Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 14 July 2020

The 21 films from the Mena region that have been nominated for Oscars

Faisal Salah charts every Arab film nominated for an Oscar accolade since the first Academy Awards in 1929

In 1970, Z, a feature directed by Costa-Gavras from Greece, became the first Arab film to win an Oscar. Z was a French-Algerian production that was submitted by Algeria – it was nominated for four awards and won two. It is the first Arab film to have won Best Foreign Film, but with more movies coming out of this region (three are nominated this year), this will ­hopefully change soon. With the Oscars less than a week away, we round up the regional works that have been ­nominated over the years.

'For Sama' (Syria, 2020)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Heartbreaking and gripping, For Sama is a Syrian documentary filmed over five years from inside besieged Aleppo that gives a first-hand account of war from the perspective of a new mother. It won the Best Documentary Bafta at British Academy Film Awards Sunday: standing on stage with her daughter, Sama, who is the star of and inspiration for the film, director Waad Al-Kateab asked the audience to let the people in Idlib “hear your voice now”. The film, with four nominations at the Baftas, is the most nominated documentary in that awards’ history, and is a front runner for the Documentary Feature Oscar. It’s an amazing trajectory considering Al- Kateab was, three years ago, unsure if anyone would see the moments she had captured. “In 2016 … we even thought about where we should bury our footage in case we didn’t make it,” she revealed during her Baftas speech.

'The Cave' (Syria, 2020)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Directed by Feras Fayyad, The Cave follows the story of Dr Amani Ballour, a paediatrician who stayed in Eastern Ghouta to aid people in a makeshift underground hospital. In 2018, Fayyad also received a Best Documentary Feature nomination for his film, Last Men in Aleppo.

'Brotherhood' (Tunisia, 2020)

Nominated for Best Live Action - Short

Meryam Joobeur’s Brotherhood explores the tensions within a family, which arise after the patriarch becomes suspicious of his eldest son, Malik, who returns home after a long journey with a mysterious new Syrian wife. This is Tunisia’s first Oscar nomination.

'Capernaum' (Lebanon, 2019)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Nadine Labaki made headlines last year with this docu-drama feature film, which tells the story of a 12-year-old boy living in the slums of Beirut, who sues his parents for bringing him into this world. Labaki’s film was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 2018 and won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in the same year.

Of Fathers and Sons (Syria, 2019)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Directed by Syrian- Kurdish filmmaker Talal Derki, this story details how hatred and fundamentalism is transmitted from one generation to the next. The documentary focuses on Abu Osama, a father who is preparing his two sons to join Al Nusra Front in Syria. The director lived among the fighters, who thought he was one of them, for more than two years.

'Last Men in Aleppo' (Syria, 2018)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Directed by Feras Fayyad, Last Men in Aleppo is a film about the White Helmets volunteer organisation, also known as the Syria Civil Defence. The story hones in on three of the volunteers and the horror of what they encounter on their search and rescue operations is harrowingly realised. The film lost the Oscar to Icarus, directed by Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan.

'The Insult' (Lebanon, 2017)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Directed by Ziad Doueiri, The Insult looks at the relationships between Lebanese-Christians and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. It is the first film from the country to be nominated in this category, but it lost to Iran’s Oscars entry – Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. But only a year later, Capernaum took up the mantle for its countrymen.

'The White Helmets' (Syria, 2017)

Nominated for Best Documentary Short

This Netflix-supported film tells the story of the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue organisation that works across Syria. Coming out at a time when the world’s focus was firmly on the conflict in Syria, the feature sheds light on the work of this group, and what they had to go through. The film, which won the Oscar, was directed by Orlando Von Einsiedel.

Ave Maria (Palestine, 2016)

Nominated for Best Live Action Short

Directed by Basil Khalil, this independent comedy short set in Palestine follows the story of a group of Israeli settlers who find themselves needing to rely on a group of Palestinian nuns for rescue. While the film was an Oscar favourite, it lost to Irish film Stutterer.

'Theeb' (Jordan, 2016)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Production on Theeb was partially funded by Abu Dhabi’s Sanad Fund. The feature tells the story of a young Bedouin boy who ventures with his brother and a British soldier into the desert. Theeb was likened to David Lean’s desert epic Lawrence of Arabia, for portraying the beautiful landscapes in a similar vein to the 1962 classic. Theeb lost the Oscar to Hungary’s Son of Saul.

'Timbuktu' (Mauritania, 2015)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Made by veteran African filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu is about a cattle herder and his family, whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of jihadists. Shot beautifully by Sofian El Fani (the cinematographer who worked on Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour), the movie was also a triumph in acting talent. Nonetheless, Timbuktu lost the coveted prize to Poland’s Ida.

'Omar' (Palestine, 2014)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Hany Abu-Assad’s second nomination, Omar, tells the story of a young Palestinian freedom fighter who is forced to work as an informant. At its heart, the film is a love story in the midst of chaos. Omar spearheaded a three-year streak of Arab nominations in the Foreign Language category, although it lost to Italy’s The Great Beauty.

'The Square' (Egypt, 2014)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Directed by Jehane Noujaim, The Square is about the Egyptian uprisings from 2011 to 2013, centered on Tahrir Square. The documentary is often praised for its intimate approach to chronicling the protests, hearing from and seeing the protesters themselves. The Square lost the Oscar to 20 Feet from Stardom by Morgan Neville, Caitrin Rogers and Gil Friesen.

'Karama Has No Walls' (Yemen, 2014)

Nominated for Best Documentary Short

Karama Has No Walls has the distinct honour of being the only film from Yemen to be nominated for an Academy Award. Directed by Sara Ishaq, the documentary short shows what the people on the streets think and how they feel about their lives and what drove them to protest. It lost the Oscar to The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

5 Broken Cameras (Palestine, 2013)

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Co-directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras focuses on the destruction of Burnat’s cameras, starting with his first in 2005. It won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and the International Emmy Award in 2013. It lost the Oscar to Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man.

'Outside the Law' (Algeria, 2011)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Rachid Bouchareb scored a hat-trick with his third nomination in the category. Outside the Law tells the story of the Algerian resistance that fought against the French for independence after the Second World War. Jamel Debbouze and Roschdy Zem starred as members of the resistance. The film was an early favourite, but Danish film In a Better World took the Oscar.

'Days of Glory' (Algeria, 2007)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

For the first time in Oscars history, an Arab film was nominated for the second consecutive year in 2007. Bouchareb received his second Best Foreign Film nod with the Second World War film Days of Glory. It tells the story of a band of Algerian soldiers who fought for France against Nazi Germany. It ironically lost the Oscar to Germany’s The Lives of Others by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

'Paradise Now' (Palestine, 2006)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

Paradise Now, a story of two childhood friends who are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, is directed by Hany Abu-Assad, and was the first film to be submitted under The Palestinian Territories at the time. It was praised for its raw emotion and highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people. It lost to South Africa’s Tsotsi.

'Dust of Life' (Algeria, 1996)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

The third Algerian movie to pick up a Best Foreign Film nomination was the first directed by an Arab filmmaker. Dust of Life explores the subject of re-education camps in Vietnam after the withdrawal of US forces. Through Arab eyes, director Rachid Bouchareb tries to convey the Vietnamese struggle after being ravaged by war. It eventually lost to Antonia’s Line from the Netherlands.

'Le Bal' (Algeria, 1984)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

This was another joint Algerian and European production, and was produced with help from France and Italy. Le Bal is a dance film without dialogue, made in 1983, by Italian director Ettore Scola. The feature is a visual feast; chronicling 50 years of French socio-cultural history, by following the comings and goings in a French ballroom. The film lost to Sweden’s entry, Fanny and Alexander, by Ingmar Bergman.

'Z' (Algeria, 1970)

Nominated for Best Foreign Film

At the 42nd Academy Awards, Z became the first movie nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture. It’s about the assassination of a Greek politician – with a fictionalised and satirical eye. Its editor, Francoise Bonnot, also won an Oscar for Best Editing. Algeria is still the Arab country with the most nominations to date.

Updated: February 5, 2020 07:11 AM

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