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What the Oscars missed: That other foreign film

GlobalPost correspondents chime in with their overlooked picks for this year's Best Foreign Film.

Italian directors vittorio paolo taviani 2013 01 15Enlarge
Italian directors Vittorio Taviani (left) and his younger brother Paolo Taviani attend "Cesare deve Morire" ("Caesar Must Die") Portrait Session during the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival on Feb. 12, 2012. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This year's Oscars foreign film nominees include: Austria's "Amour," Norway's "Kon-Tiki," Chile's "No," Denmark's "A Royal Affair," and Canada's "War Witch." 

What about all those other foreign films? GlobalPost asked correspondents what should have made the cut but didn't. 

From China to Kenya to Brazil, go down this list and around the world without leaving your couch.

1) "Wadjda" (Saudi Arabia)

A country where public cinemas are illegal and women are oppressed seems an unlikely place for a female-directed, Oscar-worthy film. But Saudi Arabia in 2012 produced just that. Haifaa Mansour’s “Wadjda” is a heartfelt, coming-of-age story of a young girl testing the boundaries of her conservative Muslim society as she focuses her energies on owning and riding a gleaming, green bicycle. Her mother is horrified at the idea and forbids her from riding it. In a society where women are not yet allowed to drive, the bike would damage both the girl’s reputation and her virtue.

The film is the first full-length feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, with rare and impressive dun-colored scenes from the kingdom’s conservative capital. It is the nation’s first film by a female director, Haifaa Mansour. Mansour — who was forced to direct scenes from inside a van because she could not be seen in public with the male cast and crew — snagged the Best Film Award in the Arab Feature category at the Dubai International Film Festival in December.

— Erin Cunningham in Cairo

2) "Les Intouchables" (France)

In being overlooked for the foreign language shortlist, at least French film "Les Intouchables" ("The Intouchables") lived up to its name. The movie, a peculiar comedy about a quadriplegic and his caretaker, bears all the hallmarks of a surefire Oscar winner, not least because it has been championed by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The odd-couple plot sees wheelchair-bound millionaire Philippe strike up an unlikely friendship with immigrant caretaker Driss. The frank and funny exchanges between the two very different men transcend class and race, offering both of them a new lease of life. Despite being steeped in the kind of corn syrup that Academy Awards panelists normally devour for breakfast, its laughs are fresh as well as warm. The film has proved wildly successful in both the French and international markets, more so than France's last Oscar big hitter, "The Artist." But its over-reliance on stereotypes could have prompted judges to wrongly categorize it as a somewhat dubious comedy about race and disability.

— Barry Neild in London

3) "Headshot" (Thailand)

Bangkok theaters are typically overrun with schlocky horror flicks and sickly sweet romance films. But "Headshot," a lurid crime tale by director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, stands out in the world of Thai cinema.

Released in Thailand under the title, "Rain Falls Up Towards the Sky," the film dwells on the futility of fighting corruption through the eyes of a hit man who, after taking a bullet to the skull, sees the world upside down. For much of the film, so does the viewer. This technique, which might come off as a cheap B-movie gimmick if deployed by a lesser director, is used to artfully explore a man's reimagining of the world around him.

Though submitted to the Oscars, it wasn't nominated. But like the last Thai movie to generate international buzz — the otherworldly "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," a 2010 Cannes Palm D'Or winner — cinematography is the film's best quality. Its unique visual approach adds loads of panache and style to an otherwise decent addition to Asian crime noir cinema.

— Patrick Winn in Bangkok

4) "Material" (South Africa)

"Material" is the story of a young Muslim man who works at his father's fabric shop in Johannesburg but dreams of being a stand-up comedian. The film is set in the city's bustling Fordsburg neighborhood, a hub of Indian and Pakistani culture (and good restaurants), and it gives viewers an unusual window into South African life.

But "Material" also has broader universal themes like the tension between family responsibilities, identity and personal ambition. Best of all, it highlights South African comedy, which is currently experiencing a boom, with talented young comics taking