Kosovo has selected Visar Morina’s “Exil” as its official entry in the International Feature Film category of the 93rd Academy Awards, while Georgia has chosen Dea Kulumbegashvili’s “Beginning.” It follows submissions by Bhutan, Taiwan, Ukraine, Bosnia, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Poland and Switzerland.
“Exil” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and also screened at the Berlinale as part of the Panorama section. The film won the Heart of Sarajevo, the top prize of Sarajevo Film Festival.
The film centers on Xhafer (played by Misel Maticevic), a Kosovan expat in Germany, who finds himself the subject of relentless xenophobic bullying. Sandra Hüller, the star of “Toni Erdmann,” plays his German wife, who slowly distances herself from what she perceives as his paranoia.
In his review for Variety, Guy Lodge describes the film as “painfully exact in dramatizing the quiet xenophobia (Xhafer) experiences on a daily basis, even as the mounting possibility of paranoia tilts its point of view.”
In a statement, the Kosovan selection committee said the film is a “sharp portrait of the already integrated generation of immigrants, a generation that we rarely see on film, who despite personal achievements are hardly freed from the feeling of being a foreigner.”
It added: “We consider that the film speaks in a universal way, not only for Albanians, but for all those who leave their homelands to find new cities which never became their homes. ‘Exil’ pushes for a dialogue about the politics of hospitality, a dialogue that has been lacking for a long time.”
“Exil” is a co-production between Germany, Kosovo and Belgium, produced by Komplizen Film, Ikonë Studio and Frakas, with international sales by The Match Factory.
It is the second film by Morina to represent Kosovo at the Oscars, following “Babai” in 2016.
“Beginning,” Kulumbegashvili’s feature debut, swept the top awards at San Sebastian Film Festival this year, winning best film, director, actress and screenplay. Of the film, jury president and filmmaker Luca Guadagnino said, “This film was a revelation, a moment of authentic cinema that fills the screen with flames.”
It won the FIPRESCI critic’s prize at Toronto Film Festival, and was an official selection of both Cannes and New York film festivals. It will next screen in Busan and also Cannes’ upcoming four-film “Special Cannes” event at the end of October.
“Beginning” takes place in a sleepy provincial town in Georgia, in a Jehovah’s Witness community that is attacked by an extremist group. In the midst of this conflict, the familiar world of Yana, the wife of the community leader, slowly crumbles. Yana’s inner discontent grows as she struggles to make sense of her desires.
Kulumbegashvili co-wrote the film with Rati Oneli, and it stars Oneli and Ia Sukhitashvili. The film is produced by Ilan Amouyal, David Zerat, Rati Oneli, and Paul Rozenberg. World sales are being handled by Wild Bunch International. CAA Media Finance is co-repping in North America.
Other countries to have submitted films in the International Feature Film category of the Academy Awards include Switzerland, which selected “My Little Sister,” directed by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, and Poland, which selected “Never Gonna Snow Again,” directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert.
Other entries include Pawo Choyning Dorji’s “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” representing Bhutan, Chung Mong-hong’s “A Sun” for Taiwan, Valentyn Vasyanovych’s “Atlantis” for Ukraine, Jasmila Zbanic’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?” for Bosnia, Philippe Lacôte’s “Night of the Kings” for the Ivory Coast, and Julie Schroell’s “River Tales” for Luxembourg.
The 93rd Oscars ceremony will take place on April 25, 2021.