Oscars 2021: African best international feature film submissions so far

The 93rd Oscars is scheduled to hold April 25, 2021 with film eligibility window extended to February 28, 2021.

'This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection', 'The Milkmaid' and 'Night Of Kings'  among African IFF 2021  submissions  [cineuropa, Trigon Film, Instagram/@milkmaid_movie]

The category formerly known as the Best Foreign Language film before 2020, gives room for the coveted spot of international relevance, one that only three African countries have attained - Algeria’s “Z” in 1969, Ivory Coast’s “Black and White in Color” (“La Victoire en chantant”) in 1976 and South Africa's 'Tsotsi' in 2006.

15 years and two submissions later, Nigeria like some African countries, is still hoping to secure a nomination ( recent African nominations include South Africa's 'Yesterday' in 2005, Algeria's 'Outside The Law' in 2011 and Mauritania’s “Timbuktu” in 2014).

In 2020, Nigeria's first-ever submission, Netflix's 'Lion Heart' was disqualified based on language ineligibility. This year, the submission, 'The Milkmaid' is 100 percent non-English and critically acclaimed.

This Pulse list takes a look at all the African contenders for the Best International Feature Film category. At the time of this report, only 10 countries have submitted.

Nigeria Official Selection Committee (For the Academy Awards® IFF Submissions) confirmed Desmond Ovbiagele's 'The Milkmaid' as Nigeria's submission in December 2020. The 100 non-English film explores the harsh realities of insurgency in Northern Nigeria.

Lesotho's submission is Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese's acclaimed 'This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection'. Following an impressive festival run including Sundance, International Film Festival Rotterdam, the movie was selected as the Southern African country's flagbearer. It is interestingly, Lesotho's first Oscar submission.

Mosese's film is centered on an 80-year-old widow who reignites her community's will to fight following a forceful resettlement.

Another first time contender, Sudan joins the Oscars race with its Amjad Abu Alala film, 'You Will Die At Twenty'. The film follows the story of a young man who turns 19 after a prophesy from his village's holy man that he will die at 20.

South Africa has been quite successful at the Oscars. The country is one of the few to have gotten nominated twice with one win and shortlisted twice.

This year, Rene van Rooyen's 'Toorbos' is the country's flagbearer. Set in the 1930s, the film follows the story of a young woman confronting a conflict between her ideals and those of her husband.

Morocco's 16th Oscars IFF submission (the country has been shortlisted once) is a crime comedy directed by Alaa Eddine Aljem. 'The Unknown Saint' centers on a criminal who returns years later to collect the loot he carefully hid in a grave but discovers that it has been inhabited by an unknown saint.

Algeria first taste of victory was in 1970 for the Costa Gavras directed ' Z'. Since then, it has been nearly a handful of nominations.

The country's 2021 submission is 'Héliopolis' directed by Djaâfar Gacem. The film is based on a crucial period in Algeria's history - the Sétif and Guelma massacre of 1945.

Egypt's submission is Tamer Ezzat's 'When We're Born'. The feature film centers on three characters: a Christian woman who is in love with a Muslim man, a son who hopes to pursue a music career against his father's wishes and a newly-wed gym instructor who must compromise his principles to own a gym.

Kenya's submission, 'The Letter' is a documentary film directed Maia Lekow and Chris King. It follows the story of a young man who returns to his village after his grandmother receives death threats and accusation of witchcraft. The documentary further explores the shocking practice influenced by religious beliefs.

Ivory Cost's second Oscar submission since its 1976 win is Philippe Lacôte's 'Night of the Kings'. The film is based on a young man's first night in the infamous Ivorian prison La Maca. He is told he must entertain his audience as the designated storyteller until morning, risking death should he fail.

Tunisia's seventh submission is 'The Man Who Sold His Skin' directed by Kaouther Ben Hania. The movie is based on the story of Sam Ali, a Syrian man who escapes the Syrian war to Lebanon hoping to eventually reunite with his lover in Paris.

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