Oscars: South Africa Picks ‘Barakat’ for International Feature Category

South Africa has selected Barakat as its official submission for the best international feature category at the 94th Oscars in 2022.

The country’s National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) decision makes the movie from filmmaker, playwright, screenwriter and theater director Amy Jephta the fourth from a female director to be submitted to the Academy Awards by South Africa, and the first from “a woman of color,” a Monday announcement highlighted.

Barakat follows Muslim widow Aisha “as she tries to bring together her fractured family over Eid-al-Fitr to break the news about her new romance.” Vinette Ebrahim plays the ageing matriarch, while her four sons, struggling to come to terms with the death of their father two years earlier, are played by Joey Rasdien, Mortimer Williams, Keeno-Lee Hector and Danny Ross.

Barakat , which means “blessings” in Arabic, is “told in Afrikaaps, the widely spoken Cape (Town) dialect of the Afrikaans language,” Monday’s news release said. “The first Afrikaaps dictionary is currently in development after being announced earlier this year.”

“I am so proud that our small story about a family has reached as many people as it has,” said Jephta. “To be recognized by South Africa in this way is incredibly special after an extremely challenging year for our film industry.”

She wrote Barakat, released in South African cinemas in May, with producer Ephraim Gordon, who co-founded production companies PaperJet Films and Nagvlug Films with her. “This selection was totally unexpected, but it shows that everyone’s hard work on this project has paid off,” said Gordon. “This film was a blessing from the beginning and continues to be.”

South Africa won what was back then known as the best foreign-language film Oscar in 2005 for Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi. Among its other Oscar submissions, Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday was nominated in 2004, while Oliver Schmitz’s Life, Above All was shortlisted in 2010, as was John Trengrove’s The Wound in 2017.

Barakat was developed in partnership with kykNET, a channel owned by pay TV giant MultiChoice, and funded in association with South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the NFVF, The Industrial Development Corporation and Indigenous Film Distribution, the film’s South African distributor.