How The Middle East Will Win An Oscar

Five of our favourite regional contenders have been longlisted for an Academy Award, here’s what you need to know

Middle Eastern cinema is riding something of a wave at present, and here are five movies from the region that have been announced on the longlist for next year’s Best Foreign Film Academy Award. The winner will be announced in February, but check out the trailers below and pick your own Oscar-worthy offering right now. It’s a power play that we feel the Academy would respect.

Rona Azim’s Mother

Rona Azim's Mother

Country: Afghanistan
Director: Jamshid Mahmoudi

The third Oscar-submitted film from brothers Jamshid and (writer, producer) Navid Mahmoud follows an Afghan refugee living in Iran and his search for a kidney donor for his dying mother. Upon discovering that Iranians can’t legally permitted to donate their organs to foreigners he has to choose between his life and his mother’s.



Country: Egypt
Director: AB Shawky

A coming-of-age comedy-drama about a leper and his orphaned apprentice Obama who leave the colony and head out on a road trip across Egypt in search of their remaining family members. It’s been critically praised at competition screenings across Europe and took the top prize at the Geneva Film Festival last week.

The Journey

The Journey

Country: Iraq
Director: Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji

A young female suicide bomber wanders through Baghdad Central Station on the first day of Eid in 2006. On the verge of committing a terrorist act, an encounter shows her the potential consequences of what she’s about to do. The slow-burn thriller eschews the tick-tock-terror of American dramas like 24 or Homeland and instead tells a more nuanced tale via a Muslim perspective.



Country: Lebanon
Director: Nadine Labaki

From one of this region’s most celebrated directors, Labaki’s latest features a cast of mostly non-professional actors as it tells the unlikely story of a 12-year-old boy who takes his parents to court “for giving me life” in a world of pain and suffering. Its depiction of children in Beirut’s slums and issues of people without ID cards make it a tough watch but draws essential attention to a major issue in the country.

Ghost Hunting

Ghost Hunting Palestine

Country: Palestine
Director: Raed Andoni

A documentary following Palestinians who were held in an Israeli detention centre and reunited after replying to a newspaper advert. Together again, the director re-enacts their experience to try and heal the psychological wounds. It won the Best Documentary prize at the Berlin Film Festival and has been praised by the likes of directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, but has also been accused of merely inflicting more harm on the participants. Not a first-date film.

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