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Hot on the heels of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ hotly debated disqualification of Lionheart, Nigeria’s entry for best international feature Oscar consideration, because its dialogue is predominantly in English, Austria’s entry, Joy, has been disqualified for the same reason, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The Academy’s rules state that “an international film is defined as a feature-length motion picture (defined as over 40 minutes) produced outside the United States of America with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.” The Academy’s customary review process found that two-thirds of the dialogue in Joy, which was written and directed by Sudabeh Mortezai, is in English.
The Austrian selection committee was notified of the Academy’s verdict Monday morning.
Joy, which centers on Nigerian sex workers in Vienna, premiered Sept. 3, 2018 at the 2018 Venice Film Festival en route to a Jan. 18, 2019 theatrical release in Austria and a May 24, 2019 American debut on Netflix (which is also the distributor of Lionheart). It currently stands at 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Prior to Joy, Austria had submitted 42 films for consideration for the award that, until April 2019, was known as best foreign language film. Two, 2007’s The Counterfeiters and 2012’s Amour, went on to wins; two others, 1986’s ’38 — Vienna Before the Fall and 2008’s Revanche, settled for nominations; and one, 2005’s Cache, was disqualified. Cache was deemed ineligible not because it was found to be predominantly in English, but because it is predominantly in a different language other than the official language of the submitting country, namely French. At the time, that was against the rules.
The Academy responded to an inquiry from The Hollywood Reporter about Joy with the following statement: “As we do every year, the Academy is in the process of reviewing the films submitted for the International Feature Film category to determine whether they meet our eligibility rules. The film Joy, submitted by Austria, was just reviewed and is ineligible because only 33% of the dialogue is non-English.”
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