Ripple over foreign language Oscars

The distress caused by Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox being passed over for Gyan Correa’s The Good Road as India’s submission for the foreign language Oscar seems to have caused a little ripple in Los Angeles.   The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – which shortlists films in various categories and finally selects the winners – is now considering changes that will help a greater number of movies to get to the nomination stage as far as the foreign language Oscar goes.  However, this may not happen in 2014.

Given the fact that the Academy did increase the number of best picture nominations from five to 10 some years ago, it may now be inclined to allow a country to send more than one film for a possible nomination in the foreign language section.

It may be recalled here that Goutam Ghose, who chaired the 16-member panel which selected The Good Road over The Lunchbox and others as India’s offering to the Oscars, felt that the country which produced such a humungous number of movies (1200 to 1400 a year) must have the privilege of submitting more than one film.

Also, the Academy itself has been a trifle disappointed that some outstanding foreign language works failed to make it. There are 76 submissions this time.

For example, the list does not include the Cannes Palm d’Or winner, Blue is the Warmest Colour (which will be screened at the upcoming Mumbai Film Festival, October 17-24). It was disqualified because it was not released in French theatres before the October 1 deadline. There are reports of this being a deliberate move, since a huge controversy (written about in an earlier column in HT) arose after a bitter war of words between the movie’s director and his two lead actresses.

Like Blue is the Warmest Colour, Japan chose The Great Passage as its Oscar submission, ignoring another Cannes winner, Like Father, Like Son.

In the past too, there have been several instances of high profile films missing an opportunity to be part of the foreign language race. Award clinchers like 

Brazil's City of God, Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her (which went on to win the 2002 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) were ignored by their countries at the time of the Academy Awards

The foreign language Oscar committee chairman, Mark Johnson, said in a recent interview, “different people over the years have said various things: 'What about a couple of wild cards? Or what about picking festival winners that for some reason weren't submitted?', but we're going to radically look at that."

But he cautioned against “over-zealousness” while agreeing that many a time selection committees were “political”.

The five foreign language nominees will be announced on January 16, 2014. The Oscars will be held on March 2, 2014 at LA’s Kodak Theatre.