EXCLUSIVE: Two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad is going for a trifecta. His latest film, The Idol, has been selected by Palestine as its official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar category. Tim Grady and Jeff Lipsky’s New York-based Adopt Films acquired the feelgood title on the heels of its Toronto Film Festival Special Presentations premiere last year.

Partially filmed in Gaza, the movie tells the true story of Mohammad Assaf, the winner of 2013’s Arab Idol singing competition. As a young boy in Gaza, he dreams of singing in the Cairo Opera House and for the world to hear his voice. Somehow, he manages to make it to the Cairo auditions of Arab Idol, the most popular talent show in the region. As he advances to the latter stages of the competition, he must confront his own fears to take control of his destiny and bring hope and happiness to an entire region. Reviews were strong out of Toronto 2015.

The Idol stars a quartet of young actors from Gaza all making their big screen debut: Qais Attallah, Hiba Attallah, Ahmad Qassim and Abdalkarim Abubaraka. Also in the cast is Tawfeek Barhom. Special appearances are by Nadine Labaki (Caramel), Ashraf Barhoum (The Kingdom; Tyrant) and Ali Suliman (Paradise Now).

Abu-Assad was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar for 2013’s Omar and for 2005’s Paradise Now, which won the Golden Globe in that category. Adopt Films also handled Omar. Including The Idol, Palestine has submitted nine films to the Oscars; Abu-Assad’s movies are the only ones to have been nominated.

The Idol is written by Assad with Sameh Zoabi. Ali Jaafar (a former Deadline staffer) and Amira Diab are producers.

International sales are brokered by Seville International whose Anick Poirier is an executive producer. Cactus World Films’ Maya Sanbar and Sawsan Asfari are co-producers alongside Fortress Film Clinic’s Mohammed Hefzy and 03 Productions’ General Manager Fadi Ismail. Further co-producing are Majdal Productions’ Baher Agbariya, September Film’s Pim Hermeling, Key Films’ Hanneke Niens and Hans de Wolf, and the Dubai Film Market’s Enjaaz initiative. Also exec producing are Hamed Mokhtar, Tiziana Sousou, Bashar Al-Masri, Badr Jafar, Gisel Kordestani, Khaled Said, Wafic Said, Sassan Ahsani, Khalili Amiouni and Mufid Shawwa.

Here’s the running list of official entries for the Foreign Language Oscar:

  • 2016 Foreign Language Film Oscar Submissions

  • AfghanistanParting – Navid Mahmoudi
  • AlbaniaChromium – Bujar Alimani
  • AlgeriaThe Well – Lotfi Bouchouchi
  • ArmeniaEarthquake – Sarik Andreasyan
  • AustraliaTanna – Bentley Dean & Martin Butler
  • AustriaStefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe – Maria Schrader
  • BelgiumThe Ardennes – Robin Pront
  • BoliviaSealed Cargo – Julia Vargas-Weise
  • Bosnia and HerzegovinaDeath in Sarajevo – Danis Tanovic
  • BrazilLittle Secret – David Schurmann
  • Bulgaria Losers – Ivaylo Hristova
  • ChileNeruda – Pablo Larrain
  • Colombia Alias Maria – José Luis Rugeles Gracia
  • CroatiaOn the Other Side – Zrinko Ogresta
  • CubaThe Companion – Pavel Giroud
    Czech Republic Lost in Munich – Petr Zelenk
    Denmark Land of Mine – Martin Zandvliet
    Dominican RepublicSugar Flower – Fernando Baez Mella
  • EgyptClash – Mohamed Diab
    EstoniaMother – Kadri Kõusaare
  • FinlandThe Happiest Day inn the Life of Olli Maki – Juho Kuosmanen
  • FranceElle – Paul Verhoeven
  • GeorgiaHouse of Others – Rusudan Glurjidze
  • GermanyToni Erdmann – Maren Ade
  • GreeceChevalier – Athina Rachel Tsangari
  • Hong KongPort of Call – Philip Yung
  • HungaryKills on Wheels – Atilla Till
  • IcelandSparrows – Rúnar Rúnarsson
  • IndiaVisaranai – Vetrimaaran
  • IndonesiaLetters from Prague – Angga Dwimas Sasongko
  • IranThe Salesman – Asghar Farhadi
  • IraqEl Clásico – Halkawt Mustafa
  • IsraelSand Storm – Elite Zexer
  • ItalyFire at Sea – Gianfranco Rosi
  • JapanHaha to Kuraseba – Yoji Yamada
  • KosovoHome Sweet Home – Faton Bajraktari
    KyrgyzstanA Father’s Will – Bakyt Mukul & Dastan Japar Uulu
    Latvia Dawn – Laila Pakalniņa
    Lebanon
    Very Big Shot – Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
    LithuaniaSeneca’s Day – Kristijonas Vildziunas
    LuxembourgVoices from Chernobyl – Pol Cruchten
    MexicoDesierto – Jonas Cuaron
    Montenegro The Black Pin – Ivan Marinovic
    Morocco
    A Mile in My Shows – Said Khallaf
  • NepalThe Black Hen – Min Bahadur Bham
  • The NetherlandsTonio – Paula van der Oest
  • New ZealandA Flickering Truth – Pietra Brettkelly
  • NorwayThe King’s Choice – Erik Poppe
  • PakistanMah e Mir – Anjum Shahzad
  • PalestineThe Idol – Hany Abu-Assad
  • PanamaSalsipuedes – Ricardo Aguilar Navarro & Manuel Rodríguez
  • PeruVideophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes) – Juan Daniel Fernández
  • PhilippinesMa’ Rosa – Brillante Mendoza
  • PortugalLetters from War – Ivo M. Ferreira
  • RomaniaSieranevada – Cristi Puiu
  • RussiaParadise – Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Saudi ArabiaBarakah Meets Barakah – Mahmoud Sabbagh
  • SerbiaTrain Driver’s Diary – Miloš Radović
    SingaporeApprentice – Boo Junfeng
  • SlovakiaEva Nová – Marko Škop
  • SloveniaHouston, We Have a Problem – Žiga Virc
  • South KoreaThe Age of Shadows – Kim Jee-woon
  • SpainJulieta – Pedro Almodovar
  • SwedenA Man Called Ove – Hannes Holm
  • SwitzerlandMy Life as a Courgette – Claude Barras
  • ThailandKarma – Kanittha Kwanyu
  • TunisiaThe Flower of Aleppo – Ridha Behi
  • UkraineUkrainian Sheriffs – Roman Bondarchuk
  • United KingdomUnder The Shadow – Babak Anvari
  • UruguayBreadcrumbs – Manane Rodriguez
  • VenezuelaFrom Afar – Lorenzo Vigas
  • VietnamYellow Flowers on the Green Grass – Victor Vu