Ukraine's Oscar Entry Selection Process Stirs Controversy

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

The Tribe Still Cannes - H 2014

A rift is forming in the country's filmmaking community, as producers complain about changes in the local Oscars selection committee.

Controversy is stirring in Ukraine as producers voice concerns that changes to the country's procedure for selecting its Oscar entry may lead to failure to nominate a film in the foreign-language category this year.

On Wednesday, a group of Ukrainian producers sent an open letter to the country's Oscar committee and other interested organizations.The letter voiced concerns over "the complete absence of activity" by the Oscar committee with less than a month to go before the submission deadline on October 1.

"We urge you to use your influence to kickstart the committee's work and inform the public about its activities," producers Igor Savychenko and Maxim Asadchiy wrote.

Denis Maskilovhead of the Ukrainian producers' association, also issued a statement, expressing similar concerns and promising to help speed up the Oscar selection process.

The two statements appear to be criticism of Ukraine's national filmmakers' union, the organization assigned to form the Oscar committee and select the country's entry by the state cinema agency.

Changes to the country's Oscar committee and selection procedure were initiated last year after the old procedure provoked accusations of irregularities over the choice of The Guide.

Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, the director of a favorite for the nomination, The Tribe, claimed three members of the production team of The Guide were involved in voting in a decision shrouded in mystery and made by too few members of the committee.

He claimed only four of nine members were involved in voting and three of those were associated with The Guide. This represented a conflict of interest, he said.

The controversy caused a deep rift in Ukraine's filmmaking community, leading to the resignation of a number of members of the Oscar committee at the time.

This year's arguments -- sparked even before a shortlist of films for the Oscar nomination has been drawn up -- looks sets to lay the foundation for yet more controversy. The filmmakers' union brushed off the latest criticism, saying there are no reasons to worry and a reply from the Oscar committee is expected shortly.

But some producers remain unconvinced. Savychenko said the criteria for Oscar committee membership was strangely narrow - limited to directors who had won prizes at A-list festivals, critics from only one body, FIPRESCI and members of the European Film Academy.

"A Sundance screening or even winning an Oscar does not count," he told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the conflict between the filmmakers' union and producers' association threatened to create another scandal when the Oscar nomination was finally made.