The Foreigners Of The Oscars


January 12 – 22, 2017

Istanbul Modern Cinema, presents a program of films nominated for the “Best Foreign Language Film” category in anticipation of the upcoming Oscars ceremony. Highlighting the prominent productions in this race, the selection represents a category that features films from different cultures and languages, and which attained success in film festivals across the world outside Hollywood, before their nomination for the Oscars.  Some of the outstanding films in the program are: Elle, Paul Verhoeven’s first feature film in French and the subject of which sparked debates; My Life as a Zucchini (Ma Vie de Courgette), a bitter-sweet French-Swiss animation favored at this year’s Cannes Film Festival; The Salesman (Forushande) by Ashgar Farhadi – one of the most powerful representatives of contemporary Iranian cinema – is a film that presents a new moral resolution through the  lives and of Rana and Emad who play the lead roles in a local rendition of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”; “Julieta, renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s 20th feature film based on a woman’s past; Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) is an Italian documentary that is based on one of the most pressing social issues of our time - Europe’s refugee crisis, and Apprentice, a Singaporeanpsychological drama set in a jail that centers on the relationship between a correctional officer and an executioner.

The Age of Shadows
Barakah Meets Barakah
Fire at Sea
Houston, We Have a Problem!
It’s Only The End Of The World
Land of Mine
My Life As A Zucchini
On the Other Side
The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann


Spain | DCP, Color, 99’ | Spanish

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao

Julieta, a woman in her fifties, is about to move from her town to start a new life with her lover. After an encounter with a young woman on the street she suddenly changes her mind about moving and breaks up with her lover. This encounter which turns her world upside down also marks the beginning of Julieta’s journey to the past. As of that moment she dedicates her life to finding her daughter Anita, who abandoned her home without a word at the age of eighteen. This Almodóvar film is prominent for the emotional depth of its female characters as well as the use of color, space and music. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.



Mexico, France | DCP, Color, 94’ | Spanish, English

Director: Jonás Cuarón

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo

The fate of a group of hopeful refugees who want to enter America illegally from the Mexican border lie in the hands of a crazed vigilante who is trying to hunt them down. Under these conditions created by a harsh terrain, unbearable desert heat and wild animals, the refugees have nowhere to hide and a fierce chase awaits them. The film directed and written by Jonás Cuarón, and co-starring Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is a bone-chilling survival thriller.


South Korea | DCP, Color, 140’ | Korean, Japanese, Chinese, English
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Gong Yoo, Song Kang-ho

Lee, who once fought for the independence of Korea, is a captain in the Japanese police force. When he is given the order to infiltrate the armed resistance organization called “Honest Brothers” he meets Kim, one of its leaders. However, as his friendship with Kim and his relationships with members of the armed resistance develops he begins to doubt his mission, his loyalty to the organization and becomes both the predator and the prey. Set in 1920s Korea under Japanese invasion, the film narrates a riveting story of espionage on friendship and revenge.



Switzerland, France | DCP, Color, 66’ | French

Director: Claude Barras

Dubbing: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud

The little “Zucchini” is sent to an orphanage following the death of his alcoholic mother. While trying to get accustomed to his new environment he receives support from other children who, like him, are enduring challenging conditions and his friend, police officer Raymond. This highly melancholic and dark stop-motion animated film by Claude Barras also reflects the strength of a child’s heart and frequently makes the audience burst into laughter. It premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival and received critical acclaim at all of the film festivals where it was screened.

With the contributions of



Italy, France | DCP, Color, 114’ | Italian, English

Director: Gianfranco Rosi

Cast: Samuele Pucillo, Pietro Bartolo, Maria Costa

After winning the Golden Lion for his documentary, Sacro GRA, in his most recent documentary Gianfranco Rosi conveys one of the most pressing current social problems to the screen: the refugee crisis in Europe. Lampedusa – a small island off the coast of Sicily which serves as a passageway to Europe for North African refugees in particular – has become a symbol of refugees’ hopes, hardships and fates. This is a powerful film that tells the story of refugees, wishing to live safely in peace and harmony, who often lose their lives during the arduous journey while the residents of Lampedusa witness their plight. Fire at Sea will bring you face to face with realms that never intersect despite the smallness of the island.



Singapore, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Qatar| DCP, Color, 115’ | Malay, English

Director: Boo Jungfen

Cast: Firdaus Rahman, Wan Hanafi Su, Mastura Ahmad

The children of a murdered father, Aiman and his older sister Suhalia share the same house. In order to fulfill his need for confronting with his past, Aiman begins to work in a high-security jail with his father’s executioner, Rahim. When the senior executioner’s assistant suddenly quits his job, Rahim offers Aiman an apprenticeship. Despite his sister’s objections and in light of his past, his apprenticeship paves the way for escalating tension. This striking film based on internal feuds, family relationships, state policies, crime and punishment was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.



Sweden, Finland, Germany | DCP, Black & White, 90’ | Finnish

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Cast: Jarkko Lahti, Oona Airola, Eero Milonoff

This film is based on the true story of 1962 World Featherweight Championship finalist Olli Mäki. The talented boxer who suddenly became the pride of his country leaves his small town to train for the world championship. However, while preparing for the most important match of his boxing career, Olli finds himself distracted by his newly-budding romance. Inside the boxing ring Finland stands against the USA, but Olli’s love for Raija is what stands between him and his victory in the ring. This heart-warming film is a one-of-a-kind sports film. 

With the contributions of



Canada, France | DCP, Color,  97’ | French

Director: Xavier Dolan

Cast: Nathalie Baye, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard

Having already achieved great success despite his young age, director Xavier Dolan brings together the stars of French cinema in his latest film. After leaving his family home and setting up his own life, Louis returns home to his troubled family many years later to tell them about his illness and that he doesn’t have long to live. However, this turns out to be a more difficult task than he anticipated. Prominent for its close shots, raised voices as a consequence of emotional turmoil and the intense feelings it awakes in the audience, this film won the Grand Prix at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.


ELLE, 2015

France | DCP, Color,  130’ | French

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny

Elle, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s first feature film in French, tells the story of Michèle – a middle-aged business woman – after being raped in her home. Michèle is the head of a video game company who draws attention for her success as much as for her assertiveness. After the events that befall her, she resolves to get her own back instead of assuming the role of a victim. The film which brings together Paul Verhoeven – director of modern classics such as Basic Instinct, Showgirls and RoboCop which sparked debates – and renowned French actress Isabelle Huppert, is one of the most successful films of the year due to its groundbreaking screenplay and the unexpected impression it leaves on the audience.



Germany | DCP, Color, 162’ | German, English

Director: Maren Ade

Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Michael Wittenborn

Winfred, who thinks that he is not close enough with his workaholic daughter Ines, is a music teacher without students. He goes to visit his daughter who is working on an important project in Budapest but their time together doesn’t turn out the way he envisaged it. Winfred re-enters his daughter’s life as a life coach and counsellor and pulls pranks on her with his fake teeth, worn-out suit and strange wig to take her out from the capitalist world in which she is suffocating. The film that makes the audience burst into laughter in almost every scene was widely acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival and is one of the front-runners at the Oscars.

With the contributions of



Iran, France | DCP, Color, 125’ | Persian

Director:Asghar Farhadi

Cast:Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti, Babak Karimi

Oscar-winning Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi re-takes his place in the race leading to the golden statuette with his latest film, The Salesman. Emad and Rana move to a spacious yet older flat in another building nearby as the building they occupy is on the brink of collapsing. The couple’s personal life seems to follow suit with the fate of their old home when Rana is attacked in the flat. The film that won Best Screenplay and Best Actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival is prominent for the flawless screenplay by Farhadi, its triumphant acting and breathtaking sense of thrill.



Croatia, Serbia | DCP, Color,  85’ | Croatian

Director: Zrinko Ogresta

Cast: Ksenija Marinković, Lazar Ristovski, Tihana Lazović

Vesna moved to Zagreb twenty years ago to leave behind the tragedies of the Bosnian War during which her husband Žarko fought for the Serbians.  Living with her two children who are now adults, both nurse Vesna and her children are content with their new life. However, one day she receives a phone call from her husband and a myriad of emotions such as hate, love, hope and disgust awaken. This is a gripping psychological drama that offers a fresh perspective on the dissolution of Yugoslavia.



Denmark, Germany | Blu-Ray, Color,  100’ | Danish, German, English

Director: Martin Zandvliet

Cast: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman

A group of German prisoners of war are sent to Denmark following Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Their task is to clear approximately two million mines on the west coast of the country with no protection and bare hands. Based on the true story of people – half of whom lost their lives or limbs – who were given this task, Land of Mine sheds light on a lesser known side of World War II and takes the audience on a sad and moving journey into the darker parts of history.


NERUDA, 2016

Chile, Argentina, France, Spain, USA | DCP, Color,  107’ | Spanish, French

Director: Pablo Larraín

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco

Chilean director Pablo Larraín appears before us with his new film following his previous feature The Club which was nominated for the Oscars last year. Neruda is based on how Pablo Neruda wrote Canto General during the difficult period during which he lived in his homeland as a fugitive and how he turned his period into an opportunity for re-creating himself. The film that conveys the Nobel Laureate poet and politician’s struggle against the state to the screen premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival.



Saudi Arabia | DCP, Color,  88’ | Arabic

Yönetmen: Mahmoud Sabbagh

Oyuncular: Hisham Fageeh, Fatima AlBanawi, Sami Hifny

What could a civil servant and a social media superstar have in common? Genial Barakah is from a humble background and serves a civil servant in Jeddah. One day he sees Bibi, the adopted daughter of a wealthy family, during a photo shoot which he is supposed to fine, but he can’t get over her beauty. After overcoming many obstacles, the duo manages to spend time alone in the harsh social environment where even an innocent meeting is almost impossible. This first romantic comedy from Saudi Arabia provides concealed yet edgy political criticism with traces of yearning for the past.



Egypt, France | DCP, Color,  97’ | Arabic

Director: Mohamed Diab

Cast: Nelly Karim, Hany Adel, Tarek Abdel Aziz, Mai El Ghaity

Screened as the opening feature of the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Clash casts a glance on the events of the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état from inside a police minibus. The tension between Morsi supporters and coup supporters who are kept under surveillance in a confined eight square meter space, and the violence they witness through the window of the bus increases throughout the film. Fresh-faced director Mohamed Diab doesn’t refrain from reminding the audience that the revolution of 2011 was supported by people from both sides of the political spectrum and directs one of the most arresting films that objectively narrates the chaotic period Egypt experienced.



Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Qatar | DCP, Color,  87’ |Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian, English

Director: Žiga Virc

Houston We Have A Problem! offers a fresh perspective on the conspiracy theory that the USA – lagging behind in the space race of the 1960s – bought the space program and technologies secretly produced by Yugoslavia. Žiga Virc’s debut feature-length film deals with this conspiracy theory that is believed to be true by many in the Balkans. Defined as a docufiction-mockumentary by Virc, the film, in the director’s own words, tells “the symbolic story of the rise and fall of Yugoslavia”. The film which unites the fictional story of a father and daughter’s first encounter with real archival footage around this legend is as entertaining as is thought-provoking.   

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