Walter Salles'pan-Latin American co-production The Motorcycle Diaries - one of the year's most popularforeign-language films - has been ruled ineligible for the foreign-languagefilm Oscar category this year. It joins A Very Long Engagement, 2046 and Bad Education in the list of acclaimed internationalfilms which have been excluded from that race.

TheMotorcycle Diaries is anArgentina/Peru/Chile/US co-production directed by the Brazilian Salles, and,since it follows a pan-continental journey, was deliberately assembled as amulti-cultural production. According to the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts& Sciences rules, however, it does not have sufficient elements from anyone of the countries to qualify.

Daniel Burman's ElAbrazo Partido (LostEmbrace) has beenselected as the Argentinian selection and Andres Wood's Machuca is the Chilean selection.

Focus Featuresco-president David Linde yesterday said that the company would continue toposition it for all categories.

"It's a truly indigenousmovie," said Linde yesterday, "but in this case that doesn't mean one country, it means the world. Thesuccess of the film overseas affirms how audiences are loving it. We are movingahead as planned when we bought it at Sundance."

Meanwhile A Very LongEngagement from Jean-Pierre Jeunetin France and 2046 from WongKar-wai in Hong Kong (the film is a Hong Kong/China co-production) will, ifselected by their native countries, both be eligible next year since theirlocal release dates both fell after Academy's Sept 30 deadline.

Ironically A Very LongEngagement is being released in theUS by Warner Independent Pictures on Nov 26 and will be pushed in all Oscarcategories this year, even though it is only eligible in the foreign-languagecategory next year. Les Choristeswas the official selection from France this year.

Bad Education, of course, was not submitted by Spain in favour ofAlejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside.The latest opus from Pedro Almodovar, Bad Education could, like his last film Talk To Her, snag nominations in other categories.

2004 is shaping up as one ofthe strongest for foreign-language films in some years. As well as TheMotorcycle Diaries, A Very Long Engagement and Bad Education (SonyClassics), Oscar campaigns in all categories are being engineered for TheSea Inside (Fine Line) and HouseOf Flying Daggers (Sony Classics).

Further confusion will nodoubt ensue when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces itsforeign-language film nominees for the Golden Globes on Dec 13 since TheMotorcycle Diaries, A Very Long Engagement, 2046 and Bad Education are all eligible.