Rojek is Canada’s submission for best international feature film for next year’s Oscars, Telefilm announced Thursday.
The documentary from Montreal director Zaynê Akyol is constructed around interviews with incarcerated members of ISIS, the Sunni jihadist group that has spent years fighting in Syria and Iraq hoping to establish a transnational Islamic state based on sharia law.
Akyol’s previous documentary, Gulîstan, Land of Roses, told the stories of women fighting against ISIS. After making the film, Akyol learned of the deaths of several of the women in it, which she says led her to create Rojek.
At a press conference announcing the submission, Akyol, who is Kurdish and moved to Montreal from Turkey when she was a child in the early 1990s, said in French that the news came as a surprise to her and the team behind the documentary.
“We weren’t expecting to be selected at all,” she said. “Jihadists who are completely indoctrinated and me as a Kurdish woman putting myself in front of them to discuss, to try and understand that indoctrination, it’s a bit of a daring approach.
“It’s very courageous on the part of the community to have chosen a documentary of this type for submission.”
Watch | Rojek trailer”
A shortlist of 15 films will be announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Dec. 21, with the final five nominees announced on Jan. 23.
Each country can make one submission for the award, which was known as best foreign language feature until 2020. Films are required to be predominantly in a language (or languages) other than English.
Seven Canadian films have gone on to earn nominations over the years, with Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions taking home the award in 2003.
Last year, Canada’s selection was Eternal Spring, a Mandarin-language documentary about a 2002 takeover of a Chinese state TV signal by members of the spiritual group Falun Gong.
The 96th Academy Awards are scheduled for March 10, 2024.