Foreign-language selections tend to disappoint
To qualify for a foreign-language Oscar, a film must have more than 50% of its dialogue in a language other than English. The Israeli film "The Band's Visit" (Sony Pictures Classics) was disqualified for having 22 minutes of English dialogue and 18 minutes in Hebrew and Arabic in its 87-minute running time. But the country didn't want to be left out of Oscar competition, so it withdrew "Band" and submitted Kino International Corp.'s "Beaufort" instead.
Sony Pictures Classics' "Persepolis," Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannaud's adaptation of Satrapi's popular autobiographical comic book about a precocious Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution, was a huge boxoffice hit in France, selling more than 1 million tickets when it was released there in July. But industry execs and the French public were shocked when American director Julian Schnabel's French-language Cannes' favorite "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax) was not submitted. (It likely would have been disqualified because of its non-French pedigree.) The Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) was also passed over.
The Oscar submission debate took a legal turn this year when the makers of "Dharm" (Religion), one of the contending films shortlisted by the Film Federation of India, lost out to "Eklavya: The Royal Guard" as India's official Oscar entry. "Dharm" director Bhavna Talwar filed a case in the Mumbai High Court alleging that the FFI's selection process was biased because some jury members were partial to "Eklavya" director Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The case is still pending, but in September the court ruled there was "bias in the selection process of this year's Oscar entry" and asked the FFI to respond to the allegations.