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Bicycle Thieves (movie)

Foreign films 'Wadjda' and 'Broken Circle' come with back stories

The foreign-language film field for the 2014 Academy Awards is an uncommonly strong one, incorporating the luscious fever dream "The Grand Beauty" (Italy), the heartbreaking family drama "Ilo Ilo" (Philippines) and "Gris Gris" (Chad), the story of a man pulled into the world of gas smuggling, among so many others. But it's often the story behind the film that matters as much as the film itself. Haifaa Mansour's "Wadjda," for instance, is not only Saudi Arabia's first submission to the Oscars but the first feature ever shot in the country, whose ultraconservative government views cinema as a corrupt art form. Special arrangements had to...