Italy's Oscar candidate, SaverioCostanzo's Private,has been ruled ineligible by the Academy Of MotionPicture Arts & Sciences for the foreign-language film Oscar category thisyear, since the picture was not shot in Italian.

Private is adrama about the Middle East conflict, which focuses on an Israeli patrolwho takes over the home of a Palestinian family in order to establish anobservation point in the Occupied Territories.

The film, whichstars Mokhammed Bakri, wasshot in Arabic and Hebrew, with some dialogues in English.

It won a raft ofinternational awards over the past year, including the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival. It has also been sold to over 22countries, including the US.

However, theAcademy has now told Italy's Selection Committee that it decided'with no little regret' that Private does not meet the eligibilityrules for the category.

'Werecognize that this picture is an Italian production in almost every respect,created by Italian artists and craftspeople and even shot for the most part in Italy,' Bruce Davis, Executive Directorof the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a letter to Italy's Anica.'For this particular category though it fails to meet the qualifyingcriteria in one large and crucial respect: its language is not Italian.'

The Academy saidthat Italy will be able to choose an alternativecandidate for the Foreign Oscar race whilePrivate will be able to compete in other categories.

'In view ofthe unusual circumstances however, and our strong preference for having anItalian film in the competition, we can give your committee the opportunity tochoose an alternate picture for the year if it is inclined to do that,'Mr. Davis said.

The front-runner is nowexpected to be Giovanni Veronesi's Manual of Love, which was narrowlybeaten by Private in the Italiancommittee's final vote last month.

Private joins a list of popular foreign films that have recently been deemedineligible by the Academy.

These includeLukas Moodysson's Lilja 4-Ever, which although a Swedish film was shot in Russian; and The Warrior, a UK film which was shot in Hindi.