Oscars: 15 Frontrunners in the International Film Race

5:34 PM 1/6/2021

by Patrick Brzeski, Alex Ritman, and Scott Roxborough

These movies from across the globe — which tell stories of struggle, crisis and celebration from a variety of cultural perspectives — are vying for noms in the race formerly known as foreign-language film.

Oscars: Frontrunners in the International Film Race
Courtesy Photos

 

 

  • 'I'm No Longer Here' (Mexico)

    A vivid and vibrant second feature from rising name Fernando Frías de la Parra, the genre-mashing musical drama — touching on themes of identity, poverty and immigration — is the story of dance-obsessed teen and gang leader Ulises, who is forced to flee his village near Monterrey and escape to New York after getting caught up in a killing.

  • 'El Olvido que Seremos' (Memories of My Father) (Colombia)

    Having won a 1993 Oscar for his native Spain (the comedy drama Belle Epoque), noted filmmaker Fernando Trueba is hoping to do the same for Colombia with this true story, scripted by his brother David Trueba, of Héctor Abad Gómez, a social justice campaigner who helped develop public health programs for the poor and founded Colombia's National School of Public Health.

  • 'The Mole Agent' (Chile)

    This extraordinary investigative work from director Maite Alberdi, which follows a private investigator in Chile who hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where his client suspects the caretakers of elder abuse, is one of the few films anywhere to deal seriously with the issues of old age by allowing the elderly to speak for themselves.

  • 'Arracht' (Ireland)

    Set in 1845 on the eve of the "blight" that would wipe out the country's potato crop and lead to the tragedy of the Great Hunger, the film — a striking debut feature from Tom Sullivan — centers on a fisherman who takes in a former Napoleonic soldier at the behest of a local priest. Told nearly entirely in the Irish language, Arracht first bowed at the Tallinn Black Nights Festival in 2019.

  • 'Another Round' (Denmark)

    Mads Mikkelsen stars as a high school history teacher who takes to day drinking to solve a midlife crisis in this Danish dramedy from director Thomas Vinterberg. Vinterberg's mix of flat-out comedy and philosophical introspection has made Another Round an audience favorite at festivals in San Sebastian and Toronto, as well as in Denmark, where it was a box office hit.

  • 'Two of Us' (France)

    Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier star as Nina and Madeleine, neighbors who have carried on a passionate but secret love affair for decades. When Madeleine suffers a stroke that renders her unable to move or speak, Nina is shut out of aiding in her recovery. What follows is a delicate, moving tribute to the enduring strength of love.

  • 'Collective' (Romania)

    Simultaneously a powerful tribute to journalism and a truly depressing examination of state-level corruption, Alexander Nanau's documentary follows a small team of dogged investigative reporters as they move from one exposé to the next, uncovering shocking levels of fraud at the heart of the country's notorious health care system. 

  • 'The Man Who Sold His Skin' (Tunisia)

    A Syrian man literally sells the skin on his back to a European artist, who turns it into a tattooed canvas. When he travels to Paris to be "exhibited," he finds himself in the middle of an international debate: As a human refugee, he will not be allowed in, but as a commodity — an expensive piece of art — he can travel across any border.

  • 'Notturno' (Italy)

    In his stylistic documentary observation of ordinary lives across the Middle East — the film crosses the borders between Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon — Gianfranco Rosi evokes the common humanity of those who live under the constant threat of violence. Rosi's subjective use of framing, sound and artifice dismisses any notion of impartial objectivity.

  • 'Quo Vadis, Aida?' (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

    Director Jasmila Zbanic's definitive drama on the Srebrenica massacre — the July 1995 killing of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys carried out by units of the Bosnian Serb Army — is told through the eyes of Aida, a Bosnian translator working for the U.N. peacekeeping mission that's tasked with preventing genocide and completely fails. 

  • 'You Will Die at 20' (Sudan)

    Amjad Abu Alala's powerful coming-of-age drama — centering on a boy cursed with a deadly prophecy since birth and hidden away from the outside world, a timely metaphor for a nation grappling with its own oppressive past — should help set a filmmaking landmark, making history by becoming the first Sudanese Oscar submission (this year joining fellow African debutant Lesotho). 

  • 'This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection' (Lesotho)

    The landlocked nation never before has submitted a film for Oscar consideration, but it could be first-time luck for this ambitious drama — about an octogenarian widow making arrangements for her death — from writer-director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese that won a special jury prize at Sundance for "visionary filmmaking."

  • 'The Man Standing Next' (South Korea)

    The historic success of Bong Joon Ho's Parasite at the 92nd Academy Awards is sure to galvanize interest in South Korea's 2021 submission. Woo Min-ho's taut political thriller takes place during South Korea's brutal military dictatorship period and centers on the inner circle of President Park Chung-hee over the 40 days that preceded his real-life assassination in 1979.

  • 'A Sun' (Taiwan)

    Both vivid and languid, Chung Mong-hong's A Sun takes the material of an Asian TV melodrama and injects it with surprising bursts of artfulness and masterfully controlled shifts in mood. The film explores the various personal and societal pressures a family of four endures after their youngest son is arrested for his part in a violent crime and sent to juvenile detention. 

  • 'True Mothers' (Japan)

    True Mothers tells the story of a middle-class Japanese couple whose placid happiness is imploded when the birth mother of their 5-year-old adopted child enters the scene with threatening demands. The film, which is based on the best-selling novel by Tsujimura Mizuki, marks only the third time Japan has put forward a film directed by a woman.

    This story first appeared in a January stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.