Oscars: 5 Past Foreign-Language Nominees With Big Political Messages — And Zero Wins

8:00 AM 2/13/2017

by THR Staff

From 2005's 'Paradise Now' to 2014's 'Leviathan,' these films were praised by critics but lost to more sentimental films at the Academy Awards.

Courtesy of Anna Matveeva/Sony Pictures Classics

  • Paradise Now

    2005

    Warner Independent Pictures/Photofest

    Israeli-Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad's film about two Palestinian men preparing for a suicide attack in Israel sparked an Oscar controversy — it was submitted as Palestine's entry, though there is no country with that name — but it ended up losing to South Africa's Tsotsi.

  • Waltz With Bashir

    2008

    Sony Pictures Classics/Photofest

    Ari Folman's animated war documentary re-creates the filmmaker's own experience as an Israeli soldier during the 1982 Lebanon War — in particular his memories of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacre. It lost to Japan's more upbeat Departures.

  • The Baader Meinhof Complex

    2008

    Momentum Pictures/Photofest

    Departures also bested this German drama about a radical group that robbed banks and bombed stores in the '70s. It earned raves (87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) but was criticized in Germany for making the terrorists look glamorous.

  • Timbuktu

    2014

    Courtesy of Les films du Worso

    Abderrahmane Sissako's Mauritanian drama about a cattle herder caught up in the brutal jihadist occupation of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012 had resonance at the 2015 Oscars, as ISIS exploded as a geopolitical threat. But the trophy went to Ida, a Polish Holocaust drama.

  • Leviathan

    2014

    Courtesy of Anna Matveeva/Sony Pictures Classics

    This Russian drama, by director Andrey Zvyagintsev, about a small-town car mechanic battling to save his home from a land-grabbing mayor, also lost to Ida. But critics loved this chilling portrait of Putin's kleptocracy; it has a rare 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

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