Earlier today, Deadline announced that a record-breaking 76 countries have submitted films for the Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards. Granted, only a handful will receive nominations, but still, if a country lays everything on the line and tells you a film is its best, chances are it's worth watching. That said, 76 films is just way too many, so here are the ones we're definitely going to see, and think you should, too.
Wadjda, Saudi Arabia (Arabic)
Saudi Arabia's first-ever entry into the Oscars race is also the first film ever directed inside the country, on top of being directed by a woman, making it the most historically and perhaps socially important competitor this year. Haifaa al-Mansour's Wadjda centers on an industrious 11-year-old girl, Riyadh, as she competes in a Qu'ran recital competition to earn enough money to buy a green bicycle she can use to race one of the boys in the neighborhood. The film has been cleaning up at film festivals all year, and based on the story behind it, seems poignant, subtle, and rockingly feminist.
Child's Pose, Romania (Romanian)
Child's Pose looks crazy good. The gritty drama about an overbearing mother and her son as they struggle with one another over a tragic accident has heartbreak and tears written all over it, which of course, is usually the mark of a good movie. Plus, you have to give it to the Romanians – they know how to make tough movies that put a knot in your throat and new ideas in your head.
Gabrielle, Canada (French)
This drama about a developmentally disabled woman with a musical gift and strong desire for independence looks smart, honest, and deeply intimate in a way that emulates Incendies, a masterpiece made by the same production company. Just from the trailer, its obvious the star, Gabrielle Marion-Rivard is a powerhouse performer with a long, successful road ahead of her.
Gloria, Chile (Spanish)
Dance, laughter, illicit drug use – this Latin-American has everything you could ever want in an uplifting comedy-drama. Paulina García nabbed the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her captivating performance as a middle-aged divorcee trolling the local singles clubs for love.
The Rocket, Australia (Lao)
We have been waiting for this Laotian-Australian collaboration for what feels like an eternity. Gorgeous cinematography and an insanely charismatic ensemble cast have been earning The Rocket major acclaim, but honestly, we're in it for the storytelling. The film follows a young boy deemed cursed by his village as he tries to prove them wrong by competing in a rocket challenge. Views of war-torn Laos and a close-up look at the nation's lucrative dam industry lend political implications to this story of personal redemption.