The Golden Globes foreign-language category has become the subject of increased scrutiny of late. Take last year when US-made films Apocalypto and Letters From Iwo Jima were nominated alongside foreign-made foreign-language films. Letters, shot in California and backed by Warner Bros, went on to win the category over TheLives Of Others and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Although nominations are still a month away, tensions are again mounting this year, with Julian Schnabel’s French-language The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Marc Forster’s The Kite Runner all tipped for a slot in the foreign race, but not best picture. One criticism is that ‘real’ foreign films, or smaller pictures, just do not get a look in.
‘In the past, British films would always win (when the category was just Best Foreign Film),’ says publicist Fredell Pogodin. ‘They changed the rules so it had to be a foreign-language film.’
Further changes will apply from next year when foreign-language films with the US as their country of origin will not be eligible in the foreign category but only in the motion picture categories. Hfpa president Jorge Camara says: ‘Since US-based directors and producers are now making films in a foreign language with increasing frequency, the membership felt it was more equitable that these movies should compete in the best motion picture categories.’
Unlike the Oscars, contenders for the foreign category do not depend on being nominated by their own country, and there is no limit to how many films can compete from any territory.
That means The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, which is not France’s nomination for this year’s Oscar, can enter the Globe race, and that Ang’s film, which was disqualified from the Oscar’s foreign category, can still compete.
Or consider the situation in the UK where cries of anti-Scottish and Welsh sentiment arose when Ashley Way’s Welsh-speaking drama Calon Gaeth, and Simon Miller’s Gaelic pic Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle, were not selected to represent the UK. These films could still compete at the Globes.
‘The Hfpa is made up of foreigners, and they are much more international in their scope,’ says Pogodin.