Nominations for the Academy Award® for Best International Feature Film are of global importance. The competition to be an annual selection is always steep and 2021 is no different. The eight films in this group are the cream of the crop, not only in their country of origin, but in the year of cinema as a whole. These standout features from Morocco, Finland, Japan, Austria, Colombia, Mexico, Russia and Norway each embody the humanity of storytelling on a worldwide scale.
AFI FEST 2021: Oscar Submissions
CASABLANCA BEATS (HAUT ET FORT)
Morocco Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
North American Premiere
Based on director Nabil Ayouch’s own experiences opening a cultural center for young people in Casablanca, his new film depicts a group of Moroccan students trying their hand at rap with the guidance of a former rapper and navigating their way through differences in identity, religion and politics. As students and teacher find themselves in direct conflict with the social issues they explore through music, each of them must reckon with the decision to continue rapping or return to the silence of their previous lives. With a dynamic ensemble of first-time actors, Ayouch’s film brings a passionate perspective on a cathartic story with sincerity and depth for an audience of all ages. CASABLANCA BEATS encompasses the heart of youthful inspiration in this lyrical slice of life, as well as the discovery that self-expression cannot be curbed or controlled. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 11, 8:00 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
COMPARTMENT NO. 6
Finland Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
A young Finnish woman escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a larger-than-life Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment No. 6 to face major truths about human connection. COMPARTMENT NO. 6 shared the Grand Prix award at Cannes in 2021 and has been selected as Finland’s official entry for the 94th Academy Awards®. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 11, 10:00 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
DRIVE MY CAR (DORAIBU MAI KÂ)
Japan Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
Following the theatrical screening, watch a special conversation with director Ryusuke Hamaguchi moderated by AFI Festivals Programmer Malin Kan.
Expanding on the eponymous Haruki Murakami short story, this epic examination of loss from Japanese auteur Ryusuke Hamaguchi (ASAKO I & II), which won Best Screenplay at Cannes, follows well-known stage actor Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who is invited to direct a multi-lingual version of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima. Accustomed to running lines behind the wheel with a tape recorded by his late wife, Yusuke is dismayed to learn that the production requires he accept a quiet young woman, Misaki, as his driver. When her driving abilities prove more than adequate, his concerns are shifted to revelations about his wife, a possible affair uncovered and an inner life he will never fully know. With a delicate emotionality, Hamaguchi explores what is left behind when a love is lost and a city is decimated. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 13, 12:30 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
GREAT FREEDOM (GROSSE FREIHEIT)
Austria Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the Queer Palm, Franz Rogowski [who starred in the AFI FEST films HAPPY END (2017) and I WAS AT HOME, BUT…(2019)] captivates as the lovesick Hans in Sebastian Meise’s second narrative feature 10 years following his debut (STILL LIFE). Incessantly imprisoned for breaking Germany’s “Paragraph 175” – a law that makes homosexuality a crime – Hans’ life unfolds in postwar Germany over three periods of time and with three distinct relationships. He has a brief but passionate connection with Leo, a soft-spoken schoolteacher, and a longer, more serious romance with Oskar. But Hans’ most complex and profound relationship is with Viktor, his homophobic cellmate, who after 20 years grows to be his closest confidante. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 14, 4:00 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
Colombia Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
While visiting Bogotá, Colombia, Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a Scottish orchid farmer grappling with deep existential unease, becomes tormented by a sound only she can hear: the heavy thud of a falling metal ball. But when a sound engineer recreates the noise, Jessica finds that communicating the unplaceable sound in her head does not mitigate her own intense feelings of displacement. Continuing to seek answers, she travels to the mountains to meet with an archeologist researching ritual deaths, but an encounter with a local fisherman instead suggests she look to the skies and the land for answers. Inspired by the filmmaker’s own experience suffering from “exploding head syndrome,” MEMORIA is confounding and transfixing, an intriguing addition to the filmography of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES) and a deserved co-winner of the Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 14, 2:45 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN (NOCHE DE FUEGO)
Mexico Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
Neorealism is at its grittiest in this devastating narrative debut from documentary filmmaker Tatiana Huezo (TEMPESTAD). Ana lives in the mountains of Mexico where the violence of the drug cartel looms in the background and forces a rotation of teachers to flee from danger. When a local girl suddenly disappears, Ana and her two best friends must cut their hair short and wear baggy clothes to avoid being kidnapped. Despite this constant threat, the girls grow up together in a refuge of nature. Actresses Ana Cristina Ordóñez González and Marya Membreño give gripping performances as the protagonist at different ages. Huezo crafts a tour de force that is bold and uncanny in its depiction of girlhood in the menace of modern day. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 14, 4:15 p.m.| Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
UNCLENCHING THE FISTS (RAZZHIMAYA KULAKI)
Russia Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
Following the theatrical screening, watch a special conversation with director Kira Kovalenko moderated by AFI Festivals Programmer Malin Kan.
In a remote North Caucasus mining town, Ada is coming of age in a deeply dysfunctional family isolated by the men that surround her: a clingy younger brother, a detached older brother and an ailing, demanding father. Having suppressed her own needs and enduring physical pain to the point of desperation, the welcome attentions of a local boy present the possibility of new experiences, and a potential escape. However, as Ada gets a taste of a better life, family tensions mount and her desperate urge to break free conflicts with a deep distrust of others and the increasing demands of a tyrannical father. A worthy recipient of the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival, Russian newcomer Kira Kovalenko delivers a raw, visceral experience, and the film is filled with harshly beautiful performances certain to leave audiences shaken and moved. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 12, 9:45 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
Norway Official International Feature Film Oscar® Submission
Julie is experiencing an existential crisis of life and love. She’s altered her career path a handful of times and begins dating Aksel, an older and successful graphic novelist. As time goes on, Julie bristles against his need to settle down. When Julie crashes a party one night, she meets the charming and equally carefree Eivind and throws herself into a new relationship with vigor.
The latest film by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (THELMA, LOUDER THAN BOMBS) is a wry and at times melancholy romance, portraying a young woman navigating her way through her evolving identity, happiness and mistakes. THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD reminds us how quickly life can pass us by and to make the most of every opportunity in it. Learn more about the film.
Screening in-person | November 11, 9:15 p.m. | Buy In-Person Ticket(s)
With health and safety being top priority, AFI FEST 2021 will require all festival-goers who attend in-person events and/or screenings to be fully vaccinated. Learn more about AFI’s annual film festival celebrating the best in global cinema at FEST.AFI.com.
Individual tickets and passes to AFI FEST 2021 are currently available on FEST.AFI.com. AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits to the festival. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join/.