss of the spring waters. Giorgi Ovashvili’s Corn Island made the shortlist in 2014 but was not nominated.

Greece will compete with writer-director Dora Masklavanou’s period drama Polyxeni. Set in 1955, the film centers on an orphaned 12-year-old girl, who embarks on a new life following her adoption by a prominent couple, seemingly unaware of devious designs on her large inheritance. Greece has been nominated five times for this category, with its most recent nomination for Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2010 feature Dogtooth (which lost out to Denmark’s In a Better Worlddirected by Susanne Bier).

Hungary has selected Sunset directed by László Nemes, which won the International Federation of Film Critics award at the 75th Venice International Film Festival. Set in Budapest on the eve of World War I, the film follows a young woman who arrives from Trieste looking for work at the elegant hat store once owned by her parents. Rebuffed by the shop’s current owner, she is drawn into a mystery surrounding her long-lost brother. Nemes won the Oscar in this category for the Holocaust drama Son of Saul in 2016, marking Hungary’s second win after István Szabó’s Mephisto in 1982.

Kosovo has chosen Blerta Zeqiri’s debut feature The Marriage. The romantic drama focuses on the experience of a bride, unaware that the man she is about to marry is still in love with his best friend. It marks only the fifth year Kosovo has entered the race for an Academy Award, and the first time the country has submitted a film by a female filmmaker.

Macedonia has submitted Gjorce Stavreski’s Secret Ingredient for consideration. In this dramedy, an underpaid train mechanic gives his father a cake made of stolen marijuana to relieve his cancer pain. However, he is soon cornered by criminals searching for their drugs and the nosy neighbors who want a recipe for the mysterious “healing” cake. In 1995, Macedonia earned a nomination with Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain, but lost out to Russia’s Burnt by the Sun directed by Nikita Mikhalkov.

 Montenegro is sending Gojko Berkuljan’s Iskra. This thriller follows a retired detective whose life is interrupted when his daughter disappears, and his investigation leads him back to his past. It marks only the fifth time Montenegro has competed in this category, and has yet to secure a nomination.

Romania will be represented by Radu Jude’s I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians. The film won the Crystal Globe for best film at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Set in present-day Romania, the film centers on a stage director preparing to mount a monumental historical re-enactment of an episode from the Holocaust: the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews by Romanian troops in Odessa. The title refers to an actual quote from a Romanian government minister in 1941. The director battles against official unease about the allegedly unpatriotic nature of the play, the trivialization of horrific historical events, and a revival of nationalist fervor in the country. Romania made the shortlist in 2012 with Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills but was not nominated.

Serbia will compete with Dejan Zečević’s Offenders. This thriller centers on three university students, who set up experiments around the city to prove the “Tetris” theory of chaos. Under that theory, human nature inevitably deteriorates from order to anarchy… Srdan Golubović’s thriller The Trap made the shortlist in 2008 but was not nominated.

Slovakia has selected The Interpreter directed by Martin Šulík as its entry. It tells the story of an 80-year-old man who finds a book by a former SS officer detailing his activities in Slovakia during World War II. Realizing that his parents were executed by the officer, he sets out to get his revenge but instead meets the officer’s 70-year-old son (Toni Erdmann star Peter Simonischek), who hardly knew his father. With the officer’s son acting as interpreter, the two men embark on a journey of discovery of the past and their own identity. Slovakia has not been previously nominated.

Slovenia has chosen Ivan, directed by Janez Burger (Silent Sonata). The film focuses on Mara, a young woman caught in a violent corruption affair and forced to make an impossible choice between the man she obsessively loves and her newborn son, Ivan. In September 2017, the film swept the Slovenian Film Festival, taking eight prizes, including Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Actress.

Slovenia has not been previously nominated.

Turkey’s contender will be Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree. This feature, which premiered in competition in May at Cannes, is Turkey’s fifth submission directed by Ceylan. The film tells the story of an aspiring writer who returns to his native village, where he pours his heart and soul into scraping together the money he needs to be published, only for his father’s debts to catch up with him. Ceylan’s Three Monkeys made the shortlist in 2008 but was not nominated.

Author:

Georges Aintablian is a Los Angeles based international film critic. He has been following Academy submissions for the last 20 years, and has a special interest in French films, Latin American Cinema (especially Mexico and Brazil), Middle Eastern films, and Asian Cinema (especially South Korea, China, and Japan). Georges speaks 8 languages, and writes about World Cinema and major film festivals in L.A. on his blog Cinémaniaque Films.

See his profile on Letterboxd.

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