HIFF27: Best International Feature Oscar Submissions

Each year, countries from around the world submit one film for consideration in The Academy Awards® race for what is now (as of the 2020 competition) called Best International Feature Film. The films submitted run the gamut of personal, thrilling, timely, and historical stories from around the world.

HIFF27 will present the following five six films (and counting!), all of which will proudly represent their countries in this year’s Oscar® race. (The past four winners of this award have screened at HIFF: ROMA, A FANTASTIC WOMAN, THE SALESMAN, and SON OF SAUL, so our track record is going strong!)

How many will •you• see this year?

JUST ADDED October 2!


Directed by Mati Diop
2019 | Wolof | France/Senegal/Belgium
Along the shores of Dakar, Senegal, Ada (Mama Sané), soon to be forced into an arranged marriage with a wealthy man, falls in love with construction worker Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré). Looking for a better future and incapable of seeing a life with Ada, Souleiman boards a small vessel with his co-workers and attempts the perilous sail to Spain, where he soon disappears and is presumed dead. In her Cannes Grand Prix-winning debut feature, French-Senegalese actress and filmmaker Mati Diop translates the collective drama of sea departures into a dazzlingly beautiful ghost story of unfulfilled love and lives lost in the search for a better future.

Brazil: Invisible Life

Directed by Karim Aïnouz
2019 | Portuguese | Brazil/Germany
Rio De Janeiro, 1950. Euridice and Guida are inseparable sisters bristling at the conservative rules of their household. Although their parents’ expectations are that they will get married and start a family, both sisters have their own secret dreams, shared only with each other. Euridice dreams of studying the piano at the Vienna Conservatory, while Guida dreams of great love and of traveling across the globe. But while Euridice complies with her parents’ wishes, Guida defies them, embarrassing her father, who resorts to deceit in order to keep the sisters apart. Hélène Louvart’s luscious, light-filtered cinematography shines in Karim Aïnouz’s heady, mesmerizing exploration of arrested dreams, which won him the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

France: Les Misérables

Directed by Ladj Ly
2019 | French | France

Starting his first day as a member of the Anti-Crime Squad in Montfermeil—the same Paris suburb that Victor Hugo set as the location for his eponymous novel—Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) finds himself thrown into a community rife with tension and nearing a breaking point. When a surprise ambush breaks up an otherwise routine arrest, an act of spontaneous violence at the hands of one of Stéphane’s colleagues pushes them deep into the fractured realities of the neighborhood and immigrant communities they are meant to protect. Provocatively drawing a line between Hugo’s classic and the country’s contemporary realities, director Ladj Ly’s debut is a thrillingly timely look at the crippling tensions at the core of modern France.

Iceland: A White, White Day

Directed by Hlynur Pálmason
2019 | Icelandic | Iceland/Denmark/Sweden
Retired from his job as a local policeman and grieving the recent death of his wife, Ingimundur (an excellent Ingvar E. Sigurðsson) channels his quietly brewing grief into the renovation of a secluded house in the remote Icelandic community they called home. But while going through a box of his wife’s old possessions, Ingimundur finds an unexpected memento that directs his detective instincts into increasingly unstable paranoia. With a tone perfectly matching its remote, isolated Icelandic setting, director Hlynur Pálmason’s remarkably confident second feature is a spellbinding, oft-kilter tale of the obsessive ends of unconditional love.

Italy: The Traitor

Directed by Marco Bellocchio
2019 | Italian | Italy
Based on the true story of the so-called “boss of the two worlds” Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), Italian director Marco Bellocchio’s biopic depicts the watershed trial that would mark the first time the Mafia’s sacred vow of silence was publicly broken. After being forced into exile in Brazil in the early 1980s as a brutally violent war crippled his native Sicily, Buscetta’s new life was cut short when he was apprehended and extradited by local police. With increased pressure from Italy’s crackdown on local crime syndicates, Buscetta agrees to flip against the world that created him, leading to the milestone trial that would forever change the face of the Italian Mafia.

South Korea: Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho
2019 | Korean | South Korea
For a hopelessly unemployed family of four scraping by in their subterranean Seoul apartment, the offer of a tutoring job for the wealthy Park family provides an unusual opportunity to improve their standing. With a forged degree and a sham resume, their son secures the position and opens the door for the family to one-by-one scheme their way further into the home—only to soon realize that it may be more difficult to let go of their new lifestyles than they initially believed. From there, Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner launches into a deliriously unpredictable and entertaining assault on South Korean class struggle, culminating in an unforgettable climax and cementing the director as one of this generation’s greatest auteurs.