Slovenia's Guild of Directors has submitted Ziga Virc's HBO Europe-backed film Houston, We Have a Problem! in the Oscars' best foreign-language film category.
Blending fact and fiction, Virc, a former student Academy Award nominee, suggests that Communist-era Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito created a secret space program that he sold to America at the height of the Cold War in return for $3 billion in "overseas aid."
But Eastern promises failed to deliver, sparking U.S. anger that culminated in a CIA plot that triggered the civil war and break up of Yugoslavia, according to the film's plot.
The director, who calls the film a "docu-fiction" that aims to "tell the symbolic story of the rise and fall of Yugoslavia," blends fact, archival footage and fictionalized scenes - such as a made-up sequence where a Yugoslav spy whose death was staged has an emotional meeting with the 50-year-old daughter he had never met - to draw attention to the dangers of accepting documentaries at face value.
The film is, as The Hollywood Reporter's Karlovy Vary review earlier this year noted, "consistently witty and entertaining" but "ultimately less a film about Cold War politics than a sly commentary on our current climate of internet myth-making and 'post truth' public figures like Donald Trump."
Produced by Stuio Virc, Nukleus Film and Sutor Kolonko, Houston's international sales are being handled by CAT&Docs, Paris.
Slovenia, which was part of Yugoslavia, has been submitting films for the foreign-language Oscar category since 1993, but has never been shortlisted. In 2011, the submission Silent Sonata was disqualified on technical grounds related to an error on the application form.