Every year the Oscars category for Best Foreign Language Film — and the BAFTA equivalent — showcase the greatest movies from around the globe, plus the international filmmaking talent that helped bring them into existence.
Recent winners include The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino, currently responsible for the stunning visuals of HBO’s The Young Pope starring Jude Law, and In a Better World, directed by The Night Manager‘s Susanne Bier.
So it was this category that interested us most when the Academy and BAFTA announced their nominations earlier this month. Each year, we pledge to catch more of the non-English films nominated by the American and British Academies, and 2017 is no different.
However, it can be hard to track them down, so here’s your exclusive guide to the flicks nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language — and how to watch them. See how many you can cram in before the ceremonies in February.
Toni Erdmann (Germany)
First on the list is Toni Erdmann — the only film nominated by both the Academy and BAFTA this year. Billed as a “German comedy,” it’s attracted all the obvious jokes, but reviews calling it “gloriously unpredictable” and even “uproarious” have put paid to that. Add in a serious side about the nooks and crannies of a father-daughter relationship, and you have cinematic gold.
Where and when to watch it: Having opened at Christmas in the U.S., Toni Erdmann is still on limited release in a few theaters. Find out if it’s showing in a theater near you.
Son of Saul (Hungary)
The next two films were nominated by both the American and British Academies, but different cutoff dates meant in separate years. Son of Saul won the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film last year, and is now up for a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. It’s well worth tracking down, but viewer beware: it’s a harrowing tale that unflinchingly depicts the horror of the Holocaust. It tells the story of Saul, a Hungarian Jewish prisoner forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination.
Where and when to watch: Son of Saul is already available on DVD and Blu-Ray in the U.S., and for download at iTunes.
Also nominated for a BAFTA this year and an Oscar last year, though it eventually lost out to Son of Saul, was this coming-of-age story about five rebellious young orphaned sisters. Picture Pride and Prejudice, but set in modern-day rural Turkey, as the girls come into conflict with their guardians’ conservative expectations. The film by French-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüve, which won four Césars at French film awards in 2016, garnered widespread critical acclaim and an impressive 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Salesman (Iran)
Arthur Miller‘s play Death of a Salesman features in this film by Asghar Farhadi, as its main characters — a married couple — are playing Willy and Linda Loman in an amateur production. That production soon recedes into the background, however, as Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti)’s real-life relationship breaks down, serving instead as an outlet for their emotions onstage every night. And if that weren’t tortuous enough, then suspense is added to the film’s unflinching realism by a story of violent assault and prostitution.
Where and when to see it: The Salesman is showing in selected theaters.
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
A little more uplifting is this Scandinavian gem that’s been nominated for an Oscar. Anyone who’s seen Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets or Bill Murray in St. Vincent will recognize Ove (Rolf Lassgård), a grumpy old guy who experiences a turnaround in his world-weary attitude to life when he gets new neighbors. But this is a distinctly tragicomic take on the tale. And at the age of 61, Scandi-noir star Lassgård is one to watch: he’s due to appear in Downsizing, an upcoming sci-fi comedy drama starring Matt Damon, Kirsten Wiig, and Alec Baldwin.
Where and when to watch: Available in a few selected theaters in February, you can also watch A Man Called Ove on DVD and Blu-Ray — or stream it online. Distributor Music Box Films has more details.
This extraordinary film has all the hallmarks of a Romeo and Juliet story, though the action is transferred from Verona to one of the world’s last truly tribal societies. The tale of star-crossed lovers is performed by the Yakel people of Tanna, a small island off Vanuatu — itself a Pacific island nation some 1,000 miles east of Australia. With visuals as stunning as anything out of a David Attenborough documentary, it’s no wonder this film captivated the Academy.
Another BAFTA contender is the latest offering from Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Talk to Her), though it failed to make the cut at last year’s Academy Awards. Like this year’s Oscar hopeful Moonlight, it uses two different actresses (Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte) to depict its protagonist at two different stages in her life: When she discovers her long-lost daughter Antía has resurfaced in Madrid, and when (and why) Antía abandoned her in the first place.
Where and when to watch: Julieta is currently playing in select theaters in the US. Sony Classics has more details.
Having nabbed the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, Dheepan is a strong contender for the Best Film Not in the English Language BAFTA. It tells the story of a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka, who, alongside an unknown woman and child, poses as a family to gain asylum in France. It’s been praised for its intense and searing honesty, but the film’s authenticity goes much further than that: Lead character Dheepan is played by Antonythasan Jesuthasan, himself a former child soldier-turned-actor.
Land of Mine (Denmark)
This Oscar nominee may hail from Denmark, but it’s the third nominee (count ’em) in the German language, as filmmakers from Christopher Nolan to this film’s Martin Zandvliet continue to be fascinated by the events of mid-twentieth century history. Land of Mine depicts a little-known aspect of World War II: when German POWs were sent to clear mines in Denmark in its aftermath.
Where and when to watch: Land of Mine will return to U.S. theaters on limited release from February 17.
Which foreign film is top of your to-watch list?Read More