With Oscar nominations covering a record-breaking 93 countries this year, eight films from MENA have been entered into the “Best International Feature Film” category at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this week.
Formerly known as “Foreign Language Film”, the newly-renamed Oscar category features Lebanon’s 16th entry — “1982” — which reportedly took director Oualid Mouaness eight years to get screened in theatres. It stars Oscar-nominated Lebanese filmmaker, Nadine Labaki.
Egyptian family drama film “Poisonous Roses", is also being considered and is already a domestic winner, having won three awards at the 40th Cairo International Film Festival.
Morocco’s “Adam”, Palestine’s “It Must Be Heaven”, Saudi Arabia’s “The Perfect Candidate” and Tunisia’s “Dear Son” have also been officially entered in the race. Iran has submitted 25 films for the prestigious annual ceremony, with “Finding Faride” the country’s first documentary submission.
According to the Academy, all foreign films submitted are eligible for entry only if they’re a “feature-length motion picture (more than 40 minutes) produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue track”, and have to be released in their respective countries between October 1, 2018 and September 30 2019.
Although Algeria’s official entry, “Papicha” faced censorship challenges in the country, Mounia Meddour's youthful rebellion feature set during the Algerian Civil War was also granted inclusion by the Academy. Algeria has been a four-time Oscar nominee but only won in 1969 with Costa-Gavras' political thriller “Z”.
Outside of MENA, Nigeria, Ghana and Uzbekistan are first-time entrants in the Oscar category.
The 10 films shortlisted will be revealed on December 16. Before the 92nd Oscars takes place on February 9 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the five final nominees for “Best International Feature Film’ will officially be announced on January 13.
Here are the eight MENA foreign-language contenders vying for a “Best International Feature Film” Oscar: