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Greece, Iceland, Slovenia Enter Foreign-Language Oscar Race

Greece, Iceland and Slovenia are the latest countries to add their submissions to the list of contenders for the foreign-language Oscar.

The Greek Ministry of Culture has selected comedy “Chevalier” (pictured), which premiered at the 2015 Locarno Film Festival, as Greece’s entry. The film is directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, who co-wrote alongside Efthimis Filippou (“The Lobster”).

The film focuses on a group of six men on a fishing trip on a luxury yacht in the middle of the Aegean Sea for whom everything is a competition. They decide to play a game rating each other’s skills and personal attributes to determine who is best among them, the victor winning the Chevalier ring. It was named best film in the official competition section of last year’s BFI London Film Festival.

Runar Runarsson’s coming-of-age drama “Sparrows” will fly the flag for Iceland. Written and directed by Runarsson, whose short film “The Last Farm” was nominated for the Oscar for best live action short in 2006, “Sparrows” tells the story of a teenager whose life in the big city is disrupted after he is sent by his mother to live with his father and grandmother in a small fishing village in the north of Iceland. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015.

Slovenia’s entry will be docu-fiction “Houston, We Have a Problem,” Ziga Virc’s film exploring a myth that former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito sold a secret multibillion-dollar space program to the U.S. in return for international aid.

The film blends reality and fiction, recreating history through the prism of conspiracy theories and inviting the audience to decide what is invented and what is true. Virc co-wrote the film with his brother Bostjan. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April.

Lebanon also entered the race this week with the submission of Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s debut comedy drama “Very Big Shot.” The film, whic  Bou Chaaya co-wrote with Alain Saadeh, tells the story of a small-time drug dealer who slyly manipulates public opinion with the help on an underrated filmmaker. “Very Big Shot” also premiered in Toronto last year.

It joins Egypt’s “Clash,” announced earlier this month, among Middle Eastern submissions. “Clash,” the sophomore feature of director Mohamed Diab, who co-wrote with his brother Khaled, premiered in Cannes in May, opening Un Certain Regard. Like the Greek entry, “Clash” is set entirely in a single location, here swapping the yacht of “Chevalier” for the confines of a police van. The film tells the story of a number of detainees from different political and social backgrounds thrown together in the violent aftermath of the Arab Spring.

So far, nearly 60 countries have submitted their entries for the foreign-language Oscar in advance of the Oct. 3 deadline. France, Italy and Poland, three recent winners, are among the countries yet to submit their entries. France won the Oscar in 2012 with Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” Italy in 2013 with Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty,” and Poland in 2014 with Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida.”

Among those hoping to score a first-time nomination will be Romania, which submitted Cristi Puiu’s “Sieranevada” last month. The film, which is set just days after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, in January 2015, tells the story of a family gathering following the death of its patriarch. The film saw its world premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 24.

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