Every year, the Best International Feature category at the Academy Awards offers up a diverse array of films unlike any other category. This is the category that has boosted such filmmakers as Denis Villeneuve with INCENDIES, Yorgos Lanthimos with DOGTOOTH, Asghar Farhadi with A SEPARATION, Alejandro G. Iñarritú with AMORES PERROS, Pedro Almodóvar with WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, and many others. With the shortlist of 15 features (from 93 accepted submissions) being announced on February 9, 2021, I decided to view a handful of the submissions from across the globe. The below are the ones that stood out most. Other excellent films not mentioned below include ANOTHER ROUND (Denmark), LA LLORONA (Guatemala), APPLES (Greece), ARRACHT (Ireland), and THE MOLE AGENT (Chile).
And Tomorrow the Entire World (Dir. Julia von Heinz, Germany) - Coming soon to Netflix - A young woman (Mala Emde) joins a left-wing commune and infiltrates a far-right group of terrorists in AND TOMORROW THE ENTIRE WORLD, an intense, electrifying drama that should greatly boost the profiles of star Mala Emde and filmmaker Julia von Heinz. Complex and provocative, this film resists easy answers making the drama all the more unforgettable.
Collective (Dir. Alexander Nanau, Romania) - Now available on virtual cinema - A chilling, shocking, and riveting exposé, COLLECTIVE is, in a way, a real-life ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN that's both a testament to the power of a free press as well as an indictment of institutional abuse. While the film details an incident in Romania, the story it tells is universal and will resonate deeply across the world.
Dear Comrades! (Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, Russia) - Now available on virtual cinema - One of the best films of 2020, I extolled the virtues of this meticulously-crafted and politically potent film in my piece here. This is a not-to-be-missed drama filmed in luminous black-and-white with a ferocious performance from Yuliya Vysotskaya.
My Little Sister (Dirs. Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond) - Now available on virtual cinema - A film about familial love and the pain that frequently mixes with it, this electric drama about a playwright who cares for her terminally ill brother pulses with energy, always in motion. The inimitable Nina Hoss is in top form, devastating as a woman who cannot accept the fact that her brother is going to die.
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dir. Jasmila Žbanić) - No U.S. distribution yet - Level-headed and economical, QUO VADIS, AIDA?, about a Bosnian UN translator who works to save her family after their town is liquidated by Serbian forces and the townspeople turn to the nearby UN base for help, is a damning indictment of the United Nations' unwillingness to act when necessary. Jasna Đuričić leads the film with cool force as the title character, and filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić keeps all sentimentality and artifice out of her film, creating an essential work that highlights a major tragedy that has largely been kept off of movie screens.
A Sun (Taiwan, Dir. Chung Mong-hong) - Now available to stream on Netflix - One of my favorite films of 2020, this Taiwanese epic nearly was passed over by everyone until Variety's Peter Debruge named it the best film of the year. Luckily, that helped to boost the film, a years-spanning story of a family torn apart by unresolved issues and crime. Close to a masterpiece.
Two of Us (France, Dir. Filippo Meneghetti) - Now available on virtual cinema - A masterfully-crafted, restrained drama about two women (Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier, both astonishing) in a secret relationship who live across the hall from each other, Filippo Meneghetti's debut feature, TWO OF US, is the rare depiction of a mature relationship that respects its characters as much as its audience. Told without contrivance and with a depth of feeling typically found in films of more seasoned directors, TWO OF US is one of the highlights of these highlights.