The deadline is here and close to 80 films have been submitted to compete for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. From that long roster of films (which include a Verhoeven/Huppert flick, a German father/daughter comedy, a Swiss animated film and a doc on the refugee crisis), a special committee will whittle down the number to 9, before nominations for the 89th edition of the Oscars are announced on January 24, 2017.

Latin America, which last year was repped by Ciro Guerra’s masterful Embrace of the Serpent, looks to add its share of worthy contenders to this year’s list. One expected title you won’t find, though, is Kleber Mendonça Filho‘s Aquarius. The Sonia Braga-film, which debuted at Cannes, was thought by many to be an early favorite given the Brazilian star’s turn and the film’s timely message. But the filmmakers’ protests at the Croisette against the current political crisis at home led to the film being sidelined by the country’s committee.

After several other directors abstained from submitting their own films, Brazil chose David Schurmann’s Pequeno segredo. That uplifting, globe-trotting tale hopes to earn a coveted spot in the sole Oscar category designed to showcase global cinema. Check out the fourteen films submitted by the region, which included a pair of Gael García Bernal flicks, a Cuban AIDS drama, and the first Venezuelan film to win the Golden Lion at Venice, down below.

1

El ciudadano ilustre

Director Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Country Argentina
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Argentina

Synopsis

A renowned Argentinean writer—a Nobel Prize winner no less!—gets an invitation to return to his small hometown to receive that year’s “Distinguished Citizen” award. The writer, who has lived abroad for the past few decades yet whose work is all about the small town life he left behind, hasn’t been home since he was a teenager. The homecoming becomes, in Duprat and Cohn’s dark dramedy, a clash of fiction and reality, of parochialism and cosmopolitanism, where it slowly dawns on the writer that everything back home is not as he left nor as he continued to imagine it.  Oscar Martínez won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for his performance as the literary luminary stranded in a farcical world of his own making.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Distinguished Citizen
Director: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn
Country: Argentina
Writer: Andrés Duprat
Producer: Fernando Sokolowicz
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 118
2

El acompañante

Director Pavel Giroud
Country Cuba
Production Year 2015

Submitted by Cuba

Synopsis

Set in 1988 in Cuba, the film focuses on the AIDS centers that the government had set up across the island where HIV patients were shipped to under military rule. The title refers to the “companions,” people serving prison sentences who function as wardens to the patients, keeping an eye on them on behalf of the establishment. That’s how Horacio Romero (played by Latin Grammy winner Yotuel Romero), a Cuban boxing champion, who finds himself striking up an unlikely friendship with his assigned patient, Daniel.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Companion
Director: Pavel Giroud
Country: Cuba
Genre: Drama
Writer: Alejandro Brugués, Pierre Edelman, Pavel Giroud
Producer: Daniel Díaz Ravelo
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 104
3

Carga sellada

Director Julia Vargas Weise
Country Bolivia
Production Year 2015

Submitted by Bolivia

Synopsis

Julia Vargas Weise’s third feature is an ecologically and politically-minded thriller that follows Federica. Only Federica is not a character: she’s an old steam train that’s recruited to remove a number crates that have been discovered and which might contain possibly toxic minerals within them. Led by the type of farcical if threatening stock characters of Latin American law enforcement, the newly dubbed “Death Train” winds its way through the Bolivian altiplano setting off a number of collisions between the state, police, and townspeople around the country.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Sealed Cargo
Director: Julia Vargas Weise
Country: Bolivia
Writer: Claudio Lechin, Julia Vargas Weise
Producer: Ozcar Ramírez González, Pilar Valverde, Julia Vargas Weise
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 107
4

Pequeno segredo

Director David Schurmann
Country Brazil
Production Year 1984

Submitted by Brazil

Synopsis

Based on the book by the same name (which was written by director David Schurmann’s mother), Pequeno segredo mines the family’s own history, in particular the story of Kat, whom Schurmann’s parents adopted when she was a little girl. The reason why Kat found herself with no parents at such a young age, as well as the life-affirming tale that her adoptive mother then spun in her own book, is perhaps best not spoiled. Connecting the disparate but interconnected lives of women across the world, Schurmann’s big-hearted project is designed to tug at your heartstrings and get you to reach for that hankie.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Little Secret
Director: David Schurmann
Country: Brazil
Writer: Victor Atherino, Marcos Bernstein, David Schurmann
Producer: Vilfredo Schurmann, David Schurmann, João Roni
Production Year: 1984
Running Time: 60
5

Neruda

Director Pablo Larrain
Country Chile, France, Spain, Argentina
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Chile

Synopsis

Those looking for a straight-up biopic of famed Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, have come to the wrong film. In its place, Pablo Larraín has crafted a meta-poetic treatise on fiction and politics. Ostensibly, we’re being told the story (in first person voiceover narration) of how police officer Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) is trying to capture Neruda (Luis Gnecco), now a wanted man by the state. But with a dreamlike, fragmented shooting style that disorients you from line to line, Larraín is as interested in evoking Neruda’s artistry as he is in crafting a thrilling chase through late ’40s Chilean landscapes.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Pablo Larrain
Country: Chile, France, Spain, Argentina
Writer: Guillermo Calderón
Producer: Renan Artukmac, Peter Danner, Jeff Skoll, Fernanda Del Nido, Juan Pablo García, Alex Zito, Gastón Rothschild, Ignacio Rey, Axel Kuschevatzky, Juan de Dios Larraín
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 107
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6

Alias Maria

Director Jose Luis Rugeles
Country Colombia, France, Argentina
Production Year 2015

Submitted by Colombia

Synopsis

Shedding light on the child soldier experience, Alias Maria puts audiences smack in the middle of Colombia’s armed conflict. Young Maria (Karen Torres), a recruit for the guerrillas fighting in the middle of the jungle, is tasked with taking a newborn child to a nearby town. It’s a shrieking reminder of the perils of pregnancy during war—all the barely pubescent girl soldiers are freely used for sex but forbidden from carrying a child to term, a plot nugget that will surely clue you into what awaits Maria herself. Informed by countless interviews with women and children from the very regions the film depicts, and awash in the greens and browns of the conflict’s landscape, Rugeles’ film plays like a socially conscious arthouse flick about motherhood and war.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Jose Luis Rugeles
Country: Colombia, France, Argentina
Writer: Diego Vivanco
Producer: Federico Durán, Gastón Rothschild, Ignacio Rey
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 91
7

Entonces nosotros

Director Hernan Jimenez
Country Costa Rica
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Costa Rica

Synopsis

What better way to try and rekindle a waning relationship than a road trip? Better to be heading to the beach than to continue yelling at each other in front of a couple’s counselor. That’s precisely the set up of Hernan Jimenez’s sunny Entonces nosotros which obviously mines a relationship in crisis once Diego and Sofía hit the road. On the way they meet one of Sofía’s old friends, Malena, who’s outspoken and willing to cut through the tension between them, making what was supposed to be a peaceful getaway into an all out (and hilarious) romantic brawl.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
About Us
Director: Hernan Jimenez
Country: Costa Rica
Writer: Hernan Jimenez
Producer: Laura Avila Tacsan
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 87
8

Flor de azúcar

Director Fernando Baez Mella
Country Dominican Republic
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Dominican Republic

Synopsis

Set in the late 1940s and showcasing the gorgeous Caribbean landscapes of the Dominican Republic, Flor de azúcar is set against the backdrop of Trujillo’s violent regime. Samuel, a young farmer finds himself needing to flee the happy life he led with his wife and his children when a confrontation with a group of the state’s armed militia results in a death. He finds refuge in a fishing island where a young widow offers him a new lease on life. But as a man of principle, it’s not long until Samuel decides to return home and face the consequences of his actions in this sweeping if small-scale historical epic.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Fernando Baez Mella
Country: Dominican Republic
Writer: Fernando Baez Mella
Producer: Fernando Baez Mella
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 110
9

Sin muertos no hay carnaval

Director Sebastían Cordero
Country Ecuador, Germany, Mexico
Production Year 2016
Sin Muertos No Hay Carnaval
'Sin Muertos No Hay Carnaval' courtesy of EFFNY17

Submitted by Ecuador

Synopsis

Looking at the social tensions in Guayaquil, Sebastián Cordero crafts this unflinching drama about the conflict between a wealthy young man and the 250 families who are squatting in the territory he’s just inherited from his father. Aiming for a sleek thriller aesthetic rooted in the broken down neighborhoods of Guayaquil, Cordero’s film reveals the violence and corruption that unfortunately echoes what the film’s English title promises us: “Such is the life in the Tropics.”

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Such is Life in the Tropics
Director: Sebastían Cordero
Country: Ecuador, Germany, Mexico
Writer: Sebastián Cordero, Andrés Crespo
Producer: Sebastián Cordero, Arturo Yepez, Bertha Navarro
Production Year: 2016
10

Desierto

Director Jonas Cuaron
Country France, Mexico
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Mexico

Synopsis

Tackling the ever timely issue of immigration, the younger Cuarón’s Desierto takes that one crossing-the-border plot line from Babel, adds in a ruthless minuteman (Watchmen‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and for good measure, gives us Gael García Bernal in full-on survival mode. When a group of Mexicans try to cross over into the United States, they are forced to face a rifle-toting vigilante who’s intent on putting a bullet in them before they get any further along the border.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Jonas Cuaron
Country: France, Mexico
Genre: Thriller
Writer: Jonas Cuaron, Mateo Garcia
Producer: Jonas Cuaron, Carlos Cuaron, Charles Gillibert, Alfonso Cuaron, Alex Garcia
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 94
11

Salsipuedes

Director Ricardo Aguilar Navarro, Manolito Rodriguez
Country Panama
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Panama

Synopsis

When his father, a famed boxer, is sentenced to jail, Andres’s family decide that it’s best to ship off the young boy to Washington where he’ll have a chance to have a better life. But ten years later, when he returns to Panama to mourn his grandfather, Andres’s life (and his relationship with his father, family, and childhood sweetheart) will upend everything he had established for himself abroad. Named after a fictional run-down neighborhood in Panama City that all but tells you to get out while you can, Salsipuedes is at once a celebration of the resilience of Panamanians and an indictment of the status quo which keeps people in lower class barrios from the presumed economic boon the country so exults.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Ricardo Aguilar Navarro, Manolito Rodriguez
Country: Panama
Writer: Manolito Rodriguez
Producer: Ricardo Aguilar Navarro
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 95
12

Videofilia (y otros síndromes virales)

Director Juan Daniel Fernández
Country Peru, United States
Production Year 2015

Submitted by Peru

Synopsis

Fernández’s film is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic trip into the world of a group of young men and women in the suburbs of Lima. When Luz meets Junior online, she finds someone she can connect with. Junior, who’s obsessed with Mayan prophecies of the end of the world and online porn, eventually meets up with Luz in person kicking off a series of dystopian sequences that suggest the world as we see it may soon be coming to an end. The film mirrors the increasingly warped vision of the world through Luz and Junior’s eyes, with its pixelated and video-based visuals, offering the viewer a chance to experience this apocalyptic image of the modern world.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)
Director: Juan Daniel Fernández
Country: Peru, United States
Genre: Science Fiction
Writer: Juan Daniel Fernández
Producer: Liliana Albornoz, Nicolas Carrasco, Muki Sabogal
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 102
13

Migas de pan

Director Manane Rodriguez
Country Uruguay, Spain
Production Year 2016

Submitted by Uruguay

Synopsis

Starring Cecilia Roth, Migas de pan is a story about grappling with the past. Liliana (Roth) is preparing a suit alongside many other women who, between 1973 and 1985, were kidnapped and tortured for their dissident political views. Shuttling between the horrific ordeal she endured as a young woman fighting the regime in Uruguay and the hard choices she’s forced to make in the present as she seeks justice, Manane Rodriguez’s chilling flick sheds light on the resilience of women like Liliana and the burden they carry long after the country’s military rule was toppled.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Breadcrumbs
Director: Manane Rodriguez
Country: Uruguay, Spain
Writer: Manane Rodriguez, Xavier Bermúdez
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 109
14

Desde allá

Director Lorenzo Vigas
Country Venezuela
Production Year 2015

Submitted by Venezuela

Synopsis

The winner of the Golden Lion at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, Vigas’ Caracas-set film follows the unlikely relationship between Armando, an older man and Elder, a malandro from the streets. One lured by youth, the other by money, the two men form a tender if fragile couple that will force them both to grapple with the world they live from day to day.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
From Afar
Director: Lorenzo Vigas
Country: Venezuela
Genre: Drama
Writer: Lorenzo Vigas, Guillermo Arriaga
Producer: Guillermo Arriaga, Rodolfo Cova, Lorenzo Vigas, Michel Franco
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 93