Oscars: Canada Picks Zayne Akyol’s Islamic State Doc ‘Rojek’ as International Feature Submission

Canadian filmmaker Zayne Akyol’s Rojek, a film about ISIS terrorists and their dream of a Caliphate, has been selected as Canada’s submission for the 2023 Oscars’ best international feature film category.

The feature documentary portrays imprisoned members of the Islamic State and their wives in makeshift camps where they share an ambition to establish Islamic rule. As it explains the fundamentalist beliefs of jihadists, Akyol’s film traces the beginning, rise and fall of the Islamic State, often referred to as ISIS, through personal stories.

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Rojek is the latest film from Akyol, the director Gulîstan, Land of Roses, a documentary about Kurdish soldiers fighting while under siege from ISIS. Her Islamic State documentary set to represent Canada at the Oscars uses the Arabic, English, French and Kurdish languages and launched in Canadian theaters in January 2023 after a world premiere at the 2022 Visions du Réel Film Festival in Switzerland.

The Canadian film has yet to screen at American festivals or secure a theatrical release stateside. Rojek has an echo of Megan Smaker’s documentary Jihad Rehab, which bowed in Sundance and faced a backlash at the festival as it follows three Guantanamo Bay detainees who take part in a special Saudi program designed to rehabilitate Muslim extremists.

Rojek is produced by Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre and Sylvain Corbeil at Metafilms in Canada.

Canadian films, usually from French-speaking Quebec, have been nominated seven times for the Oscar for best international feature, previously known as best foreign language film, the most recent being Kim Nguyen’s War Witch in 2012. The only Canadian film to ever win the prize was Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions in 2003.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the films on the 2024 Oscar shortlist on Dec. 21. The five nominees will be announced Jan. 23, 2024. The 95th Oscars will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 10, 2024.

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