Morocco

In Death For Sale, the three best friends that anyone could ever have falter under the weight of their petty crime lives and the economic reality facing twenty-somethings in Morocco. They’re lost youth, scumming their way on the streets and in the nightclubs without any kind of direction. Writer/director Fauozi Bensaïdi‘s story picks up just as the group is beginning to diverge. Malik (Fehd Benchemsi) has fallen hard for a prostitute called Dounia (Imane Elmechrafi) despite her status as forbidden fruit. The naive Soufiane (Fouad Labied) hatches a plan to steal a rich girl’s purse that has profound, unintended consequences. The hardened Allal (Mouhcine Malzi) is determined to become a big fish in the suddenly empty drug-dealing pond. Everything should work out fine, right? Like most films from the Arab world, this one deals with 1) what it means to be a man and 2) crime. Yet, even within a sea of sameness, the film has its own statements to make and its own way of making them. Most directly, with a strong visual eye and a serpentine story where chasing dreams leaves its inhabitants out of breath standing right where they started.

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A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium. But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum. The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

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