Barakat has been chosen as South Africa’s official submission for the best international feature category at the 94th Academy Awards that will take place on March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

The film was directed by Amy Jephta and produced by Ephraim Gordon. Jephta is the fourth woman director whose work is submitted by South Africa, and the first woman of color.

Jephta scripted South Africa’s official Golden Globes Foreign Film entry for 2018, Ellen: The Story of Ellen Pakkies. In 2019, she received the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award for theatre.

Jephta and Gordon are no strangers to movie awards, having won Best Screenplay and Best Short Film at the 2017 kykNET Silwerskerm Festival for Soldaat (Soldier).

In a statement by The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), Jephta said: “I am so proud that this film has reached as many people as it has, and to be recognized by South Africa in this way is incredibly special,” she said.

“Even after an extremely challenging year for our film industry, we’re honored that a small story about a family has connected us.” Producer Ephraim Gordon added: “This was unexpected, but it shows that everyone’s hard work on this project has paid off. This film was a blessing from the beginning and continues to be. It is our Barakat.”

The film is told in Afrikaans, a language that includes English, Dutch, Arabic, and is spoken by Muslims and mixed communities in Cape Town. Barakat is an Arabic word that means “blessings”.

Set during Ramadan, the movie follows the story of a Muslim widow Aisha Davids (Vinette Ebrahim), who tries to bring together her fractured family over Eid-ul-Fitr, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide, to mark the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting. She wants to break the news of her new romance with a Christian man, whom she wants to marry. But she has difficulty gaining the approval and blessing from her four sons – Zunaid (Joey Rasdien), Zaid (Mortimer Williams), Yaseen (Keeno Lee Hector), and Nur (Danny Ross) – who are still coming to terms with the loss of their father.

Barakat was released in cinemas in early 2021.

The film has won seven international awards so far, including Best International Feature at the 2021 Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema and Best Narrative Feature at both the Motion Pictures International Film Festival and The Reel Sisters Of The Diaspora Festival in 2020.

South Africans have graced the Oscars red carpet over the years, demonstrating the country’s talents and eye for the arts. South Africa won the foreign-language Oscar category in 2005 for Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, whilst John Trengrove’s The Wound was nominated in 2017.

All eyes are now on Barakat to bring home the Oscar!