The shortlist of 15 films to vie for a Best International Feature Film Oscar nomination is set to be announced on December 21. In all, movies from 88 countries are eligible this year, and as we regularly see, they offer up a rich treasure trove. 

Below, we take a closer look at the potential candidates for the early cut. They include prize winners from Sundance to Berlin, Cannes, Venice and myriad other festivals. 

Deadline, through its various Contenders events as well as separate interviews, has spoken with filmmakers behind many of the entries while all of the titles on the main list below have been reviewed by Deadline’s critics as we continue to grow our focus on international films. 

To note, we have not highlighted films which are also eligible in Animation and Documentary, though our picks for possible crossovers are at the end of the main list, as are our Special Mentions.

The following is in alphabetical order by film title:

About Dry Grasses movie

ABOUT DRY GRASSES (Turkey), dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan; U.S. Distributor: Sideshow/Janus Films

What it’s about: Samet is a young art teacher finishing his fourth year of compulsory service in a remote village in Anatolia where there are essentially two seasons: snow and yellow grass. In his humdrum existence, he becomes fascinated by a young female student who he tries to mentor; that backfires after he’s accused of touching her. However, it’s Samet’s female colleague, an English teacher named Nuray, who helps him to regain a perspective after he feels all is lost to gloom.

Deadline’s take: “This is another opportunity to slip into (Ceylan’s) world, spot his sly political references and subside for a while into the life of the mind. That life isn’t an easy ride and certainly not too quick, but it is a rewarding one.”

Director’s comment: For the main character, it was necessary to be someplace isolated because happiness can be achieved wherever you are — that’s at least what people think.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Actress (Cannes); Selected at TIFF, New York, Palm Springs


AMERIKATSI (Armenia), dir: Michael A. Goorjian; U.S. Distributor: Variance Films

What it’s about: Charlie (Goorjian) returns to Armenia in 1948 — decades after fleeing to the U.S. as a child, due to persecution by the Ottoman Empire, and finds a country crushed under Soviet rule. After being unjustly imprisoned, he falls into despair, until he discovers that he can see into a nearby apartment from his cell window — the home of a prison guard. As his life unexpectedly becomes entwined with the man’s, he begins to see that the true spirit of his homeland is alive in its passionate people. 

Deadline’s take: “There are moments that are sensitive, thoughtful, and really quite moving — in an elegant, silent-movie way — but the framing is so dark in its humor that many viewers may never make it to them.”

Director’s comment: It takes time to find your own voice, but with Amerikatsi, I have done my best to make something true to myself and my Armenian heritage in the spirit of independent cinema.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Film (Hamburg Film Festival)


AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Indonesia); dir: Makbul Mubarak; U.S. Distributor: Amazon Prime Video

What it’s about: Beginning as a simple two-hander in which a young working-class caretaker comes under the spell of his returning boss — a charismatic military man who has designs on getting into local politics — Autobiography soon develops into a tense psychological thriller about the way populist leaders groom and abuse their people.

Deadline’s take: “Unusually for a film of its kind, the payoff is as good as its setup, and Mubarak’s rich, impressive film leaves a very strong aftertaste. Power corrupts, but Autobiography is a welcome reminder that this is a lesson that no one — no one — will never really learn.”

Director’s comment: “In Indonesia, people watch this film and for them it’s more than a reflection… It’s so real that it is horrifying for them. I think we’re living in a world where there’s so many versions of truth that politicians are always looking for the easiest way to [advance] themselves, which is by using the rhetoric of a strongman. I think that’s why the film speaks volumes to different people from different countries.”

Key Awards/Festivals: FIPRESCI (Venice Film Festival), Best Directorial Debut (Stockholm), Best Film (Tokyo FILMeX), Best Actor (Marrakech)

Khady Mane and Mamadou Diallo in Banel & Adama

BANEL & ADAMA (Senegal); dir: Ramata-Toulaye Sy; U.S. Distributor: Kino Lorber

What it’s about: A young couple’s passion brings chaos to their remote rural community.

Deadline’s take: “There’s a lot to absorb in this beautifully realized production, and on a visceral level alone it’s quite sumptuous… But it’s as a performance piece that it really gets under your skin, watching Banel’s desperate realization that, while she rejects the straitjacket of her community’s tribal past, she has nothing of her own to replace it with, just a fantasy that, like her dream home, is built on shifting sand.”

Director’s comment: “I want all women to recognize themselves in the character of Banel, not only Black women but white women, Afghan women, Iranian women, and American women, in the same way there are universal films set in the United States in which I recognize myself even if they’re American characters.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Bright Horizons Award (Melbourne); Selected at Cannes, Marrakech, Jerusalem, Chicago International Fest

BLAGA’S LESSONS (Bulgaria); dir: Stephan Komandarev

What it’s about: A recently widowed elderly woman falls victim to telephone scammers. Getting no help from the authorities, her bank and her estranged son after losing all her money, Blaga — whose name means “sweet” in Bulgarian — takes things into her own hands and turns the tables on the criminals who duped her.

Deadline’s take: “Packs a punch not seen since Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke in their provocative prime.”

Director’s comment: “This is the generation of our parents, and they became the biggest victim of the process of transition (from communism to democracy) that is already 30 years; somehow they lost the dignity of their last years… It’s a question of dignity, to keep the dignity of these people.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Film/Best Actress (Karlovy Vary), Grand Jury Prize (Rome); Selected in Palm Springs

'The Delinquents’.

THE DELINQUENTS (Argentina); dir: Ridrigo Moreno; U.S. Distributor: Mubi

What it’s about: Morán, a bank employee in Buenos Aires who dreams up a risky plan to liberate himself and his co-worker Román from the shackles of working life: Morán will steal enough cash from the bank to fund their retirement if Román hides the money for him after he confesses and serves prison time; in three years’ time, they’ll reunite, split the cash, and never have to work again.

Deadline’s take: Moreno “deconstruct(s) the (heist) genre with the calm focus of a safecracker taking apart a lock.”

Director’s comment: “Modern society has led us to live lives that we don’t want to live: there are so many obligations that strip our freedoms. The decision taken in my film invites us to escape this fate.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Film (Golden Rooster Awards/Ghent International Festival); Selected in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, Palm Springs

‘Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World’

DO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH OF THE END OF THE WORLD (Romania); dir: Radu Jude; U.S. Distributor: Mubi

What it’s about: Split in two parts, it first follows Angela, an overworked and underpaid production assistant who must drive around Bucharest to film the casting for a “safety at work” video, commissioned by a multinational company. In part two, an interviewee reveals on camera that his work-related accident is due to the company’s negligence, igniting a scandal.

Deadline’s take: “This willfully uncommercial but bloody-minded film could be genuinely seminal in its anarchic and totally individualistic approach, slipping discordant, Godardian subversion into a darkly comic, Ruben Östlund-style human drama.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Special Jury Prize (Locarno), Fiction Feature Competition (Montclair), Best Performance (Chicago International Fest); Selected in Palm Springs

'Fallen Leaves,' new Mubi acquisition

FALLEN LEAVES (Finland); dir: Aki Kaurismaki; U.S. Distirbutor: Mubi

What it’s about: Two lonely people meet each other by chance in the Helsinki night and try to find the first, only, and ultimate love of their lives. Their path towards this goal is clouded by the man’s alcoholism, lost phone numbers, not knowing each other’s names or addresses, and life’s general tendency to place obstacles in the way of those seeking happiness. 

Deadline’s take: “Wonderful, wryly funny and poignant… Although you might call this a droll tragicomedy, the director is also more seriously inspired by the state of Europe and the world, particularly the war in Ukraine.”

Director’s comment: “It felt like this bloody world needed some love stories now.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Jury Prize (Cannes), Top 5 International Films (NBR), FIPRESCI (San Sebastian); 2 Golden Globe nominations; Selected in Telluride, Palm Springs

Housekeeping For Beginners

HOUSEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS (North Macedonia); dir; Goran Stolevski; U.S. Distributor: Focus Features

What it’s about: Dita, who, despite never aspiring to be a mother, finds herself compelled to raise her girlfriend’s two daughters—Mia, a tiny troublemaker, and Vanesa, a rebellious teenager. As their individual wills clash, a heartwarming story unfolds about an unlikely family’s struggle to stay together.

Deadline’s take: “It’s a tough ride, alright… But it confirms Stolevski’s standing, established with the witchy thriller You Won’t Be Alone, as a filmmaker of impressive originality, skill and style.”

Director’s comment:  “What a gift it was to work with this tireless, formidable, always-smiling crew and this luminous, selflessly giving cast, many of them acting – and lighting up the screen – for the very first time. The feeling of family was palpable both on and off the screen. It’s a story and an experience we will all treasure for life.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Queer Lion (Venice), Silver Q-Hugo (Chicago); Selected in Palm Springs

Inshallah A Boy

INSHALLAH A BOY (Jordan); dir: Amjad Al-Rasheed; U.S. Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment

What it’s about: A recently widowed young mother finds herself in danger of losing the home she part financed through her own labor due to Jordan’s anachronistic inheritance laws. Desperate to keep her home and provide a stable life for her daughter, she resorts to deception by faking a pregnancy, on the basis that if it is a boy it would stop the claims of her brothers-in-law in their tracks.

Deadline’s take: “Director Amjad Al Rasheed eviscerates the misogyny he sees around him, inscribed in tradition and in the law, so relentlessly that it is surprising – and heartening – to see it selected as the Jordanian entry for the Oscars… His pace is steady, the performances – particularly that of Palestinian actress Mouna Hawa, outstanding as a woman torn between her sense of duty and seething fury – delivered with quiet force.”

Director’s comment:  “I hope this film will open a conversation, in fact this was my main intention, to push people to re-evaluate what has been normalized; to ask if these laws and traditions are still fitting for our modern societies, or if they’re an obstacle to our further development. I really believe cinema only really starts when people leave the theater and start talking about the film.” 

Key Awards/Festivals: Label Europa Cinemas (Cannes), Best Actress (Thessaloniki); Selected in Palm Springs

Io Capitano

IO CAPITANO (Italy); dir: Matteo Garrone; U.S. Distributor: Cohen Media Group

What it’s about: Tracks the epic journey of Seydou and Moussa, two young men who leave Dakar to make their way across Africa to a dream called Europe. A contemporary Odyssey through the dangers of the desert, the horrors of the detention centers in Libya and the perils of the sea.

Deadline’s take: “A blisteringly topical drama that might be (Garrone’s) most traditional, and best, yet… Despite its technical elegance — and the film is near flawless in that respect — the biggest achievement in Garrone’s film is its casting.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Director/Best Young Actor (Venice), Best European Film (San Sebastian); Selected at Palm Springs, Golden Globe nomination

'The Monk And The Gun' Oscar race

THE MONK AND THE GUN (Bhutan); dir: Pawo Choyning Dorji; U.S. Distributor: Roadside Attractions

What it’s about: An elderly lama, recognizing that extraordinary change is about to sweep through his country, is troubled by the possible outcomes. He instructs his young disciple Tashi to set forth into the kingdom and bring him two guns before the full moon. The young monk is perplexed by his guru’s request, and his familiarity with guns is based solely on images from the only film available on television: James Bond. His quest brings him into contact with a scheming American gun collector Ron, leading to a most unexpected outcome.

Deadline’s take: “Dorji presents all of this with a gentle satirical jab at American democracy, but shows the difficulties of changing a society whose pure and lovely innocence stands in the way of a political revolution, even as they are also just discovering James Bond and The Spice Girls.”

Director’s comment:  “I have always been so intrigued about how Bhutan became a modern nation. I was a teenager growing up and lived abroad and would come back to Bhutan and I could see how the outside world was and how different Bhutan was… I found it so strange that, here the people were being given this gift of democracy and didn’t want it… I thought it was such a unique story to tell for the rest of the world.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Audience Award (Vancouver), Special Jury Award (Rome); Selected at Telluride, TIFF, Palm Springs

PERFECT DAYS (Japan); dir: Wim Wenders; U.S. Distributor: Neon

What it’s about: Hirayama seems utterly content with his simple life as a cleaner of toilets in Tokyo. Outside of his very structured everyday routine, he enjoys his passion for music and books. He loves trees and takes photos of them. A series of unexpected encounters gradually reveals more of his past.

Deadline’s take: “The dignity of labor is explored with gentle humor and a very melancholy sense of joie de vivre… Thereason it works at all is down to the foxy, gracious Koji Yakusho, who commands the screen with a largely silent performance. His serenity is contagious, perfectly complementing Wenders’ minor-key direction and adding unexpected profundity to the film’s seemingly simple message.”

Director’s comment:  “This is a very spiritual film for me.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Actor/Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Cannes), Best Film (Asia Pacific Screen Awards),  Critics Choice nomination; Selected in Telluride, Palm Springs

Mads Mikkelsen in The Promised Land

THE PROMISED LAND (Denmark); dir: Nikolaj Arcel; U.S. Distributor: Magnolia

What it’s about: Impoverished captain Ludvig Kahlen in 1755 sets out to conquer the harsh, uninhabitable heath of Jutland with a seemingly impossible goal: to build a colony in the name of the King. But the merciless Frederik de Schinkel does everything in his power to drive the captain away. Kahlen will not be intimidated and engages in an unequal battle — risking not only his life, but also that of the family of outsiders that has formed around him. 

Deadline’s take: “What Arcel and his co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen have made here, wound between the sword-fights, the sex and the spring harvests, is a classic Scandinavian drama about human frailty.”

Director’s comment: “I came upon this novel by Ida Jessen about three years ago and immediately when I read it, I felt it was a perfect film for me to make but also I didn’t want to make it without Mads. This was always written for him and I don’t think a lot of people can achieve that complexity of what that character goes through.”

Key Awards/Festivals: European Actor (EFAs); Selected in Venice, Telluride, Palm Springs


SHAYDA (Australia); dir: Noora Niasari; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

What it’s about: A young Iranian mother and her 6-year-old daughter find refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of Iranian New Year, which is celebrated as a time of renewal and rebirth. Aided by the strong community of women at the shelter, they seek their freedom in this new world of possibilities, only to find themselves facing the violence they tried so hard to escape

Deadline’s take: “Niasari’s film is always respectful of the reality behind its fiction, alluding to the full spectrum of domestic abuse in the obliquely glimpsed stories of the women who pass through Shayda’s shelter.”

Director’s comment:Shayda is a love letter to mothers and daughters… It’s actually inspired by personal experience. I was five-years-old when I lived in a women’s shelter with my mom, so this story has really lived inside me since then.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Audience Award (Sundance), nine AACTA nominations; Selected at Busan, Palm Springs

Society Of The Snow

SOCIETY OF THE SNOW (Spain); dir: J.A. Bayona; U.S. Distributor: Netflix

What it’s about: Based on the true story of the 1972 Andes flight disaster in which a plane carrying Uruguay’s Old Christians Club rugby team for a match in Santiago, Chile, crashed on a glacier at the Valle de las Lágrimas. Over an unimaginable 72 days, they would contend with starvation, exposure, hypothermia and two avalanches, until only 16 remained alive. Ultimately, they were forced to make an agonizing choice: consume the bodies of the dead or die themselves.

Deadline’s take: “What (Bayona) has made is a story of how humanity comes together for each other in the worst of circumstances, how faith can see us through, and the sheer will to live involved in just simply pulling off a miracle by never giving up.”

Director’s comment: “I really wanted to capture the scope of the book, it’s a giant book. Not only about the adventure but about all the levels that the story has on the philosophical, the spiritual, the human side. So, to me it was more like we’re going to try to get inside the story, we’re going to try to tell the whole story, we’re going to go hand-in-hand with the actors, and we’re going to go through the same journey as close as possible.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Film (San Sebatsian), Golden Globe, Critics Choice, Goya nominations; Selected in Venice, Palm Springs

The Taste Of Things

THE TASTE OF THINGS (France); dir: Tran Anh Hung; U.S. Distributor: IFC Films

What it’s about: A period dramathatrevolves around a culinary love affair between a dutiful cook and her gourmet employer.

Deadline’s take: “A highly watchable Aga saga that’s so artful, charming and non-boat-rockingly old-school that it might make you wonder, even in a non-ironic way, what Lasse Hallström has been up to lately.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Best Director (Cannes), Critics Choice nomination; Selected in Palm Springs

Leonie Benesch in The Teachers Lounge movie

THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE (Germany); dir: Ilker Catak; U.S. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

What it’s about: A young and dedicated sports and math teacher who starts her first job full of idealism sees her life and career begin to unravel when a student of Turkish origin is accused of a series of thefts and she decides to get to the bottom of the matter. This quest for the truth sets in motion a spiraling chain of events.

Deadline’s take: “An insular, pulse-pounding thriller set within the confines of a school that, for cinematic purposes, doubles as a microcosm of society in general circa 2023 where facts don’t matter, misinformation is rampant, suspicions run hot, divisions run deep, racism still rears its ugly head, and no one can be quite sure where, and even if they want to, fit in.”

Director’s comment: “We wanted to make a film about truth and how truth can be bended and how people instrumentalize things… It’s also about children’s rights. We weren’t aware of our rights when we were back in school when the teachers came into the class and wanted us to put our wallets on the table to look at them.” 

Key Awards/Festivals: CICAE Award (Berlin), Outstanding Feature Film/Best Director (German Film Awards), Top 5 International Films (NBR); Selected in Telluride, Toronto, AFI, Palm Springs 

'Totem' review

TOTEM (Mexico); dir: Lila Avilés; U.S. Distributor: Janus Films, Sideshow

What it’s about: A 7-year-old girl navigates the strange atmosphere of a special surprise party being held for her dying artist father, from whom she herself feels temporarily estranged.

Deadline’s take:  Avilés’ “eye for telltale detail is extraordinary… Nothing in Tótem lingers, because nothing is milked for emotion. This is a film about family tragedy without a shred of sentimentality.” 

Key Awards/Festivals: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Berlin), Top Five International Films (NBR), Best Director (Beijing), Indie Spirit nomination; Selected in Telluride, London, San Sebastian, Palm Springs

THE ZONE OF INTEREST (UK); dir: Jonathan Glazer; U.S. Distributor: A24

What it’s about: Based on the novel by the late Martin Amis, the film follows Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, and his wife Hedwig, who strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the concentration camp. 

Deadline’s take: “Holocaust movies are virtually a genre of their own, but I can safely say I have never seen one, sans any visuals of violence and suffering, that still manages to be just as harrowing and frightening, maybe even more. The Zone of Interest takes its place among the great films made on the Holocaust and will probably haunt you long after seeing it.”

Director’s comment: “The idea of not showing, not reenacting, the atrocities or the violence was absolutely mandatory for me… There were two films, the one you see and the one your hear.”

Key Awards/Festivals: Grand Prix/FIPRESCI (Cannes), Best Picture/Best Director (Los Angeles Film Critics Association), Best Director (Boston Society of Film Critics), Top Five International Films (NBR), three Golden Globe nominations, Critics Choice and Indie Spirit nominations; Selected at Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs

Four Daughters (Tunisia), dir: Kaouther Ben Hania
The Mother of All Lies (Morocco), dir: Asmae ElMoudir
The Peasants (Poland), dir: Dorota Kobiela
20 Days in Mariupol (Ukraine), dir: Mstyslav Chernov

Omen (Belgium), dir: Baloji 
Pictures of Ghosts (Brazil), dir: Kleber Mendonça Filho
The Settlers (Chile), dir: Felipe Galvez Haberle
Sweet Dreams (Netherlands), dir: Ena Sendijarevic

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Source: DLine

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