Asia almost absent from Academy Awards

No major noms for region's filmmakers

BEIJING -- Compared to the success of "Slumdog Millionaire" last year, Asia's film industry must feel like as far as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is concerned, it doesn't exist.

Asian producers, directors and actors were shut out of every major category in the final list of Oscar nominations, announced Tuesday. No Australian actor has been nominated for the first time in 10 years. Even in the best foreign-language film category, where Japan's "Departures" won in 2009, the region has no finalists, with Australia's "Samson and Delilah" the only Asian film even shortlisted.

Only in documentary and short categories do Asian works or subjects make an appearance. Sydney short filmmakers Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey, and costumer designer Janet Patterson will be flying the Aussie flag at the Awards.

The 17-minute film “Miracle Fish,” written and directed by Luke Doolan and produced by Drew Bailey, was nominated in the best live action short category.

"We didn't get much sleep last night, but are not complaining," a jubilant Bailey told ABC Radio after receiving the nomination. "We've been on the phone and the Internet non-stop since we found out. We are thrilled."

“Miracle Fish" tells the story of eight-year-old Joe, who has a dream on his birthday that might just become a reality. The short won the Dendy Award for Best Live Action Short at the Sydney Film Festival last year, which qualified it for the Oscar short list.

Patterson, received her fourth Oscar nomination for her work on Jane Campion’s period drama, “Bright Star."

This year’s Oscars were always bound to be an anti-climax for Japan after last year’s unprecedented double triumph of “Departures” and “La maison en petits cubes” (Animated Short Film). While being ignored may might be bad enough – even animation maestro Miyazaki’s latest, “Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea,” failed to get a nomination – Japan may get more of the kind of spotlight it could do without, with the “The Cove” nominated in the documentary category.

The anti-dolphin-hunting film, which took the audience award at Sundance 2009 and a recent DGA for director Louie Psihoyos, stirred up international controversy last year, and some indignant reactions in Japan at what was perceived as Western hypocrisy over the animal rights issue.

Sections of the media in Japan questioned why the killing of dolphins was singled out as different from that of other animals around the globe.

The secretly-filmed documentary was eventually screened at Tokyo International Film Festival in October last year, after being initially rejected.

Where China is concerned, the Academy recognized what is by all accounts a riveting dose of the disturbing truth, the Short Subject Documentary nominee from HBO, "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province." In 39 minutes, the film tells how 70,000 people -- 10,000 of them children -- were killed in the May 2008 quake, and how many of those children were crushed when their government-built schoolhouses collapsed.

The Academy Awards ceremony takes place March 7 in Los Angeles.

-- Steven Schwankert, Gavin J. Blair, Pip Bulbeck and Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report.
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