PaulGreengrass' acclaimed historical drama Bloody Sunday was officially rejected today (Dec 11)by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences after it fell foul ofeligibility criteria stemming from a UK television broadcast earlier this year.The multi-award winner is a vivid recreation of the infamous events of Jan 301972, when British troops shot dead civil rights protesters in Derry, NorthernIreland, and is said to have impressed British and Irish leaders involved inthe protracted Northern Ireland peace talks.

Bloody Sunday had its first public screening in acommercial theatre in London on Jan 20 2002. Later that same night it wasbroadcast on television across the UK. The film added extra theatrical dates onJan 25 and played for 12 weeks in cinemas. Rule 3 of the Academy'seligibility criteria stipulates that any film first screened outside the US mayqualify for submission provided that the original screening took place in acommercial cinema after Jan 1, 2002. It goes on to state that the film cannotbe shown publicly in any other medium for six months after the start of itstheatrical run, which is where Bloody Sunday appears to have fallen down.

Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein, co-presidents of BloodySunday's US distributor ParamountClassics, remained defiant after being told of the Academy's decisiontoday. "We are extremely disappointed by the Academy's decision. We havereceived overwhelming praise from other Academy members, film-makers,distributors and human rights organisations not only for the film itself, butalso for our defence of the film's potential to be considered for the highesthonour of all," a joint statement read. "Despite this unfortunatenews, we fully expect to be a part of every 10 list this year and will continueto take great pride in the other exceptional awards bestowed upon PaulGreengrass, [producer] Mark Redhead, [star] James Nesbitt and the otherproducers, cast and crew."

ParamountClassics had argued that Bloody Sunday's release strategy was crucial to ensuring the picture hadthe strongest impact at a critical time in the Northern Ireland peace process,which is why the theatrical screening occurred 10 days before the thirtiethanniversary of the killings. The studio also argued that similar eligibilityanomalies did not prevent Sir Laurence Olivier from receiving a Best ActorOscar nomination for Richard III in 1957, even through the production had gone out a year earlieron NBC at the same time as its theatrical release. In that case the networkscreening was hailed as a triumphant milestone in the evolution of colourtelevision. Paramount argued that in a similar vein, the historicalsignificance of Bloody Sunday's release should not block its Oscar eligibility.

"We don'tmake films for awards and we certainly don't regret our decision to go for abold and unusual release strategy for the film, in view of the special historiccircumstances of the thirtieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday," producer Mark Redhead said in astatement. "However, we are disappointed that has resulted in BloodySunday being penalisedfor not fitting neatly into a narrow category."

Bloody Sundayshared the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival this year and won the WorldCinema Audience Award at Sundance. In addition to several other accolades itwas announced today as one of the nominees for the IFP Independent SpiritAwards' Best Foreign Film category. Paramount said to date BloodySunday has grossed more than $700,000 andhas been sold for theatrical distribution in nearly every international market,with successful commercial theatrical runs in Italy and France.

This is not thefirst time the Academy has been forced into strict interpretation of its rules.A little over a week ago it rejected foreign language submissions from the UK (TheWarrior) and Hong Kong (TheTouch) because oflanguage discrepancies. In a call to Vitale and Dinerstein, the Academy said itstood by its decision.