Snubs, omissions taint Oscar foreign film award

Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:19am EST
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - No matter which movie wins the Oscar for best foreign language film on Sunday, critics and fans may remember this year for work that was snubbed or disqualified by Academy Award voters.

The film industry has expanded rapidly around the world in recent years and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences's foreign film honor has grown increasingly important as a platform where filmmakers can launch careers.

But this year, several acclaimed films in world cinema failed to earn nominations, causing some critics to cry foul.

The most conspicuous absence is Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" which Scott Foundas, film editor for the LA Weekly newspaper, called "the foreign film of the year by unanimous acclaim." It won top honors at the Cannes film festival in May and numerous critics awards.

"It taints the whole race so that no matter who wins, people will always wonder 'What if "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" or "Persepolis" or other noteworthy omissions had been in the race?"' Foundas said.

Like "4 Months," France's coming-of-age tale "Persepolis" didn't even make the short-list of contenders from the record 63 submissions around the world. It was, however, nominated for best animated picture.

Perhaps the most controversial absence involved the disqualification of Israel's "The Band's Visit" because more than 50 percent of the dialogue between an Egyptian band and Israeli villagers is in English, albeit mostly broken English.

The five films that did earn nominations were "The Counterfeiters" from Austria, Israel's "Beaufort," Russia's "12," Poland's "Katyn" and Kazakhstan's "Mongol."   Continued...

<p>Anamaria Marinca in a scene from the Romanian abortion drama "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days". REUTERS/IFC Films/Handout</p>