The Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film will be announced later this week in what is an earlier-than-usual reveal for the nine films that will vie for the ultimate five nomination slots. As with each year, there are dozens of distinct submissions from a host of countries — 85 this time around — with new voices and old hands entered in the race. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Phase One and Executive Committees, which weed out the lead crop, can be unpredictable and we’ll know for certain what’s made the cut on Thursday. In the meantime, below is my annual look inside the films which appear to be the strongest contenders. I spoke with the directors about their inspirations — and how life has been on the campaign trail. If there’s one theme, it’s that many filmmakers have the current state of the world on their minds, even if their works are period or comedy. The titles below are in no particular order.

THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI (Finland); Director: Juho Kuosmanen; U.S. Distributor: MUBI

the happiest day in the life of olli maki
Sami Kuokkanen

Juho Kuosmanen first feature, a 16mm, black-and-white boxing drama/love story, premiered in Cannes and won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section. Inspired by real events. It tells the story of Mäki, the first Finn ever to fight for boxing’s world featherweight championship. Distracted by thoughts of a new love, he lost the match in the second round by knock out in front of a packed stadium. According to Mäki it was the best day of his life.

Kuosmanen says he found similarities between himself and his subject as he began researching the boxer. “Everybody wanted him to be the next national hero and at the same time, he had his own interests and he really didn’t want to be that hero.” There were parallels for the director “in the way I was thinking and Olli was thinking. I had huge pressure and expectations for my first feature because my shorts had been quite successful… The expectations were eating the joy out of my filmmaking.” Maki’s story, he tells me was “very comforting. He lost it but he really found something in himself also.” Asked if he found himself, Kuosmanen says, “At least I found my joy of filmmaking again.” So is it a love story or a sports movie? It’s the former. “It’s not just about the love between Olli and Raija, but also about the love of the smallest details in life that makes life beautiful.” The film has been sold to more than 40 countries and Kuosmanen has been in demand during his time spent in LA this awards season. But, while awards “have a huge effect and are very important to make the film known, in the end it shouldn’t change you as a filmmaker.”

LAND OF MINE (Denmark); Director: Martin Zandvliet; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Land of Mine.jpeg
Nordisk Film

War drama Land Of Mine debuted in Toronto back in 2015, but producers decided to hold it from contention in last year’s Oscar race in favor of a good release date at home and some more festival play in places like Sundance and Sydney. The plan worked with the film selling over 170K tickets in Denmark and now being submitted by the country as its Foreign Language entry. So how has it been revisiting the film after nearly a year? “It surprised me when I came over here,” Zandvliet told me from LA. “People still break down and cry from the emotion. It just tears people apart.” The story is set after World War II and sees German POWs forced to remove land mines from Danish beaches. Three things led Zandvliet to the story. One: his father is from Holland but born in Germany “which he was always embarrassed about and I never understood.” Two: “I have a German half-brother and sister and once, I was out with them at a bar and somebody saluted them in the German way you’re not supposed to. I was so shocked. They were so young and had nothing to do with that. It made no sense to me.” Three: “With Denmark, we have a way of portraying ourselves as the good, helping nation. In all the movies we make, we’re always helping the Jews flee to Sweden and I just think its bullsh*t. We’re just as evil as any other country. We have the same dark chapters and I think it’s my responsibility as a director to tell those stories.”

As with many other directors on this page, Zandvliet is concerned about the state of Europe today where “borders are being built and the wrong politicians are in charge. We need to wake up.” Land Of Mine was a family affair with Zandvliet’s wife Camilla Hjelm as DP (she just scooped one of the three EFAs won by the film this weekend) and his daughter acts in the movie. Describing what perhaps sets the film apart, the director says “We’re very much there when we shoot, it never becomes a production. We watch and learn and listen.”

A MAN CALLED OVE (Sweden); Director: Hannes Holm; U.S. Distributor: Music Box

mancalledoveposter
Music Box Films

Swedish box office hit A Man Called Ove just took the European Film Award for Best Comedy, but director Hannes Holm says for him, “The best stories are a mix with everything: comedy, despair, tragedy, loneliness, happiness — as life.” The film is based on Fredrik Backman’s hit 2012 novel and became the third-highest-grossing domestic film in Swedish history after its December 2015 premiere. The story centers on a grumpy yet loveable man who finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Holm typically writes his own films, but after discussing it with his producer, he read the book again. “It had a great story and it also contained many current time-marks. Problems we see every day now with the refugee problems in Europe, unemployment, a world changing into the digital era… The Ove saga never puts these elements in the first place. They are there, but it’s always the story first and when you put the story first magic things happens.” On a more personal level, Holm says he saw his own parents’ love story in the book. “When I was young in Sweden and it was raining, as it usually does, I went to the bookshelf and took the family album and looked for hours at all the black-and-white pictures of my mum and dad before we children came to spoil their beautiful paradise… But the pictures were silent. Now I could put some sound and movement to them.” Holm showed the movie to his elderly father who, in a twist, “was more happy about another love story he could relate to – the love of a Saab! He had been driving Saabs all his life… And of course hated the Volvo-freaks.” Holm clearly has a great sense of humor, but is able to balance that with drama. “When I sat behind the monitor the days we shot the scenes when Ove is trying to hang himself I was so happy I chose one of the greatest actors in Scandinavia (Rolf Lassgard) to play Ove. Those scenes are such good a example of the thin balance between comedy and drama. Too funny, you just don’t care if Ove dies. Too dramatic, and the scene would be too distasteful.”

This is Holm’s first time repping Sweden at the Oscars and he says of the Foreign Language campaign process, “In a way it’s easier for me now to understand how Trump won the presidential campaign. Sometimes you think ‘Is this really about my film or is it politics?’ and I’m sure many people, and probably both Trump and Hillary, thought during the presidential campaign ‘Is this really politics or is it a film?’” But the most important thing is how much everyone loves movies. “I haven’t felt it stronger anywhere in the world than in Los Angeles. And I also love that the feeling is broad! I don’t feel so much at home going to film festivals. Most of the people on the festivals are real nerds. Discussing films I never heard about or will hear about. But meeting people during the Oscar campaign season I meet people with a very wide sense of what they like or not.” He adds, “I must also mention all the lovely retired people from the movie business I met in LA. I could easily sit with them for years and listen to their great stories when they were making films I saw when I was young!”

DEATH IN SARAJEVO (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Director: Danis Tanovic

death-in-sarajevo
Margo Cinema

Arguably the best-known filmmaker to hail from Bosnia, Tanovic has represented his country four times at the Oscars. He won the Foreign Language Academy Award in 2002 for No Man’s Land. A political filmmaker, he’s currently working on a first English-language project, Invisible, which will shoot in London. We sat down there recently to talk about Death In Sarajevo which he adapted from the play by controversial French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. The film won the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. It’s set at the Hotel Europa in Sarajevo in 2014, the centenary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which marked the starting point of World War I. Intended as a celebration, the day is chaotic as the hotel staff is planning to go on strike; an EU emissary is preparing his speech; a TV reporter interacts with Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip (namesake of the assassin) on the roof; there are strippers in the basement; and a security guard is watching everything. All the while, the hotel manager is struggling to get through the big day. Henri-Lévy’s play was a one-man show and Tanovic changed things up for the film. “There were two problems. One, it’s a monodrama. I knew it would be too difficult to pull that off.” And, “It was Bernard’s opinion about things. They’re very important, but I disagree with about half of what he says. So, I showed his part but I also showed how I feel about (the subject)” which is an allegory for our times.

Tanovic says, “We need to get the lessons from history right quickly, because we’ve kind of lost them and we have to remember them again. By day, my film is becoming more relevant and scary.” Tanovic knows what he’s talking about. Winning the Oscar in 2002 changed some things for him, “Before No Man’s Land, I was a refugee trying to make a living and after that was an Academy Award winner.” But having lived through a devastating war, he’s worried about the world today and the rise of the far right in the U.S. and Europe. “I’ve been through this situation. I lost everything and I’m thinking, ‘Do we really have to go through this again?’ I lived through a system that fell apart and never came together again in my country.”

NERUDA (Chile); Director: Pablo Larrain; U.S. Distributor: The Orchard

Luis Gnecco - Neruda.jpeg
The Orchard

This is Chilean helmer Larrain’s third time with a Foreign Language submission after last year’s The Club and 2012’s No, which scored a nomination. Neruda debuted in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and is a twist on the biopic genre. Larrain calls it “a movie about the Nerudian cosmos. It’s less a movie about Pablo Neruda than it is like going to his house and playing with his toys.” Luis Gnecco plays the poet-turned-politician who went underground in 1948 and Gael Garcia Bernal plays the (invented) cop assigned to hunt the communist influencer down. This is one of two films the director, who says he is “active” and “aware and worried about the political reality,” has at stake in the Oscar race. The arguably higher-profile Jackie – another non-traditional biopic – is in the hunt in the main races meaning Larrain is busier than usual this year. Both scored Golden Globe nominations yesterday and are related. Neruda is about a man on the run and trying to affect change through art whereas Jackie was also working to help prop up a country lost in the aftermath of the assassination of her husband, John F Kennedy.

Larrain has told me, “I think Neruda and Jackie are both movies about people who work and shape their own legends or somebody else’s.” In Chile particularly, Neruda is still everywhere. “You grow up in a country where he’s so much an icon and is someone who described our society and our history and our people and who we are way better than any historian or journalist or anybody. We exist through those words, so this movie is like getting all of his work and sweating a film out of what we experienced and read from his work… He gave us the key to make this movie and make such a free interpretation of his work.”

ELLE (France); Director: Paul Verhoeven; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Isabelle Huppert - Elle.jpeg
SBS Distribution

Verhoeven was last part of the Oscar conversation with 1973 Turkish Delight. In retrospect, he says “It’s quite amazing that a movie with a lot of sexuality at that time was nominated. It was an unusual movie for Hollywood.” Today, “if you look at the development of American cinema, everything that has to do with erotics is nearly not present anymore.” And yet, here’s Elle, Verhoeven’s somewhat controversial drama about a woman Isabelle Huppert, who is raped and then tracks the man down, both drawn into a curious and thrilling game. Is this a reaction to the way things have changed? Not exactly says the Dutch helmer. But, he allows, “For me it was finally something that is more interesting. It was unusual and controversial and people might have problems. But as a story it’s innovative, daring, audacious. And, has a very strong woman as a protagonist which is anyhow very interesting for me.” A twist of the film is that it “doesn’t go into revenge mode, it goes in the opposite direction. It was interesting to find out who the rapist is at the end of the second act then going into a different direction. And I thought the social interaction between the nine people which has nothing to do with the plot was certainly something I never had done.”

Originally conceived as an American adaptation, the action moved back to France when it became clear there “was no interest financially or artistically in the project in the United States.” Working in French for the first time was scary and produced headaches in Verhoeven who nevertheless climbed a “big mountain” to conquer his fears. As a young man, he spent a gap year in Paris and later became highly influenced by films like Hiroshima Mon Amour, Breathless and the 400 Blows. The recognition he’s getting now is “gratifying, and you have a feeling you open a new way of expressing yourself. Rather than my American films from 1985-2002, there is more of a connection of Black Book and Elle with my Dutch movies.” So, would he escape from the realism and do another Starship Troopers? He’s certainly been asked, but laughs, “Luckily enough, I have been able not to do another one.” He’s got at least seven projects percolating at home and abroad, though. “When I used to work in Holland, also most of the time in the U.S., it was always very easy to really consider one project and then go to the next and not having 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 movies in your head. It has become much more difficult to concentrate on one movie because the chances it doesn’t go forward are about 80%.”

THE SALESMAN (Iran); Director: Asghar Farhadi; U.S. Distributor: Amazon/Cohen Media Group

Salesman
Salesman

Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi is back this year with The Salesman, a suspenseful drama that won him the best screenplay prize in Cannes, along with a best actor award for lead Shahab Hosseini. The Separation helmer is not one to shy away from a challenge – his last film was shot in French even though he barely speaks the language and his next is in Spanish and English – here returns to the streets of Tehran and takes on Arthur Miller. After their old flat becomes damaged, a young couple, Emad (Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), is forced to move into a new apartment. Once relocated, a sudden eruption of violence linked to the previous tenant changes the couple’s life. In the film, the couple is also starring in a production of Death Of A Salesman. Farhadi tells me that from the time he was a student in the theater, he “always had the image in my head of a theater set of a home and lighting it.” The opening scene, he says, “was in my head and I had to make a movie with that image.”

The psychology of revenge runs through the central premise and Farhadi says, “That’s why the situation is complex, whichever way they go, there is a cost they have to pay for.” Families in The Salesman – of an old man who becomes entangled with the young couple — and Miller’s play mirror one another, says Farhadi. “Here in our story, although the wife of the old man (Babak Karimi) has a doubt, she supports and is always kind to him. In Death Of A Salesman, Willy Loman had made a mistake that his son saw and during his whole life humiliates him with that. Here the old man had done something wrong as well, and all around it’s humiliating.” Farhadi won’t offer whether he prefers to shoot in his native language, but says, “When I make movies in Farsi, I feel like I make them more with my heart. When you are outside your country and making movies in other languages, you make them more with your head.” He says he doesn’t choose the path, though. “One day you open your eyes and the story you want to tell (is there) and belongs to a specific geography and that pushes me to make films around the world.”

JULIETA (Spain); Director: Pedro Almodovar; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Julieta.jpeg
Sony Pictures Classics

Spanish master Almodovar’s 20th film premiered in Cannes this year and continued to find favor at major festivals. The melodrama scored three European Film Award nominations and has been called a return to form for the Oscar winner. Emma Suarez stars as Julieta, a woman who has become estranged from her daughter after suffering the loss of husband Xoan. When Julieta leaves Madrid, she gets sidetracked by a chance encounter. Adriana Ugarte plays Julieta’s younger self. It’s based on three short stories by Canadian Nobel laureate Alice Munro. Almodovar says he enjoyed Munro’s works, “but I never thought I could adapt any of them into a film. That changed when I read Chance, Soon and Silence. That was the first time I had the intuition that those might be the ones suited for that purpose, because all the three stories have the same protagonist as well as a more cinematic dynamic… What appeals me the most in her stories is a sort of breath of everyday strangeness.” Are there other foreign authors he would transfer? “I’d love to adapt Tender Is The Night, by Scott Fitgerald, and Lucia Berlin’s stories in A Manual For Cleaning Women,” he says.

What about this so-called ‘return to form’? “I guess that is a positive reaction applied to my last movie and, as such, I am grateful,” he says. As for the Oscar zoo which he’s been a part of before, he says, “It’s exciting to be a part of it… but it’s not the end of the world if you aren’t. I take advantage of it to meet and get to talk to artists I admire and someday I could even work with.” I also wondered how he’d changed since his first time at the party. “I am not the same person I was back in 1988, when I got my first nomination with Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown. I was much younger then and everything was new to me. The documentary and foreign film categories have changed quite a lot too. Now all the Academy members can vote for them without having to certify they’ve seen all them all and this is a major advance for these categories.”

FIRE AT SEA (Italy); Director: Gianfranco Rosi; U.S. Distributor: Kino Lorber

Fire At Sea
Kino Lorber

Rosi’s Fire At Sea is the director’s first time in the Foreign Language race – and it’s already made the documentary shortlist. The film about the tiny island of Lampedusa, which has become a metaphor for the refugee crisis, won the Golden Bear in Berlin earlier this year and has gone on to play several major festivals and been sold in 64 countries. When I spoke with Rosi from Rome, he had just returned from three months of travel – and picking up an EFA Award for Best European Documentary — which was exhausting but exhilarating. “I’m a one-man crew,” he said. “The joke is, it’s like your own wedding day. Every day you make a speech,” he laughed. On a more serious note, he never set out to make a political film and yet Fire At Sea has stirred discussion. “It was never really an ideological approach, but since Berlin it’s been so much about politics. The film was parallel to the revolution. Two years ago no one was talking about it. Then everything became very tangible” as refugees fled stricken areas. “So, now the film has a universality.” He calls Lampedusa “a beacon of the crisis” and says the film “became a metaphor for me. The Navy militarized the border… There is no contact anymore between the island and the people. The two worlds touch each other but don’t interact. It’s the same elsewhere… We live in a world right now with voices of intolerance and hatred and a mental and physical barrier.”

But, with a push in both the FL race and documentary, there is a barrier that is breaking down between documentaries and fiction, Rosi says, with docs headed more towards the “language of cinema.” When “reality imposes itself in such a beautiful way, that’s when a documentary becomes cinema.” His experiences during Academy screenings have been “incredible.” At festivals, one never interacts with the juries but voters have been “really interested to hear” about the film. “It’s an incredible stimulus. You learn more about your own film when you listen to questions and have to rationalize it. You become more aware.”

THE KING’S CHOICE (Norway); Director: Erik Poppe

kings-choice
Nordisk Filmdistribusjon

Poppe’s drama broke box office records at home and has had a warm welcome in the States. At its Toronto screening, Norway’s Crown Prince and Princess were in attendance for the film which examines the events of April 9, 1940, when the Germans descended on Oslo and gave the king an ultimatum: surrender or die. Poppe says he was surprised the real story “was that dramatic; that the king and his son almost died; that they were so close to being destroyed.” The story was not as well-known as Poppe had thought – it’s not taught in detail in schools – and he says he “wanted to get it as right as possible for the audience and so that the film would define who the king was more than any book.” He also wanted to use advisors who remembered the actual time. “There were not many left, so I had to hurry to get production together. I probably set a new world record for having the oldest assistants. The average age was 94.” It was also important to give those people “an opportunity to be sitting down with their kids and grandkids to share what happened.”

But he didn’t want the king to be a typical hero. “I wanted to show him as a person like you and me. We have doubts and beliefs and are just in the middle and really don’t know what’s going on. We just have to act.” Now, he says, “The subject of leadership has been on my mind a lot and when I saw the story saw there were parallel lines that were years and months before the war broke out that were chaotic — and it seems to be the same again.” In a recent historic moment, the King and Queen of Norway asked for a special screening of The King’s Choice in the park in downtown Oslo to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their monarchy. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.” After an Oscar nomination in 2004 with Hawaii, Oslo, Poppe had the chance to work in Hollywood but deferred until his kids got older. Now, he says, he’s ready. But there’s a codicil, “The idea is that if I come here and work here, I’m going to work as a filmmaker not a director for hire.”

BARAKAH MEETS BARAKAH (Saudi Arabia); Director: Mahmoud Sabbagh

barakah
MPM

The debut feature of writer/director Sabbagh is only the second film ever selected to represent Saudi Arabia at the Oscars. The movie, which debuted in Berlin, is a candid love story about young would-be couple Barakah and Bibi. In a society where meeting in public unchaperoned is prohibited and physical contact is forbidden, they find themselves in a near-impossible situation just trying to have a first date. The pic explores the clashes between traditional values and the modern world. Sabbagh says he “wanted to do something original that challenges the stereotypes against and among ourselves.” Filmed entirely in Jeddah, the project was somewhat a “guerilla” experience. There is no film commission in Saudi, so the production applied for a TV series permit and shot with that. “We were very smart about it,” laughs Sabbagh. He rehearsed with his actors for four months so that when it came time to step outside and call action, “we always got it on the first or second take.” Jeddah is more progressive than some other areas of the Kingdom, but caution was taken to shoot on weekends or early in the morning “to avoid bureaucracy. If a cop would stop us, it would take up time. We were also afraid of people with smartphones. These are the worst.” It was also a conscious decision to be out in the open. “I wanted to make a movie about public space which is a big issue for our generation.”

Sabbagh’s generation is important to him. “The ministry of culture doesn’t really help us. They don’t see the importance of establishing any sort of cinema infrastructure or a film commission… Making a film was in my grasp and I had the courage to push the project, but I know there are a lot of great stories and filmmakers who can’t make their movies because there is no support. I want to make more of a dialogue with officials to establish a vehicle for production… It’s not about this movie, it’s about making more movies in Saudi by me and great talents.” Sabbagh, who got his Masters at Columbia, is currently writing his next script. “It’s my cause and I want to keep doing at least two or three movies from Saudi and then be open to do films outside Saudi… Saudis want movies, they want to make movies, they want stories to be told. This is why I feel we have to do something.”

TONI ERDMANN (Germany); Director: Maren Ade; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Toni_Erdmann_Hueller_Simonischek
SPC

When Ade’s Toni Erdmann debuted in Cannes, it received arguably the best reviews of any film at the festival. But it walked away from the main competition empty-handed prize-wise, save for the FIPRESCI. It has made up for that in spades ever since, winning the NY Film Critics’ Circle’s top award in Foreign Language as well as kudos from the Brussels International Film Festival and recently swept the European Film Awards with five wins. It also topped Sight & Sound’s best of 2016 list; is the only movie of 2016 to have landed on BBC Culture’s recent survey listing the Top Films of the 21st Century; has an Indie Spirit nom and a Golden Globe nomination.

The bittersweet comedy revolves around an older man who begins to play pranks on his adult daughter after finding her too self-serious. Sony Pictures Classics acquired in Cannes and Co-President Michael Barker recently told me that the film is “fresh” and a “game-changer.” Ade, a self-professed fan of Andy Kaufman, was not available to speak for this piece, but has said the movie took six years to make. In Poland this weekend, accepting the Best European Film Award, she noted with joy (and dismay) that this was the first time in the European Film Academy’s history that a movie directed by a woman had won the top prize.

UNDER THE SHADOW (UK); Director: Babak Anvari; U.S. Distributor: Vertical Entertainment

Under the Shadow.jpeg
Vertical

British-Iranian helmer Anvari’s film premiered to strong reviews in Sundance earlier this year and scored a streaming deal with Netflix as well as a global day-and-date release on digital and VOD platforms, alongside a targeted theatrical release, courtesy of a partnership between Vertical and XYZ Films. Written and directed by Anvari, Under The Shadow is set in 1988 Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war The story sees a mother and daughter struggle to stay together amid the bombing campaigns and bloody revolution while a mysterious evil stalks through their apartment. The Farsi-language thriller is one of only 14 films ever submitted from the UK, and Anvari – who was born in Iran but has lived in Britain for more than 14 years – was insistent about making the movie in his native language. “I met with a dozen producers and one of the things they would say was, ‘It’s a great script, is there any chance we can shoot in English?’ I said no, for the sake of authenticity. I was very adamant from day one to do it in Farsi.”

The idea for a psychological horror film came from having grown up in Iran during the war. “By the time it ended, I was more or less the same age as the child in the film and remembering all of the anxiety because of the war and the country going through a lot of changes, it made sense to set a psychological horror in that setting. I was surprised no one had done it before,” Anvari told me recently in London. Anvari’s next project is a Hitchcockian thriller that will be made in English. Will he return to his roots at some point? “Ultimately I was born (in Iran) and spent my childhood and teenage years there. Subconsciously, it’s part of me and will show one way or another in my work, but I won’t try to squeeze it in.” From the first screening in Sundance to an Indie Spirit nomination and three BIFA Awards this month, Anvari says, “Coming this far is great; being chosen by BAFTA as the UK’s (Oscar) entry feels great. It’s good to know there is that support behind a little film.” But, he says, “I’m keeping a level head and focusing on future” which will be to take things “step-by-step. Each step will be bigger and better, but I don’t want to jump ahead.”

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (Switzerland); Director: Claude Barras; U.S. Distributor: Gkids

My Life as a Zucchini.jpeg
GKIDS

With his first feature vying in two major Oscar categories, Swiss director Barras did 25 screenings in 25 weeks and was invited to Pixar, Sony and DreamWorks to show the film. “It’s an adventure,” he laughs. The story has resonated in festivals since it began in the Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes and then won a prize at Annecy and others before collecting the Animation award at the EFAs this weekend. Based on the book Autobiographie D’Une Courgette, the stopmotion pic tells the story of a recently orphaned boy’s journey in a foster care center before he’s adopted.

Barras discovered the book, which he deems more for adults, about 10 years ago. He calls it, “A very beautiful story that starts bad and finishes well.” He removed some of the darker elements, but nevertheless felt it “important to tell this kind of story to kids.” He’s proud that Switzerland chose an animated film to put forth. “In Europe, we have an approach of small budget, auteur films and once in a while there’s one that crosses the Atlantic.” As for his Oscar chances, he’d be pleased to end up in the Foreign Language or Animated category. “Either one would make me very happy as it’s a realist auteur film so Foreign Language would be a beautiful recognition. But on the other hand, to be side-by-side with Pixar, Disney and I don’t know who else, would be huge!” Gkids releases in 2017.

Other films to watch: The Idol (Palestine) by Hany Abu-Assad; Ma’ Rosa (Philippines) by Brillante Mendoza; Afterimage (Poland) by Andrzej Wajda; Paradise (Russia) by Andrei Konchalovsky; From Afar (Venezuela) by Lorenzo Vigas; Desierto (Mexico) by Jonás Cuarón; Sand Storm (Israel) by Elite Zexer