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Foreign language contenders

A record-setting 61 countries submitted films for consideration in this year's race. Only five will advance.

Days of Glory
(Rachid Bouchareb, Algeria)
Synopsis: France’s baldly discriminatory attitude toward the North Africans who fought on her behalf in WWII is brought to the screen in a $16 million multinational production.
Prizes: Cannes (actor, Francois Chalais Award)
U.S. distrib: Weinstein Co.

Family Law
(Daniel Burman, Argentina)
Synopsis: Burman’s “fatherhood trilogy” is capped with this personal study of a thirtysomething Buenos Aires lawyer in his roles as father and son.
Prizes: Mar del Plata (Ibero-American film, Signis)
U.S. distrib: IFC First Take

Ten Canoes
(Rolf de Heer, Australia)
Synopsis: The first feature shot entirely in the Australian Aboriginal language of Ganalbingu is a story-within-a-story that relates a cautionary tale involving jealousy and revenge.
Prizes: Cannes (Special Jury Prize – Un Certain Regard)
U.S. distrib: Palm Pictures

You Bet Your Life
(Antonin Svoboda, Austria)
Synopsis: A gambling addict ends his losing streak in a chance encounter with a woman; the film has six alternate conclusions.
Sales: Bavaria Film Intl.

Forever Flows
(Abu Sayeed, Bangladesh)
Synopsis: A daughter in a lower-middle-class family in Dhaka must support her troubled family by working as a prostitute.
Sales: Impress Tele Films

Someone Else’s Happiness
(Fien Troch, Belgium)
Synopsis: Troch’s debut pic revolves around the hit-and-run killing of a child in a close-knit village outside Brussels.
Prizes: Thessaloniki (film), Taipei (special jury prize)
Sales: Celluloid Dreams

American Visa
(Juan Carlos Valdivia, Bolivia)
Synopsis: A Bolivian man must resort to unorthodox methods to secure a visa in order to reunite with his son in Miami.
Prize: Mexico’s Ariel Award (adapted screenplay)
Sales: Cinenomada

Grbavica
(Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Synopsis: With her daughter wanting to get a discount on a school trip using proof of her father’s wartime martyrdom, a Sarajevo mom hesitates, afraid of revealing a darkly held truth.
Prize: Berlin (Golden Bear, Peace Film, Ecumenical Jury)
U.S. distrib: Strand Releasing

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures
(Marcelo Gomes, Brazil)
Synopsis: A German fleeing World War II and a man escaping an oppressive drought in his province join up to screen films in rural Brazil.
Prizes: Mar del Plata (Ibero-American film), Sao Paolo (Intl. Jury Award)
U.S. distrib: Global Film Initiative

Monkeys in Winter
(Milena Andonova, Bulgaria)
Synopsis: Across 40 years of Communist and post-Communist rule in Bulgaria, pic explores the lives of three mothers from separate generations facing bleak decisions.
Prizes: Karlovy Vary (East of the West Award)
Sales: Pangea World

Water
(Deepa Mehta, Canada)
Synopsis: An 8-year-old Hindu widow is sent to live in an ashram with other widows who, in strict adherence with Hindu texts, are condemned to the same outcast fate.
Prizes: Valladolid (Youth Jury Award); Genie Awards – Canada (actress, music, cinematography)
U.S. distrib: Fox Searchlight

En la Cama
(Matias Bize, Chile)
Synopsis: A man and a woman meet at a party, have sex and chat, revealing hidden aspects of themselves.
Prize: Valladolid (film)
Sales: Ceneca Producciones

Curse of the Golden Flower
(Zhang Yimou, China)
Synopsis: During the late Tang Dynasty, the emperor’s plot to poison the empress unleashes tragedy and civil war among his sons. Stars Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li.
U.S. distrib: Sony Pic Classics

A Ton of Luck
(Rodrigo Triana, Colombia)
Synopsis: When a Colombian army platoon battling narco-guerrillas finds the enemy’s stash of $40 million, the temptation to take the booty themselves proves too great to resist.
Sales: CMO Producciones

Libertas
(Veljko Bulajic, Croatia)
Synopsis: Fable-like retelling about Croatian national hero and poet Marin Drzic, who falls in love with the woman helping him flee from his numerous enemies.
Sales: 7 Hills/Tuna Film

El Benny
(Jorge Luis Sanchez, Cuba)
Synopsis: The life of Afro-Cuban jazz legend Benny More is traced from his rise in the ’50s through his fall after the revolution.
Sales: Rive Gauche Films

Lunacy
(Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic)
Synopsis: Blending storytelling elements of Edgar Allen Poe with the character of the Marquis de Sade, pic observes the surreal fate of the son of an insane asylum inmate when he encounters the marquis himself.
Prizes: Czech Lion Awards (art direction, film poster)
U.S. distrib: Zeitgeist Films

After the Wedding
(Susanne Bier, Denmark)
Synopsis: The director of an Indian orphanage returns to his native Denmark to ensure a major donation and encounters startling revelations.
U.S. distrib: IFC Films

The Yacoubian Building
(Marwan Hamed, Egypt)
Synopsis: Adaptation of Alaa Al Aswany’s novel about a mix of rich and poor characters living in a grand old Cairo apartment building that has seen better times.
Prizes: Tribeca (new narrative filmmaker); Montreal (Bronze Zenith)
Sales: Good News Group

Avenue Montaigne
(Daniele Thompson, France)
Synopsis: A provincial woman’s experience as a waitress in a venerable bistro on Paris’ showbizzy Avenue Montaigne has an unexpected impact on her famed customers. Stars Cecile de France, Claude Brasseur, Valerie Lermercier, Albert Dupontel and Sydney Pollack.
U.S. distrib: ThinkFilm

The Lives of Others
(Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany)
Synopsis: An East German playwright becomes the object of electronic surveillance by a cold, methodical Stasi agent who slowly grows sympathetic to his subject.
Prizes: Vancouver (audience award); Warsaw (audience award); Locarno (audience award); Bavarian Film Awards (actor, younger director, screenplay); German Film Awards (film, director, actor, supporting actor, cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, music score, sound)
U.S. distrib: Sony Pictures Classics

Chariton’s Choir
(Grigoris Karantinakis, Greece)
Synopsis: Village fable about a fun-loving high school principal and the uptight army commander who blows into town. Stars George Corraface.
Prizes: Thessaloniki (audience award, Greek competition award); Alexandria (film, director, actress)
Sales: CL Prods.

The Banquet
(Feng Xiaogang, Hong Kong)
Synopsis: “Hamlet” is liberally reimagined in this drama set during the 10th century, when an empress tries to protect her family’s interests by forming a controversial marriage. Ziyi Zhang stars.
Prizes: Venice (Future Film Digital Award – special mention)
Sales: Media Asia Distribution

White Palms
(Szabolcs Hajdu, Hungary)
Synopsis: Twenty-one years in the life of a Hungarian gymnast, from training under a sadistic coach to working as a member of Cirque du Soleil.
Prizes: Hungarian Film Week (film, director, cinematography, editing, Gene Moskovitz award of foreign critics, audience award); Karlovy Vary (East of West Award – special mention)
U.S. distrib: Strand Releasing

Children
(Ragnar Bragason, Iceland)
Synopsis: Somber ensemble drama in black-and-white observes the intertwining lives of a struggling mom and her son, the son’s schizophrenic best friend and a debt collector estranged from his underworld community.
Sales: The Works Intl.

Rang de Basanti
(Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, India)
Synopsis: A young Brit filmmaker recruits four Delhi U. students for a docudrama about freedom fighters in colonial-era India.
U.S. distrib: UTV Motion Pictures

Love for Share
(Nia Dinata, Indonesia)
Synopsis: Dramatized in three segments, three woman from different backgrounds wrestle with polygamy.
Sales: Kalyana Shira Film

Transit Cafe
(Kambozia Partovi, Iran)
Synopsis: A widow’s efforts to run a truck-stop diner near the Iran-Turkey border become a lesson in stifling patriarchy.
Prizes: Mar del Plata (Jury special mention, Argentine critics); Fajr (screenplay, actress)
Sales: Magrytte Films Intl.

Dreams
(Mohamed Al-Daradji, Iraq)
Synopsis: During the early phase of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, doctors and patients survive the bombing of an asylum and venture into Baghdad’s streets.
Prizes: Festroia (special mention prize); Netpac (film)
Sales: Human Film

Sweet Mud
(Dror Shaul, Israel)
Synopsis: A boy living on a southern Israeli Kibbutz in the 1970s witnesses the community’s inhuman treatment of his mentally disturbed mother.
Prizes: Orphir Awards (film)
Sales: Cinephil

Golden Door
(Emanuele Crialese, Italy)
Synopsis: Moving from rural Sicily to third-class steerage to Ellis Island, this tripartite tale of a family’s journey from the Old World to the New propels them from a superstitious past into a colder-eyed modernity.
Prizes: Venice (Silver Lion, Signis, Pasinetti, Fedic, CinemAvvenire, UNICEF)
U.S. distrib: Miramax

Hula Girls
(Sang-il Lee, Japan)
Synopsis: An unlikely group of young women and their teacher form a troupe performing Hawaiian dances, helping to revive spirits in a declining mining town.
Sales: Fortissimo Films

Nomad
(Sergei Bodrov/Talgat Temenov/Ivan Passer, Kazakhstan)
Synopsis: Heroic 18th-century story of local tribes who rally around the young Mansur to defeat the occupying Mongol enemy. Kazakh-language pic has a cast including Jason Scott Lee and thousands of extras.
Prizes: Amazonas fest (audience award)
U.S. distrib: Weinstein Co.

King and the Clown
(Lee Jun-ik, Korea)
Synopsis: A ruthless potentate agrees to spare the lives of two performing clowns when they make him laugh, but the king’s attraction to one of them quickly complicates matters.
Prizes: Grand Bell Awards (film, director, screenplay, actor, supporting actor, new actor)
Sales: CJ Entertainment

The Wedding Chest
(Nurbek Egen, Kyrgyzstan)
Synopsis: A young man returns to his mountain village with his French fiancee (Natacha Regnier), but he’s too intimidated by the elders to tell them the news.
Sales: Kinoglaz

Bosta
(Philippe Aractingi, Lebanon)
Synopsis: Members of a loosely organized dance troupe take a road trip to Lebanese villages to perform their innovative work and encounter long-lost friends and memories along the way.
Sales: Fantascope Prods.

Before Flying Back to Earth
(Arunas Matelis, Lithuania)
Synopsis: Doc about children trying to cope with leukemia in a hospital in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
Prizes: Amsterdam Documentary Festival (Silver Wolf); Silverdocs (special jury mention)
Sales: First Hand Films

Kontakt
(Sergei Stanojkovski, Macedonia)
Synopsis: A shy psychiatric patient recuperates in her family home and grows close to the grungy ex-con who’s renovating the place.
Prizes: Linz (audience award); WorldFest Houston (Special Gold Jury award); European Cinema Awards (Reale Mutua Assicurazioni Award)
Sales: EastWest Filmdistribution

Pan’s Labyrinth
(Guillermo del Toro, Mexico)
Synopsis: After the official end of the Spanish Civil War, a little girl tries to escape a bloodthirsty army commander (Sergi Lopez) by completing three fantastical tasks.
U.S. distrib: Picturehouse

The Moroccan Symphony
(Kamal Kamal, Morocco)
Synopsis: A motley crew of musicians form an orchestra in the hope of performing a symphony in London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Sales: Video Star Prods.

Basain
(Subash Prasad Gajurel, Nepal)
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the novel by Lil Bahadur Chhetri, a villager who’s fallen into debt must leave his home and migrate.
Sales: Makalu Films

Black Book
(Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands)
Synopsis: A Jewish Dutch woman (Carice van Houten) gets involved with the underground resistance during WWII and infiltrates the upper echelons of the Gestapo.
Prizes: Netherlands Film Festival (film, director, actress); Venice (Young Cinema Award – international film)
U.S. distrib: Sony Pictures Classics

Reprise
(Joachim Trier, Norway)
Synopsis: Two aspiring novelist friends in Oslo struggle with their craft, madness and romantic angst.
Prizes: Karlovy Vary (director); Toronto (Diesel Discovery Award)
Sales: Nordisk Film Intl.

Madeinusa
(Claudia Llosa, Peru)
Synopsis: In an Andean village during Good Friday weekend, the mayor’s pretty daughter falls in love with an outsider.
Prizes: Rotterdam (Fipresci); Mar del Plata (Latin American film – Argentine critics); Malaga (Latin American film); Guadalajara (Ibero-American film – special mention)
U.S. distrib: Film Movement

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
(Auraeus Solito, Philippines)
Synopsis: The preteen gay son of a family of crooks is befriended by a nice cop, testing his family loyalties.
Prizes: Berlin (intl. jury prize); Rotterdam (jury prize); Montreal (debut film)
U.S. distrib: Unico Entertainment

Retrieval
(Slawomir Fabicki, Poland)
Synopsis: A hard-luck 19-year-old in an old mining town tries to support his Ukrainian emigre girlfriend, but a life of debt-collecting and illegal boxing matches is dragging him down.
Prizes: Cannes (Ecumenical Jury Prize – special mention); Gdynia (cinematography, editing); Warsaw (screenplay, special mention prize)
Sales: Opus Films

Alice
(Marco Martins, Portugal)
Synopsis: When a girl vanishes from her nursery school, her father methodically searches for her by setting up surveillance cameras.
Prizes: Cannes – Directors Fortnight (Prix Regard Jeunes); Mar del Plata (director, cinematography, Fipresci); Raindance (debut)
Sales: Gemini Films

Thieves and Liars
(Ricardo Mendez Matta, Puerto Rico)
Synopsis: Three-part narrative tells the parallel stories of two brothers using their drug trade earnings to support their grandmother, a single mom fighting for her job and a mother trying to save her teen son from drug addiction.
Sales: Ladrones y Mentirosos

The Way I Spent the End of the World
(Catalin Mitulescu, Romania)
Synopsis: In 1989 Bucharest, Eva and her boyfriend Alex create an uproar at school when they accidentally knock over a plaster bust of Ceausescu.
Prizes: Cannes – Un Certain Regard (actress); Sundance (Sundance/NHK Intl. Filmmakers Award)
Sales: Pyramide Intl.

9th Company
(Fyodor Bondarchuk, Russia)
Synopsis: Russian box office victor, based on actual events, tracks raw recruits through grueling basic training to arrival in the war zone in Afghanistan in 1989 and on to a climactic battle with tragic consequences.
Prizes: Russian Golden Eagle awards (film, cinematography, music, sound)
Sales: Slovo

Tomorrow Morning
(Oleg Novkovic, Serbia)
Synopsis: An emigre’s return to Belgrade to get married becomes the occasion for several emotionally fraught and drunken reunions.
Prizes: Karlovy Vary (East of West Award – special mention)
Sales: Zillion Film

Gravehopping
(Jan Cvitkovic, Slovenia)
Synopsis: A specialist in funeral ora-tions adds personal touches to his eulogies that bring the mourners to tears, but eventually his friends and neighbors reveal the dark side of their characters.
Prizes: San Sebastian (new director); Ljubljana (film – special mention); Cottbus (grand prize); Tromso (audience award); Turin (film)
Sales: Taskovski Films

Volver
(Pedro Almodovar, Spain)
Synopsis: A hard-working Madrid mom (Penelope Cruz) must get on with life as she covers for her daughter’s accidental killing of her nasty husband.
Prizes: Fipresci (film of the year); Cannes (actress, screenplay); Valdivia (audience award)
U.S. distrib: Sony Pictures Classics

Falkenberg Farewell
(Jesper Ganslandt, Sweden)
Synopsis: Five friends in their 20s who have grown up together in a small west coast Swedish town realize their lives are changing as they spend one last summer together.
Sales: Trust Film Sales

Vitus
(Fredi M. Murer, Switzerland)
Synopsis: A piano prodigy resists his parents’ heavy-handed support to spend more time around his funloving grandfather (Bruno Ganz).
Prizes: Berlin (Bronze Bear); Rome (audience award); Chicago (audience award); AFI Los Angeles (audience award)
Sales: Media Luna Entertainment

Blue Cha Cha
(Cheng Wen-tang, Taiwan)
Synopsis: After a spell in jail, a woman stays in the southern port of Kaohsiung with a tough older woman who runs a girly bar.
Sales: Green Light Film

Ahimsa: Stop to Run
(Leo Kittikorn, Thailand)
Synopsis: Dramedy about a young man who is tormented by a karma-laden man in red who tells him he must pay for sins committed in his previous life.
Sales: R.S. Prods.

Ice Cream, I Scream
(Yuksel Aksu, Turkey)
Synopsis: A vendor selling homemade ice cream in a small town faces obstacles when his longtime customers start buying mass-market brands.
Prizes: Istanbul (jury special prize)
Sales: Makara Film

Aurora
(Oxana Bayrak, Ukraine)
Synopsis: An orphan with dreams of a ballet career becomes a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe, but her fortunes seem to turn when she’s treated at a U.S. hospital.
Sales: IntWest Distribution

Maroa
(Solveig Hoogesteijn, Venezuela)
Synopsis: A streetwise girl tries to elude a dogged cop investigating a murder, while her musical gifts elicit support from an idealistic music teacher.
Sales: Latido Films

Pao’s Story
(Ngo Quang Hai, Vietnam)
Synopsis: True story, set in a mountainous region of northern Vietnam, of a resentful woman’s memories of her two mothers.
Prizes: Golden Kite Awards – Vietnam (film, actress, supporting actress, cinematography)
Sales: Vietnam Media Corp.