The five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are determined in three stages.
First, the several hundred members of the Foreign-Language committee attend official screenings of the eligible entries (last year there were 63) and rate each on a scale from six to 10. The six films with the highest scores make the cut.
Then, the Foreign-Language executive committee, headed this year by producer Ron Yerxa ("Little Miss Sunshine") and former academy exec Bruce Davis, can add three more films to the shortlist.
Finally, to winnow this down to five nominees, two sets of voters — 20 in Los Angeles and 10 in New York — convene over a weekend to screen all nine films.
Each country submits only one film and the academy will rule on its eligibility (sufficient dialogue in native language and creative input by nationals of that country).
This year, there were 66 entries. Each title below is linked to the IMDB page, followed by the name of the director in brackets and a brief synopsis. Where applicable, the track record of the country is included.
Nineteen countries have won this race at least once, another 18 have at least been nominated and 29 have never been nominated (See this list arranged by track record here.)
"The Patience Stone" (Atiq Rahimi)
Rahimi adapted his novel about a young woman in a wartorn country who falls in love with a solider while nursing her injured husband.
"Pharmakon" (Joni Shanaj)
Following the death of his mother, a young man returns from America and works as a pharmacist in his father's medical practice. He woos one of his nurses causing a strain between the two generations.
1 win ("Z," 1969)
5 nominations (most recent – "Outside the Law," 2010)
"Zabana" (Saïd Ould Khelifa)
This biopic, released on the golden anniversary of the country's hard fought independence from France, traces the life of freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana, whose execution in 1956 galvanized the resolve of others.
2 wins (most recent – The Secret in Their Eyes," 2009)
6 nominations (most recent – The Secret in Their Eyes," 2009)
"Clandestine Childhood" (Benjamin Avila)
Inspired by his own childhood, the writer/director tells the story of a family who fled the military dictatorship that rose to power in 1976 only to return three years later to fight in the insurrection.
"If Only Everyone" (Nataliya Belyauskene)
Made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of independence, this intense drama revisits the conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over disputed territory.
1 win ("The Counterfeiters," 2007)
3 nominations (most recent – "Revanche," 2008)
"Amour" (Michael Haneke)
The story of a married couple, both in their eighties, who are challenged when she suffers an attack. The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Lore" (Cate Shortland)
In 1945 Germany, five children travel hundreds of miles to their grandmother's house after their parents are taken into custody by the Allies.
"Buta" (Ilgar Najaf)
This charming black-and-white film about life in a small village centers on an unlikely friendship between an orphan boy and an elderly man. It won Best Children's Feature at the 2011 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
"Ghetuputra Kamola" (Humayun Ahmed)
This last film from the acclaimed writer/director follows a group of teenage boys who are part of a theatrical tradition.
6 nominations (most recent – "Bullhead," 2011)
"Our Children" (Joachim Lafosse)
Emile Dequenne won Best Actress in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes film festival for playing a mother who kills her five children.
4 nominations (most recent – "Central Station," 1998)
"The Clown" (Selton Mello)
Mello wrote, directed and stars in this box office hit about a circus performer who breaks away from the family business.
"Sneakers" (Valeri Yordanov)
Yordanov also headlines this intimate look at the journey of six souls from Sofia to the seaside.
Bosnia & Herzevogina
1 win ("No Man's Land," 2001)
1 nominations ("No Man's Land," 2001)
"Children of Sarajevo" (Aida Begic)
Set in the wartorn city in the early 1990s, this raw look at the effects of conflict on children won Special Distinction in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.
"Lost Loves" (Chhay Bora)
Khauv Sotheary wrote and stars in this true story about her mother, whose father, husband and four other children, were among the 2 million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge during their 1970s campaign of terror.
1 win ("The Barbarian Invasions," 1993)
6 nominations (most recent – "Monsieur Lazhar," 2011)
"War Witch" (Kim Nguyen)
This raw look at the world of child soldiers in the Congo is told through the eyes of an expectant teenage mother who recounts her story to her unborn child. Won Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival.
"No" (Pablo Lorrain)
This political thriller stars Gael Garcia Bernal as a political neophyte drafted into the 1988 referendum campaign to oust dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film won the Directors Fortnight prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
2 nominations (most recent – "Hero," 2002)
"Caught in the Web" (Chen Kaige)
The veteran director, who helmed Hong Kong's 1993 entry "Farewell My Concubine," draws a stark picture of the powerful effect of the Internet, as people use it to track down those they are convinced of moral lapses.
"El Cartel de los Sapos" (Carlos Moreno)
Reformed drug dealer Andres Lopez co-wrote this intense crime drama about the power of the narcotics cartels in his country.
"Cannibal Vegetarian" (Branko Schmidt)
A doctor, who becomes addicted to alcohol and drugs, performs illegal abortions for the criminal underworld.
1 win ("Kolya," 1996); Czechoslovakia had 2 wins
3 nominations (most recent – "Zelary," 2003); Czechoslovakia had 6 nominations
"In the Shadows" (David Ondricek)
Set in 1953 Prague, when Czechoslovakia was a Soviet satellite, an honest police officer is caught up in corruption and crime.
3 wins (most recent – "In a Better World," 2010)
8 nominations (most recent – "In a Better World," 2010)
"A Royal Affair" (Nikolaj Arcel)
This costume drama, set in the court of 18th century King Christian VII, tells the true story of the mad monarch, his young bride and her affair with the royal doctor. It was well-received at Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
"Check Mate" (José María Cabral)
A TV game show host is told that his wife and child have been kidnapped and to ensure their safe return he must bear his soul on live television.
"Mushrooming" (Toomas Hussar)
A politician at the center of a scandal goes missing on the day that a journalist goes in pursuit.
1 nomination ("The Man Without a Past," 2002)
"Purge" (Antti Jokinen)
During the post-WWII Soviet occupation of Estonia, two women are forced to confront their pasts.
12 wins (most recent – "Indochine," 1992)
36 nominations (most recent – "A Prophet," 2009)
"The Intouchables" (Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache)
Based on a true story, this heartwarming film tells the story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Philippe, a wealthy quadraplegic (Francoise Cluzet), and Driss, a poor young man (Omar Sy), who is hired as his live-in carer. All-time box office champ in France.
2 wins (most recent – "The Secret Lives of Others," 2006); W. Germany had 1 win
9 nominations (most recent – "The White Ribbon," 2009); W. Germany – 8 noms; E . Germany – 1
"Barbara" (Christian Petzold)
Set in 1980s East Germany, a doctor is exiled to a small-town hospital as punishment for her beliefs. The film was well-received at Berlin, Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
1 nomination ("A Chef in Love," 1996)
"Keep Smiling" (Rusudan Chkonia)
This charming comedy is about a group of impoverished mothers competing in a beauty pageant.
5 nominations (most recent – "Dogtooth," 2010)
"Unfair World" (Filippos Tsitos)
This crime drama has elements of comedy as it follows a police detective on the trail of some missing money.
"Inuk" (Mike Magidson)
A coming of age story set in the wilds of this Arctic country.
2 nominations (most recent – "Farewell My Concubine," 1993)
"Life without Principal" (Johnnie To)
Set against the backdrop of the recent financial crisis, this film ties together the fates of a banker, a police officer and a criminal.
1 win ("Mephisto," 1981)
8 nominations (most recent – "Colonel Redl," 1985)
"Just the Wind" (Benedick Fliegaf)
This fictionalized version of the true story of a string of murders in the Gypsy community won the Jury Grand Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.
1 nomination ("Children of Nature," 1991)
"The Deep" (Baltasar Kormakur)
This intense film tells the true story of a fisherman marooned on a volcanic island.
3 nominations (most recent – "Lagaan," 2001)
"Barfi" (Anurag Basu)
Set in the 1970s, this touching film follows an unlikely friendship between a deaf-mute boy and an autistic girl.
"Tiny Dancer" (Ifa Isfansyah)
Set in the 1960s during a time of political unrest, this is a love story between a young soldier and a girl destined to be a dancer. It won Best Picture at the Indonesian Film Awards.
10 nominations (most recent – "Footnote," 2011)
"Fill the Void" (Rama Burshstein)
The director reveals much about the world of the Hasidic with this emotional family drama about a teenage girl obliged to marry her brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth.
13 wins (most recent – "Life is Beautiful," 1998)
27 nominations (most recent – "Don't Tell," 2005)
"Caesar Must Die" (Paolo & Vittoria Taviani)
The veteran directors won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for this black-and-white drama set in a prison where the inmates are rehearsing a production of "Julius Caesar." The use of real-life prisoners caused controversy, as the helmers spoke of the desire to humanize even the most hardened criminals.
4 wins (most recent – "Departures," 2008)
12 nominations (most recent – "Departures," 2008)
"Our Homeland" (Yong hi-Yang)
Following up on her documentary "Dear Pyongang," the director continues to explore the role of Koreans in Japanese society. Exiled to North Korea, a man returns to Japan for medical treatment after a 25-year absence only to discover he does not really belong in either country.
1 nomination ("Mongol," 2007)
"Myn Bala" (Akan Satayev)
This historical epic is set in the 17th century and depicts the valiant struggle of the Kazakhs against the Zunghar Kanate who had ruled their homeland for the better part of a century.
"Nairobi Half Life" (David 'Tosh' Gitonga)
A moving drama about a young actor who moves to the big city with dreams of stardom but gets caught up in the seamier side of life.
"The Empty Home" (Nurbek Egan)
A young woman avoids one man, marries another, and runs away to the big city on her wedding night.
"Gulf Stream Under the Iceberg" (Yevgeni Pashkevich)
Based on Anatole France's novel, this film, told in three parts, explores the lasting myth of Lilith.
"Ramin" (Audrius Stonys)
This stirring documentary follows a 75-year-old wrestler as he faces his biggest challenger — loneliness.
1 nomination ("Before the Rain," 1994)
"The Third Half" (Darko Mitrevski)
Set in Nazi-occupied Macedonia, this intense film revisits the Holocaust by telling the story of a Jewish football coach.
"Bunohan" (Dain Said)
A complex story of murder, passion and haunting memories for three estranged brothers and their ailing father.
8 nominations (most recent – "Biutiful," 2010)
"After Lucia" (Michel Franco)
This emotional family drama focuses on a husband coping with the loss of his wife and the effect of this on his teenager daughter who is being bullied at her new school. This film won the Un Regard Section at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Death for Sale" (Faouzi Bensaidi)
This crime drama follows three young men and their efforts to make money by any means possible.
3 wins (most recent – "Character," 1997)
7 nominations (most recent – "Twin Sisters," 2003
"Kauwboy" (Boudewijn Koole)
The acclaimed documentarian makes his feature debut with this moving film about a shy young boy who finds a friend in an abandoned bird. The film won Best First Feature at the Berlin Film Festival.
4 nominations (most recent – "Elling," 2001)
"Kon-Tiki" (Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
1 nomination ("Paradise Now," 2005)
"When I Saw You" (Annemarie Jacir)
Set in a refugee camp in 1967 Jordan, the film follows the efforts of one young boy to be reunited with his father.
1 nomination ("The Milk of Sorrow," 2009)
"The Bad Intentions" (Rosario Garcia-Montero)
The writer/director tells a darkly comic story of a young girl who convinces herself she will die on the day her brother is born.
"Bwakaw" (Jun Lana)
This charming comedy drama is about a lonely old gay man and his newfound friend, a stray dog.
9 nominations (most recent – "In Darkness," 2011)
"80 Million" (Waldemar Krzystek)
This crackling thriller is based on the true story of four men in Solidarity who conspire to remove 80 million zlotys from the movement's bank account in the days before a government crackdown.
"Blood of My Blood" (João Canijo)
The top-grossing film of the year in Portugal, this bleak drama looks at the effects of poverty through the eyes of one family.
"Beyond the Hills" (Cristian Mungiu)
Inspired by a true story of an exorcism, the film opens with Alina (Cristina Flutur) visiting Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) at the convent where she is about to take her vows. When Alina stays on to convince her to leave the order, things begin to unravel quickly. Munju, who was snubbed for his last film "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" won Best Screenplay while the leads shared Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival.
1 win ("Burnt by the Sun," 1994); Soviet Union had 3 wins
5 nominations (most recent – "12," 2007); Soviet Union had 9 nominations
"White Tiger" (Karen Shakhnazarov)
Set in WWII, this fantasy film pits one Russian soldier against a German tank that has no crew but continues to kill.
"When Day Breaks" (Goran Paskaljević)
A man is forced to confront his past when the discovery of a buried box at the site of a concentration camp reveals the complicity of his parents in the Holocaust.
"Already Famous" (Michelle Chong)
A young Malaysian girl heads off to Singapore to fulfill her dream of becoming a famous TV star.
Slovakia (Czechoslovakia had 2 wins, 6 nominations)
"Made in Ash" (Iveta Grófová)
A grim look at the descent of a young woman from factory worker to prostitute, with several scenes played out in animation.
"A Trip" (Nejc Gazvoda)
After graduation, three high school friends take one last road trip before two of them emigrate.
1 win ("Tsotsi," 2005)
2 nominations (most recent – "Tsotsi", 2005)
"Little One" (Darrell Roodt)
A highly emotional film that opens with a little girl left for dead after being beaten and the woman who goes to any length to rescue her.
"Pietà" (Ki-duk Kim)
The veteran helmer delivers a raw film about the crippling effects of poverty. A loan shark comes to accept the woman claiming to be his mother, only to pay a price in the end. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival over "The Master."
4 wins (most recent – "The Sea Inside," 2004)
19 nominations (most recent – "The Sea Inside," 2004)
"Blacanieves" (Pablo Berger)
A tribute to the silent film era, this black-and-white picture transplants the story of "Snow White" to 1920s Andalusia. It won the Jury Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
3 wins (most recent – "Through a Glass Darkly," 1961)
14 nominations (most recent – "As It Is In Heaven," 2004
"The Hypnotist" (Lasse Hallstrom)
This deft crime drama about a detective and doctor who work together to track down a murderer on a rampage is from a two-time Best Director nominee ("My Life as a Dog," "The Cider House Rules") who returned to his native country.
Switzerland – 5 nominations; last of
2 wins (most recent – "Journey of Hope," 1990)
5 nominations (most recent – "Journey of Hope," 1990)
"Sister" (Ursual Meier)
This family drama explores the world of a young boy forced to steal from guests at a ski resort to support himself and his sister. The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
1 win ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," 2000)
3 nominations (most recent – "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," 2000)
"Touch of the Light" (Chang Rong-ji)
Blind piano prodigy Yu Hsiang plays himself in this first film from TV helmer Rong-ji.
"Headshot" (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)
A thriller with a twist as a police officer turned paid killer is struck by a single bullet that turns his world upside down.
"Where the Fire Burns" (Ismail Gunes)
Working from his own script, this stark drama is the third in a trilogy by Gunes that explores our violent world. Here, a father plots to kill his teenage daughter who is pregant. The film won both Best Film and the Critics' prize at the Montreal Film Festival.
"Firecrosser" (Mykhailo Illienko)
Based on a true story, this film recounts the incredible life of Ivan Dodoka, who went from WWII air ace to German POW, and from Soviet political prisioner to chief of one of the first peoples of Canada.
"The Delay" (Rodrigo Pla)
This domestic drama explores the length to which a single mother will go to care for her aging father.
"Rock, Paper, Scissors" (Hernán Jabes)
Set in Caracas, this domestic drama intercuts between two families as thier lives lead into conflict with each other.
1 nomination (The Scent of Green Papaya," 1993)
"The Scent of Burning Grass" (Nguyen Huu Muoi)
This intense drama revisits a key 1972 battle between North Vietnam and the United States