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Romania’s ‘Collective,’ Ecuador’s ‘Emptiness’ & Algeria’s ‘Héliopolis’ Enter Race for International Feature Film Oscar

Collective
Courtesy of Participant

Romania has chosen Alexander Nanau’s documentary “Collective” (pictured) to be its official entry in the International Feature Film category of the 93rd Academy Awards, while Ecuador has selected Paul Venegas’ “Emptiness” and Algeria has entered Djaâfar Gacem’s “Héliopolis.”

Meanwhile, Bosnia and Herzegovina has confirmed that Jasmila Zbanic’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?” will represent the country in the contest, as reported last week by Variety.

The decisions follow recent submissions by Czech Republic, Singapore, Kosovo and Georgia. Other countries to have selected their entries include Bhutan, Taiwan, Ukraine, Ivory Coast, Luxembourg, Poland and Switzerland.

“Collective” world premiered in Venice last year, before having its North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Magnolia Pictures and Participant will release the film in the U.S. on Nov. 20.

The documentary follows a team of investigative journalists as they uncover widespread corruption. After a deadly nightclub fire, the mysterious death of the owner of a pharmaceutical firm, and the resignation of a health minister — seemingly unrelated events, all within weeks of each other — the team of reporters exposes an explosive political scandal.

“Government corruption is sadly all too familiar across the world and the need to safeguard social justice and press freedom feels more urgent than ever,” Nanau said in a statement. “These are freedoms that have been compromised lately around the world and it could not be a more important time to bring this film to an international audience.”

The film is produced by Nanau and Bianca Oana, Bernard Michaux and Hanka Kastelicová. It is produced by Alexander Nanau Production, and is co-produced by Samsa Film Luxembourg and HBO Europe, with the support of Romanian Film Centre, Luxembourg Film Fund, and Sundance Documentary Fund, with the participation of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, YES Docu, and the support of the Sundance Documentary Fund. Executive producers are Antony Root and Philippa Kowarsky.

“Emptiness” follows the lives of two illegal Chinese immigrants in Ecuador. Lei has only one objective, to reach New York, whereas Wang wants to settle down and bring over his 12-year-old son from China. But their fate is in the hands of Chang, a bipolar gangster, who becomes obsessed with Lei. Uncertain of the future and vulnerable in a country with a different language and culture, and subjected to abuse and exploitation, Lei and Wang must depend on other Chinese immigrants. “To migrate is like jumping into emptiness,” Venegas said in a statement.

The film is the fiction feature debut of Venegas, who is also the screenwriter, alongside Carlos Teran Vargas. Venegas and Teran Vargas produce. Venegas previously worked on documentaries such as “Alberto Spencer, Ecuadorian of Peñarol.” He is developing his second narrative feature film as director, “The Sound of Silence,” and the fiction series “The Age of Ambition” and “Latin America Imaginary.”

The film, which is being sold by Helderland Films, has its international premiere at Busan Film Festival later this month.

Lazy loaded image
Courtesy of Helderland Films

“Héliopolis” is set in the city of Guelma, which was called Heliopolis in ancient times. On May 8, 1945, demonstrations by the Algerian people against French colonial rule and in favor of the country’s independence took place in Guelma. These were brutally put down by the French army and French settler militias. The film centers on the conflict between Zénati, who is in favor of assimilation with France, and his son, who is pressing for independence.

The film is the feature debut for Gacem, who has previously worked on TV series. It is produced by Centre Algérien de Développement du Cinéma.

“Quo Vadis, Aida?” had its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival, and went onto play in official selection at Toronto.

Set in and around the town of Srebenica in Bosnia on July 11, 1995, the film recreates the tumultuous events that led to the infamous genocide of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Aida (played by Jasna Duricic) is a translator for the United Nations based in the UN camp outside the town. When the Serbian army takes over Srebenica, her family is among thousands of citizens seeking refuge at the camp. As an insider to the negotiations between the UN and the Serbian forces, she has crucial information that she interprets that could save the lives of her husband and two sons.

Indie Sales is handling world sales on “Quo Vadis, Aida?”

Zbanic won the Golden Bear at Berlin with her first feature film “Grbavica” in 2006. The film was sold to 40 territories, and was nominated for best film and best actress at the European Film Awards. Her second feature “On the Path” was also selected for competition in Berlin in 2010. Her other films include For “Those Who Can Tell No Tales” (2012) and “Love Island” (2014).

As previously reported, other countries to select their Oscar entries include Czech Republic (“Charlatan”), Singapore (“Wet Season”), Kosovo (“Exil”), Georgia (“Beginning”), Switzerland (“My Little Sister”), Poland (“Never Gonna Snow Again”), Bhutan (“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”), Taiwan (“A Sun”), Ukraine (“Atlantis”), the Ivory Coast (“Night of the Kings”) and Luxembourg (“River Tales”).

The 93rd Oscars ceremony will take place on April 25, 2021.