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Awards Buzz: Best Foreign Language Film

The Oscar category for Best Foreign Language Film is like the World Cup of film. And the Palm Springs International Film Festival presents the largest selection of foreign language Oscar submissions of any film festival in the world. This year 65 countries have submitted films to the Academy in hopes of taking home the Oscar. Academy members will winnow down the selection to a shortlist of five nominees. We have selected 41 films for presentation in the 21st PSIFF, which will be adjudicated by a FIPRESCI jury of international film critics.

Last year PSIFF filmgoers chose Japan's Departures by director Yojiro Takita as the Audience Award winner, and it went on to win the Oscar. Check out this year's selections and see if you can predict the winner again.


About Elly   

About Elly
Iran, 2009, 119 min.
In his fourth feature, talented writer/director Asghar Farhadi casts a revealing light on the elaborate culture of deceit that's part and parcel of modern Iranian society with a gripping drama about upper-middle-class Tehranis on a catastrophic seaside holiday.... more



Ajami   

Ajami
Israel, 2009, 120 min.
A powerful crime drama set on the mean streets of Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood, a melting pot of cultures and conflicting views among Jews, Muslims, and Christians.... more



Alive!   

Alive!
Albania, 2009, 90 min.
A carefree Albanian student gets drawn into an ancient gjakmarrja, or blood feud, when he returns to his native village for his father's funeral. This fascinating drama considers how deeply the traditions of one's forebears can affect one's life.... more



Baarìa   

Baarìa
Italy, 2009, 150 min.
A family fresco set in Sicily during the last century, Baarìa is a tribute by Giuseppe Tornatore to his land and its people. With its richness and perfection of style, this film is the Cinema Paradiso of his maturity.... more



Backyard   

Backyard
Mexico, 2009, 122 min.
This chilling thriller, from the director of The Crime of Father Amaro, dramatizes the tragic true story of border town Juárez, Mexico, where since the mid-'90s thousands of women have gone missing or turned up as sun-burnt corpses in the desert.... more



Bad Day to Go Fishing   

Bad Day to Go Fishing
Uruguay, 2009, 110 min.
A droll dark comedy that plays out like a classic Western crossed with the decidedly modern sensibilities of filmmaker such as Jim Jarmusch or Aki Kaurismäki, this quirky tale pits a scamming hustler and his wrestler sidekick against the inhabitants of a small Uruguayan town, circa 1961.... more



Best of Times   

Best of Times
Thailand, 2009, 118 min.
From the director of Iron Ladies (PSIFF 2002), this bittersweet romantic comedy uses the stories of two couples to show two kinds of love: the kind one wants to forget but will always remember, and the kind one always wants to remember but will ultimately forget.... more



Broken Promise   

Broken Promise
Slovakia, 2009, 129 min.
Sheer luck and special skills help a Jewish Slovak adolescent survive the WWII years in this gripping Holocaust drama. Like Agnieszka Holland's Europa Europa and Lajos Koltai's Fateless, it traces an Eastern European youth's painful fight for survival.... more



CasaNegra   

CasaNegra
Morocco, 2008, 131 min.
Two twenty-something friends agree to pull a job for a local gangster in the hopes of upping their lot in life. A dark and stylish noir set on the mean streets of Casablanca, CasaNegra is Morocco's answer to Scorsese's classic crime dramas.... more



Chameleon   

Chameleon
Hungary, 2008, 104 min.
A suspenseful psychological thriller, Chameleon centers on a clever con man who targets lonely, disillusioned women, playing on their romantic fantasies. But can the con man be conned if love gets in the way?... more



Dawson, Island 10   

Dawson, Island 10
Chile, 2009, 117 min.
After the 1973 coup that deposed Allende and brought Pinochet to power in Chile, the former members of his cabinet are imprisoned on Dawson Island, the world's southernmost concentration camp. Veteran filmmaker Miguel Littin follows the ordeal of these men who are determined to survive.... more



Donkey   

Donkey
Croatia, 2009, 90 min.
A gentle comic fable that shows how one family of mulish, macho men in the Herzogovina countryside ultimately gain some much-needed self-awareness -- with the help of a real donkey.... more



Draft Dodgers   

Draft Dodgers
Luxembourg, 2009, 97 min.
When the Nazis annex Luxembourg, François must make a choice: either be conscripted and fight the Allies on the Russian front, or become a draft dodger living underground. This gritty psychological drama depicts a world in which his fascist father and shackled nation are weapons in a war.... more



For a Moment, Freedom   

For a Moment, Freedom
Austria, 2009, 110 min.
Combining realism, warmth, suspense, humor and tragedy, For A Moment, Freedom, centers on a group of weary Middle Eastern refugees who have made their way to Turkey to apply for European visas.... more



Grandpa is Dead   

Grandpa is Dead
Philippines, 2009, 92 min.
The death of the beloved patriarch of a large inner-city family throws the lives of his children into chaos. Long-buried secrets, conflicts and emotional bonds bubble to the surface during a weeklong wake in this bittersweet dramedy.... more



Home   

Home
Switzerland, 2008, 97 min.
Marthe and Michel live with their kids on the edge of a near-completed freeway. When the road is suddenly opened up to traffic, the noise and pollution threatens to destroy the family unit. Ursula Meier's absurd comedy -- a "road movie in reverse" -- brilliantly redefines the meaning of home.... more



I Killed My Mother   

I Killed My Mother
Canada, 2009, 100 min.
Written when he was just 17-years-old and directed when he was 21, Xavier Dolan's hilarious, corrosive and ultimately touching debut drama -- about a gay teen's embattled relationship with his manipulative mother -- captured a trio of prizes at Cannes last year.... more



I Saw the Sun   

I Saw the Sun
Turkey, 2009, 106 min.
With the introduction of the Turkish governments forced migration policies, the Kurdish Altun clan is wrenched from the Anatolian mountain village it has called home for generations. Spanning a period of 25 years, the film recounts the experiences of the family members.... more



Involuntary   

Involuntary
Sweden, 2008, 98 min.
A quirky comedy about the nature of group dynamics. Two teenage girls take risqué pictures and get drunk; a group of young men experiment with sex; a righteous teacher tries to set things right; and a bus driver holds a group of passengers prisoner.... more



Kelin (The Daughter-in-Law)   

Kelin (The Daughter-in-Law)
Kazakhstan, 2009, 84 min.
This remarkably visual tale of love and desire is set in the rugged steppe of ancient Kazakhstan and involves a beautiful bride, two competing suitors and a formidable shaman as a mother-in-law. Completely without dialogue, but not without sound, the film substitutes texture for language.... more



Landscape No. 2   

Landscape No. 2
Slovenia, 2009, 90 min.
A killer representing an ugly, unresolved and nearly forgotten chapter of post-WWII history confronts a cynical, amoral Everyman in Landscape No. 2. Played realistically yet with a wink to Grand Guignol theatrics, this audacious, superbly crafted, contemporary horror film spiced with humor.... more



Letters to Father Jacob   

Letters to Father Jacob
Finland, 2009, 74 min.
In the latest from the talent behind the PSIFF 2006 Audience Award Winner, a simple but transcendent story about faith and human frailty achieves a state of grace. A tough ex-con temporarily serving as an amanuensis for a blind pastor in rural Finland.... more



Max Manus   

Max Manus
Norway, 2009, 118 min.
This rousing widescreen historical epic celebrates the deeds of one of Norway's most daring WWII-era resistance fighters: Max Manus, a man with no formal education, who led a life of derring-do that seems tailor-made for the movies.... more



The Milk of Sorrow   

The Milk of Sorrow
Peru, 2009, 100 min.
Winner of the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin festival, this striking and supremely stylish drama deals with the aftermath of the war on terrorism through the story of simple maid Fausta and her attempts to come to grips with her illness of fear.... more



The Misfortunates   

The Misfortunates
Belgium, 2009, 108 min.
With great performances, superb direction and a wonderful score, Felix van Groeningen's alternately hilarious and poignant tale of the loser Strobbe brothers and the looking-to-get-out son of one of them mixes belly laughs with more introspective and thoughtful moments to great effect.... more



Mother   

Mother
South Korea, 2009, 128 min.
Korean master Bong Joon-Ho's follow-up to The Host is an equally exhilarating and blackly humorous work, this one a jaw-dropping melodrama about an obsessive mother fighting to prove that her emotionally stunted son is innocent of the brutal murder of a local girl.... more



Nobody to Watch over Me   

Nobody to Watch over Me
Japan, 2009, 118 min.
Ryoichi Kimizuka's riveting exploration of the Japanese media's feeding frenzy focuses on a15-year-old girl forced into police protection to escape from the journalistic hordes after her brother is arrested for murder. It plays out like a propulsive edge-of-your-seat thriller.... more



The Other Bank   

The Other Bank
Georgia, 2009, 90 min.
A 12-year-old Georgian refugee travels back to war-torn Abkhazia to find his father and a second chance at life. His odyssey takes him across physical and emotional borders, where nationalism and revenge are the way of life.... more



Police, Adjective   

Police, Adjective
Romania, 2009, 113 min.
From the director of 12:08 East of Bucharest (PSIFF 2007), Police, Adjective is an extremely cerebral, wry comedy that provides a critique of Romania's post-communist stagnation. Jury Prize, Un Certain Regard and FIPRESCI Award, Cannes Film Festival.... more



Prince of Tears   

Prince of Tears
Hong Kong, 2009, 123 min.
Yonfan's sumptuously made drama looks back to 1950s Taiwan, when anti-communist feeling was at an all-time high, to tell the fairy-tale-like story of two young sisters whose parents are arrested as communist spies. Stunning cinematography, luscious set design and a plot with more than a few twists.... more



Protektor   

Protektor
Czech Republic, 2009, 98 min.
Notable for its fresh approach and unusual art direction, this fateful love story is set in Prague during the late 1930s and subsequent Nazi occupation. It focuses on radio journalist Emil, who is deeply in love with his glamorous movie star wife Hana, a Jew.... more



Reverse   

Reverse
Poland, 2009, 101 min.
A darkly comic story of three generations of Polish women and the mysterious young man whose presence sparks a series of surprising events that change all of their lives. Best Film, Actress, and Cinematography, Gdynia Film Festival; FIPRESCI Award, Warsaw Film Festival.... more



Reykjavik-Rotterdam   

Reykjavik-Rotterdam
Iceland, 2008, 88 min.
The principals of Jar City (PSIFF 2008) reunite in this tight thriller about an ex-con lured into one last job smuggling booze. This film is being remade as a vehicle for Mark Walhberg under the direction of current star Kormákur.... more



Samson & Delilah   

Samson & Delilah
Australia, 2009, 101 min.
One of the year's most cinematically satisfying films, this unconventional love story of two aboriginal teens from a dusty settlement in the Central Australian Desert is full of fascinating ethnographic detail, gentle humor and breathtaking cinematography.... more



Terribly Happy   

Terribly Happy
Denmark, 2008, 95 min.
A southern Danish village hides as many secrets as the nearby bog in this blackly comic thriller about the universal nature of compromise and corruption. Entertaining and full of surprising twists, it's a highly cinematic tale of a Copenhagen policeman working punishment-duty.... more



Vortex   

Vortex
Lithuania, 2009, 140 min.
The story of the generation who lived through the entire Soviet period is told through the main character: his childhood spent in a village, true friendship, work in Soviet Klaipeda, thrilling eroticism, and a final, fatal love.... more



Ward No. 6   

Ward No. 6
Russia, 2009, 83 min.
This brilliant contemporary take on the oft-filmed Chekhov novella takes the story, about the head of a hospital whose fascination with a patient in the lunatic wing leads to his own incarceration there, and transposes it into the middle of a faux documentary.... more



The White Ribbon   

The White Ribbon
Germany, 2009, 145 min.
Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Michael Haneke's (Funny Games) mesmerizing and disturbing mystery follows the escalating errant behavior of a group of children and adults in a rural German village in the years leading up to the First World War.... more



White Wedding   

White Wedding
South Africa, 2009, 93 min.
Elvis and Ayanda are getting married. Elvis just needs to get from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the big event. Take a sweet South African road trip through the hills and valleys of love, friendship and post-apartheid culture clashes.... more



Winter in Wartime   

Winter in Wartime
Netherlands, 2008, 103 min.
The perfect blend of classical cinema and arthouse sensibilities, this exciting WWII coming-of-age story portrays a 14-year-old Dutch lad's brutal loss of innocence when circumstances force him to become a one-man Resistance movement.... more



The World is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner   

The World is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner
Bulgaria, 2009, 105 min.
This sweet intergenerational drama about an amnesiac helped toward recovery by his charismatic grandfather encompasses over 30 years of social and identity crises, with backgammon as a metaphor for life.... more





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