A Guide to the Academy Awards’ 2011 Best Foreign Film Shortlist

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For those who are more interested in art-house films than blockbusters, today brought some interesting awards news: the Academy has announced its shortlist of nine movies in the running for a foreign-language film nomination. The list includes a few predictable choices (Biutiful, Dogtooth) and a handful of surprises, not to mention its fair share of snubs: where are I Am Love and Enter the Void? After the jump, we introduce to you to the movies on the shortlist, in a guide complete with trailers and US release dates, so you know when to look for them at a theater near you.

Algeria: Hors la Loi (Outside the Law), dir. Rachid Bouchareb

Against the backdrop of World War II, a family loses its home and is sent wandering around the world. One brother joins the French army, another becomes a powerful figure in the country’s Algerian independence movement, and the third becomes wealthy through morally questionable business dealings. At the height of the conflict between their paths and agendas, the family comes together in Paris.

US release date: November 2010

Canada: Incendies, dir. Denis Villeneuve

Adapted from a play by Wajdi Mouawad, this French-language film follows a pair of twins to the Middle East, where they fulfill their mother’s dying wish to learn about their heritage — and her unsettling past.

US release date: April 1, 2011

Denmark: In a Better World, dir Susanne Bier

In a small, rural town in Denmark, Christian, who is new at school, befriends Elias, a ten-year-old target for bullies. Things take a turn for the frightening for the boys — and their families — when Christian draws Elias into a risky revenge plot. Bier’s film is certainly a front runner going into the nominations, after winning a Golden Globe over the weekend.

US premiere: Sundance 2011; no theatrical release date yet

Greece: Dogtooth, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

In this strange Greek film, which earned a good deal of attention in the U.S., a husband and wife keep their three teenage children confined to their house. The kids know nothing of the outside world and believe that they’ll only be ready to go out into it when they lose their dogtooth.

US release date: June 25, 2010

Japan: Confessions, dir. Tetsuya Nakashima

A junior high teacher tells her class of 37 students that she knows two of them killed her daughter. Before resigning her position, she reveals that she’s poisoned the murderers’ milk with the blood of her husband, who died of AIDS. In response to the news, Student A and Student B, as the teacher calls them, each unravels in his own way.

US release date: None so far

Mexico: Biutiful, dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu

Helmed by Inarritu and starring Javier Bardem, Biutiful made by far the biggest splash on American shores of all the shortlisted films. Iñárritu’s first Spanish-language feature since Amores perros finds Bardem playing a single father with a dark past who must try and secure a future for his children before his impending death.

US release date: December 29, 2010

South Africa: Life, Above All, dir. Oliver Schmitz

A 12-year-old girl sees her family torn apart, and her mother practically exiled, after her baby sister dies and a vicious rumor makes its way around her tiny town. Seeking to rise above prejudice, Chanda leaves home to find her mother and learn what really happened.

US release date: January 7, 2011 at Palm Springs International Film Festival; no theatrical release planned yet

Spain: Tambien la Lluvia (Even the Rain), dir. Iciar Bollain

Gael García Bernal stars in Even the Rain, as a filmmaker who comes to Bolivia to make a movie about the Spanish conquest of North America, during 2000’s water crisis, when the city of Cochabamba was thrown upheaval.

US release date: October 14, 2010

Sweden: Simple Simon, dir. Andreas Ohman

Simon, who has Asperger’s and isn’t fond of change, lives with his brother Sam and Sam’s girlfriend Frida. When Frida breaks up with Sam, Simon tries to get her back and, when that fails, embarks on a quest to find his brother a new girlfriend.

US release date: January 10, 2011 at Palm Spings International Film Festival; no theatrical release planned yet