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NEW YORK — The Golden Globes race was thrown for a loop last year when awards-season candidates “Letters From Iwo Jima” and “Apocalypto” were pushed out of the best picture race and into the foreign-language category. Get ready for an even loopier ride this year, as studios prepare for as many as three best picture Oscar contenders to be excluded from contention for the Globes’ best picture drama list when the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. announces eligible films next month.
Focus Features’ “Lust, Caution” and Miramax’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” — along with, possibly, Paramount Vantage’s “The Kite Runner,” which offers a mix of English and Dari — each features heavy U.S. involvement on the production and distribution sides. But because their dialogues are in a language other than English, it’s all but assured “Lust” and “Diving Bell” will get the “Iwo Jima” treatment and end up only in foreign, while “Kite Runner” stands a good chance of going that way too.
The consequences won’t be limited to those movies. Observers say the move will have the dual effect of jamming up the foreign race while blowing the best picture drama competition wide open. But the looming disqualification has led some awards campaigners to call for a change to the rule that keeps the foreign-language and best picture categories separate, especially in an era when directors and productions are going international.
“What will it take for them to change it — 10 really good foreign-language movies?” one insider asked.
While leadership at the HFPA has said that it might review things down the road, a spokesperson said Wednesday that the current rules will remain in place this year.
In a sense, the Globes have the opposite problem from the Academy, which leaves the best picture race open to all but has a one country-one movie policy that keeps a tight lid on the foreign-language Oscar. Because of their U.S. involvement, neither “Lust,” “Bell” nor “Kite” will be eligible for the foreign-language Oscar, potentially leaving them in an unfortunate limbo — too foreign for the Globes and too American for the Oscars.
The Academy itself has come under pressure to modify its rules. Already, Sony Pictures Classics’ Israeli import “The Band’s Visit” is the subject of the inverse controversy from the Globes’: “Band” is a foreign movie with too much English to be eligible for a foreign-language Oscar.
“I think what both the AMPAS and Globes situations point to is the larger question of what constitutes a foreign movie in this day and age,” one studio exec said. “If the director is American, the DP is Chinese and the money is from Germany, is it foreign or American? Maybe we need to redefine the term ‘foreign film.’ “
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