Holland Film, the national film body, has called for the rules for the foreign-language Oscar to be clarifed after the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences disqualified Jean van de Velde’s The Silent Army.
The Silent Army is reported to have been rejected on the grounds that it is a new version of an already existing movie rather than an original film. The film was first released in the Netherlands as White Light. It was then re-edited before surfacing in Un Certain Regard in Cannes.
Holland Film’s Claudia Landsberger said that the Academy’s rules regarding foreign-language Oscar eligibility are ambiguous and called for them to be more “clear and specific”.
She added: “The issue that The Silent Army and White Light are not two separate films was not totally clear to the Academy’s executive committee either. Apparently it was also discussed for quite some time within the Academy and not all of the committee members agreed that these are not two different films.”
The county has now put forward its second choice Martin Koolhoven’s Winter In Wartime (Oorlogswinter) instead. San Fu Maltha, a producer of the replacement film, said that the local industry has been left with “egg on its face.”
Maltha was part of a coalition of producers who had warned the country’s film body Holland Film that there were a number of grounds on which The Silent Army might not be eligible for the foreign language Oscar. These included its amount of English language and the fact that White Light had already shown on pay-TV and VOD.
“They (Holland Film) should have sent in the back-up film from the beginning,” Maltha added. “We are not happy that the film has been rejected. We think it is awful - awful for the Dutch film industry and awful for Jean. But we warned them it could happen.”
In the wake of the producers’ original criticism, Holland Film went back to the selection committee to give it the chance to revise its decision but it stood by The Silent Army.
Jean Van de Velde, director of The Silent Army, said today that he didn’t blame Holland Film or AMPAS for the debacle. However, he expressed his regret that the producers chose to make their complaints in public.
“Now they are complaining that all this has become a quarrel and a bad image for the Dutch movie industry. They started it,” the director said.
Maltha confessed to mixed feelings about the circumstances in which Winter In Wartime has now won its stab at Oscar glory. Speaking on behalf of his fellow producer Els Vandervoorst of Isabella Films and Koolhoven, he said: We are very happy that we have been selected but we feel first of all sad that it had to happen this way.”
Winter In Wartime is sold internationally by London-based High Point Films. The film, about a 13-year old boy who becomes involved with the Resistance toward the end of the Second World War, was recently picked up for the UK by Kaleidoscope and for Australia/New Zealand Rialto. High Point is also in ongoing negotiations for French and German-speaking Europe.