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JAN
16
3 YEARS

Oscars' Foreign-Language Film Cheat Sheet: A Country-by-Country Guide

The 63 international entries hoping to make the Academy's 2012 shortlist are a typically diverse lot.

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Alois Nebel"
Alexandre Lima/Courtesy of Ken & Kolar Communications

This story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The international entries hoping to make the Oscar shortlist are a typically diverse lot. So with 40 of this year's 63 hopefuls ready to screen at the Palm Springs Film Festival and the Academy preparing to narrow the feild, THR offers a rundown of every title.

ALBANIA: Amnesty
Director: Bujar Alimani

A conjugal visit sparks unexpected love when two people visiting their respective jailbird spouses fall for each other. This slow-burning entry is defiantly art house and could struggle to win over Academy voters.

ARGENTINA: Aballay
Director: Fernando Spiner

This gritty revenge thriller set in Argentina's gaucho culture can be seen as an homage to the bloody Westerns of Sam Peckinpah. It recently picked up eight Argentine Academy Awards, including one for best director.

AUSTRIA: Breathing
Director: Karl Markovics

The directorial debut of Markovics, star of 2008 foreign-language Oscar winner The Counterfeiters, this minutely observed look at a young offender trying to rebuild his life on the outside offers no great shocks or gimmicks -- just solid acting, a strong script and pitch-perfect execution by an actor-turned-director to watch. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

BELGIUM: Bullhead
Director: Michael R. Roskam

Less Raging Bull than The Sopranos: Flemish Edition, this gritty crime drama about a beefed-up cattleman who injects his cows and himself with growth hormone is, as THR called it, an "emotionally driven tale of revenge, redemption and fate." (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Belvedere
Director: Ahmed Imamovic

This haunting black-and-white drama traces the lasting impact on the families of the 8,000 Muslim men and boys murdered in Srebrenica during the Yugoslav Wars. The title comes from the name of the refugee camp where families wait as their loved ones are exhumed from mass graves.

BRAZIL: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
Director: Jose Padilha

Padilha's sequel to his Berlin festival-winning drama is a slicker, smarter and darker look at crime and corruption in the Brazilian favelas. Action films don't typically make the foreign-language shortlist, but this has the street cred to prove the exception. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

BULGARIA: Tilt
Director: Viktor Chouchkov Jr.

A Romeo and Juliet-style love story set in the underground skater scene of Bulgaria, circa 1989, the film has become an unlikely box-office hit, earning north of $1.2 million locally. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

CANADA: Monsieur Lazhar
Director: Philippe Falardeau

A festival crowd-pleaser, Lazhar won honors in Locarno and Toronto, where it took the jury prize for best Canadian feature. THR said, "This nearly perfect gem begins as a tiny slice of life, but it sneaks up on you and packs a wallop by the time it reaches its conclusion." (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

CHILE: Violeta Went to Heaven
Director: Andres Wood

A biopic about the intense life of Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra. Born into poverty, she became a voice for the oppressed with her highly political folk songs.

CHINA: The Flowers of War
Director: Zhang Yimou

Zhang shines a light on one of the darkest moments in Chinese history: the 1937 Rape of Nanking. Christian Bale's starring turn has helped Flowers become the highest-grossing film of the year in China, where it's taken in more than $70 million. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening; Golden Globes nominee)

COLOMBIA: The Colors of the Mountain
Director: Carlos Cesar Arbelaez

Mountain follows the story of three soccer-mad boys growing up in the remote mountains of Colombia who face constant danger resulting from the region's decades-old guerrilla war.

CROATIA: 72 Days
Director: Danilo Serbedzija

A dark comedy about a dysfunctional family living off the pension of their elderly aunt. Featuring Croatian star Rade Serbedzija of X-Men: First Class and Batman Begins.

CUBA: Habanastation
Director: Ian Padron

This children's film is a classic fish-out-of-water story about little rich kid Mayito who befriends Carlos, a boy from one of Havana's more disadvantaged neighborhoods. A box-office hit at home, Habanastation offers outsiders an inside look at ordinary life in the Cuban capital.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Alois Nebel
Director: Tomas Lunak

A rare animated entry in the foreign-language race, the film set during the late-1980s mixes history with psychology in its tale of a lonely railway-station dispatcher working on the border when the Berlin Wall falls. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

DENMARK: SuperClasico
Director: Ole Christian Madsen

When Christian's wife leaves him for a soccer superstar, he flies from Copenhagen to Buenos Aires to win her back. It's a refreshingly light entry from the country that gave us Lars von Trier and the more somber 2011 Oscar winner In a Better World. (Palm Springs Film Festival screening)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Love Child
Director: Leticia Tonos

A father-daughter reunion has unexpected consequences in this charming drama. Inspired by the plot of a soap opera, Child is the first feature from the Dominican Republic made entirely by a woman.

EGYPT: Lust
Director: Khaled El-Hagar

This melodrama about the matriarch of a poor Egyptian family who takes to begging won the Golden Pyramid Award for best film at the Cairo International Film Festival.