Still from Broken Keys, by Jimmy Keyrouz '16

‘Broken Keys’ by Alumnus Jimmy Keyrouz '16 Selected as Lebanon’s Oscar Contender 2021

BY Felix van Kann, December 9, 2020

Broken Keys, a feature film written and directed by alumnus Jimmy Keyrouz '16, was selected as Lebanon's nominee for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards 2021. If chosen to be included on the Academy’s nomination list, the film would mark Lebanon’s third Oscar entrance in its history. 


The film follows Karim, a musician aspiring to a career in Europe, who is trying to leave his war-torn Middle-East neighborhood, where cigarettes, alcohol and music have been banned, and struggles to rebuild his piano after it was destroyed by a leader of the Islamic state. Broken Keys was meant to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this year.


The film is based on a short by Keyrouz titled Nocturne in Black, which won numerous awards including the Gold for Best Narrative at the Student Academy Awards in 2016, the BAFTA Student Film Award for Live Action in 2017 and a student award at the Directors Guild of America. It also made the long list for Live Action Shorts for the Academy Awards in 2016. The screenplay for the film was previously selected among six from over 1000 submissions for The Black List 2019 Annual Feature Lab.


Jimmy Keyrouz is an Academy Award winning director and writer who recently graduated from Columbia University with Honors. His latest film Nocturne In Black won the Gold Medal in the 43rd Student Academy Awards and was shortlisted for the 2017 Oscars in the Live Action Short category. Nocturne in Black also won Jury Selects at the Columbia University Film Festival as well as the Director Guild of America Film Award, the National Board of Review Grant, the Caucus Foundation production grant, the Marion Carter Green Award and the IFP Audience Award. It premiered at the Lincoln Center in May 2016, and screened at Telluride, LA Shorts Fest and many film festivals around the world. Keyrouz also directed and edited The Holy Goats, a feature documentary about the social impacts of climate change.


Keyrouz is the third Columbia filmmaker who has received the honor to represent his country at next year’s Academy Awards with his film. Previously, I’m No Longer Here (Ya No Estoy Aquí), a feature film written and directed by alumnus Fernando Frias de la Parra '15 and produced by alumnus Gerry Kim '11, was chosen as Mexico’s official selection for the same category. Alumna Melina León '08 has been selected as Peru’s official contender with her film Canción Sin Nombre (Song Without a Name).