Oscars: Afghanistan Protests Academy's Disqualification of 'Utopia' (Exclusive)

In a letter to the Academy, the head of the Filmmakers Union of Afghanistan writes that the film "has forty-eight minutes of Dari and Hindi language and thirty-seven minutes of English speaking scenes."
Courtesy of Nay Media

Jawanshir Haidary, the head of the Filmmakers Union of Afghanistan, has sent a letter to the Academy formally protesting the Academy's foreign-language committee's decision to disqualify Hassan Nazer's Utopia, the nation's 2015 Oscar submission, for featuring too much English, and announcing Afghanistan's intent to appeal the decision.

According to the Academy, the film, a Babel-like drama involving three intersecting stories, failed to meet the requirement of Rule 13, Section A of the Academy's "Special Rules for the Foreign Language Film Award," which states that "A foreign language film is … a predominantly non-English dialogue track."

But the letter argues that Utopia is "predominantly" foreign language: "Utopia has forty-eight minutes of Dari and Hindi language and thirty-seven minutes of English speaking scenes in an 85 minute film excluding credits," and "therefore in our eyes is predominantly in [a] foreign language."

The letter includes a statement from Nazer, as well: "For Utopia authenticity was important so when our main character travels to the UK she would of course speak English," adding, "when communicating in India the common language would be English."

Haidary closes: "We ask that you please consider our points and reconsider. We do not have another film of this quality to represent Afghanistan at the Academy Awards 2016."

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