Waiting for the Barbarians shows the outskirts of a powerful empire where a small fortified city is located. The habitual way of life changes dramatically after the news that the locals – whom the Imperials call barbarians – are preparing an attack on the outpost. To prevent this, the army is conducting punitive operations. However, one of the officials is suspecting that the rumors of the attack are false – it is just a tool of imperialist propaganda.

Interesting Facts

  • The Waiting for the Barbarians movie was based on the novel of the same name by John Coetzee, which the opera by Philip Glass is also based on.
  • Coetzee received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. “Waiting for the Barbarians” is always included in the list of outstanding novels of the 20th century. John Coetzee himself worked on the adaptation of his novel.
  • The film was shot in Morocco in 2018. Some of the scenes were filmed in Italy.
  • The film was directed by Ciro Guerra (Columbia), world renowned for his film “El abrazo de la serpiente,” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film 2015. Telling about the life of an Amazonian shaman, this movie gets worldwide recognition. The mini-series about the conquistador Cortes (Javier Bardem) will be Guerra’s next project. As yet unnamed, the TV show will be available on Amazon Prime streaming service.
  • Although Waiting for the Barbarians premiered at the Venice Film Festival – where the film was nominated for the Golden Lion – on September 6, 2019, it took almost a year for the film to reach theatrical release.
  • The language spoken by the barbarians in the film is Mongolian.


Waiting for the Barbarians is an Italian-American co-production drama film based on the novel of the same name by John Coetzee. The premiere took place on 6 September 2019 at the Venice Film Festival.


Related Films

  • J’accuse
  • Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente)
  • The Desert of the Tartars (Il Deserto dei Tartari)

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