Oscars: Backlash Over Ukraine's Nomination for Best Foreign Language Category

The Tribe Still Cannes - H 2014
Courtesy of Festival de Cannes

The Tribe Still Cannes - H 2014

Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, whose 'The Tribe' won Cannes' Critics Week grand prize, accuses local selection committee of irregularities

The director and producer of an award-winning Ukrainian film that failed to gain the country's nomination for the foreign language Oscar category have issued formal complaints alleging irregularities in the voting process.

Miroslav Slaboshpitsky says his film, The Tribe — a film about teenage deaf sign-language users with little or no spoken dialogue that has already sold to North America — better represents national cinematography than what was nominated, Oles Sanin's The Guide.

Slaboshpitsky claims three members of The Guide's production team were involved in a decision that was shrouded in mystery and made by too few members of the committee.

In letters sent Thursday to the Ukrainian state film agency, ministry of culture and Oscar committee, the director alleges that only four of nine members of the committee were involved in discussing the choice of three contenders and that three members were involved in the production of the nominated film, representing a clear conflict of interest.

Slaboshpitsky says that The Guide's producer Igor Savychenko, head of postproduction Dmitry Kolesnikov and another contractor, Anatoly Kokush, are all members of the selection committee.

In comments posted Thursday on Facebook, The Tribe's producer, Denis Ivanov, notes that the film won the Critics' Week grand prize in Cannes this year and has been critically acclaimed at international festivals including Karlovy Vary, Locarno, San Sebastian and Toronto. It had been widely seen as the favorite in the local Oscar nomination race.

The controversy claimed its first victim Thursday when filmmaker Oleg Fialko, chairman of the Oscar committee, resigned. He told Ukrainian television he had been shocked by the suggestion that the secret voting process smacked of corruption.

The row echoes that in Bulgaria, where filmmakers accuse the national committee there of backing a film by a member of the selection body.

Savychenko denied that the process in Ukraine was flawed. The producer told The Hollywood Reporter: "I took no part in the discussion or voting. Seven members of the committee voted; four for The Guide, two for The Tribe and one for (Anatoly Mateshko's) The Trumpeter."