The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has delayed naming its list of official entries for the 2003 foreign language Oscar category in order to clear up anomalies over submissions from Afghanistan, Palestine, Hong Kong and the UK.
The list was expected to go up on the Academy's official site earlier this week but was held back while members of the foreign language committee debated crucial eligibility issues of language and nation status. The list is now likely to go up on Dec 2.
A spokesperson for the Academy would not be drawn on the specifics of each argument but confirmed that most of the issues had been resolved. "We are moving judiciously at the moment," the spokesperson said. "The list will go up either today (Wednesday) or on Monday [Dec 2]." By the close of the day (Nov 27) it had not appeared.
Sources say that of the four the only picture that is likely to be accepted is an official entry from Afghanistan, which is certain to spark controversy as long as the US continues to regard the troubled region as a terrorism hub.
To add fuel to the fire Palestine's submission, the acclaimed drama Divine Intervention, looks like being dropped as the Academy does not recognise Palestine as a bona fide nation. Palestine has never had a submission before but the picture's producers may be allowed to enter it in other categories provided it satisfies theatrical screening criteria. The picture centres on the plight of two lovers from Jerusalem and Ramallah who are separated by a checkpoint and won the FIPRESCI Award and Jury Prize at Cannes and the Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival.
Hong Kong's official entry The Touch, an adventure-romance that was produced by and stars Michelle Yeoh, looks unlikely to make the cut because most of the dialogue is in English with only a smattering of Mandarin. Miramax has picked it up for distribution in the US.
Finally the UK entry The Warrior, the debut feature by Asif Kapadia which has also been acquired by Miramax, is still too close to call. The mythical adventure is in Hindi - the first time the UK has ever submitted a picture to the Academy that is in a language not indigenous to the UK - and may fall foul of the strict submission criteria.
Rule 14 of the Academy, which covers foreign pictures, states that "the dialogue track must be predominantly in a language of the country of origin except when the story mandates that an additional non-English language be predominant. Accurate English subtitles are required." Much of the debate here will have centred on Hindi's status as a recognised UK language, even though it is spoken by the country's sizeable Hindu population. In 2000 the UK's official Oscar selection was the Welsh language picture Solomon And Gaenor, which eventually earned a nomination.
Once all the submissions are in the Academy will announce the five nominations on Feb 11, 2003. The 75th Annual Academy Awards will take place on March 23, 2003.