Joshua Marston DQ'd (again) as foreign-language Oscar list hits 60

Posted by · 2:07 am · October 10th, 2011

You’ve got to feel a bit for Joshua Marston. Back in 2004, the American first-time director was looking like one of the frontrunners for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar as his buzzy Sundance hit “Maria Full of Grace” was entered as Colombia’s official submission for the award — until the Academy, deciding that the US co-production wasn’t sufficiently Colombian to compete, disqualified the film from Competition. It went on to land scads of honors, including a Best Actress Oscar nod for newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Fast-forward seven years, and it seems the guy still can’t catch a break from the Academy. For his second feature, the internationally-minded director travelled to Albania to make “The Forgiveness of Blood,” a somber study of the country’s blood feud culture that, if not as memorable as his debut, was well-received at the Berlinale, where it landed him the Best Screenplay prize. Filmed in Albania with a local cast and mostly local crew, it was entered as the country’s official Oscar submission; if not as heavily tipped for the award as Marston’s last effort, it seemed he’d at least get to play this time.

Not so. Following a written complaint from Bujar Alimani, the director of a rival Albanian film, that “The Forgiveness of Blood,” with its American director and producer and British DP, isn’t sufficiently homegrown to represent Albania, an Academy committee reviewed the decision and disqualified the film. Now representing Albania instead,  would you believe it, is Alimani’s film “Amnesty,” a marital drama that also happened to bow at Berlin in February.

I’m no great champion of “The Forgiveness of Blood”; for all I know, the better film is now in play, but that’s hardly the point. This particular Oscar category is so hampered with eligibility restrictions as to have become something of an annual farce, but with film production becoming an ever more collaborative and global affair, clinging to such rigid notions of national identity is antiquated. Particularly when, as Marston politely points out to Variety, one could equally question the nationality of certain other films in contention, including one of the notional favorites: 

“The [‘The Forgiveness of Blood”] is made by Albanians, in Albania, about Albania and in the Albanian language. And yet a great film like Kaurismaki”s ‘Le Havre,” which was shot in France with a French cast and a French story, qualifies as Finnish? And ‘As If I Am Not There,” which was shot in the Balkans and is in Serbo-Croat with a cast from that region, qualifies as Irish? It”s absurd. I think there”s a problem with the system when Hollywood claims to know better than the submitting country whether a film belongs to them.”

That last sentence is the crux. Within a system already riddled with inconsistencies, if a country is prepared to accept a mostly local film as their own, the Academy should be prepared to let it stand — and if it does decide to investigate, not do so simply when the competition protests.

Oh, well. Chalk it up as the latest in the long queue of charges against this seemingly unfixable category. Anyway, with that swap and the late addition of an entry from the Dominican Republic, “Love Child,” the list of submissions now sits at a round 60 — still down from recent years, though a few stragglers may yet bump up the number. Once more, the updated list:

Albania – “Amnesty”

Argentina – “Aballay”

Austria – “Breathing”

Belgium – “Bullhead”

Bosnia and Herzegovina – “Belvedere”

Brazil – “Elite Squad 2?

Bulgaria – “Tilt”

Canada – “Monsieur Lazhar”

Chile – “Violeta”

China – “The Flowers of War”

Colombia – “The Colors of the Mountain”

Croatia – “72 Days”

Cuba – 

Czech Republic – “Alois Nebel”

Denmark – “SuperClasico”

Dominican Republic – “Love Child”

Egypt – “Lust”

Finland – “Le Havre”

France – “Declaration of War”

Georgia – “Chantrapas”

Germany – “Pina”

Greece – “Attenberg”

Hong Kong – “A Simple Life”

Hungary – “The Turin Horse”

Iceland – “Volcano”

India – “Adaminte Makan Abu”

Iran – “A Separation”

Ireland – “As If I Am Not There”

Israel – “Footnote”

Italy – “Terraferma”

Japan – “Postcard”

Lebanon – “Where Do We Go Now?”

Lithuania – “Back in Your Arms”

Macedonia – “Punk’s Not Dead”

Mexico – “Miss Bala”

Morocco – “Omar Killed Me”

Netherlands – “Sonny Boy”

New Zealand – “The Orator”

Norway – “Happy, Happy”

Peru – “October”

Philippines – “The Woman in the Septic Tank”

Poland – “In Darkness”

Portugal – “José and Pilar”

Romania – “Morgen”

Russia – “Burnt by the Sun 2: Citadel”

Serbia – “Montevideo, God Bless You!”

Singapore – “Tatsumi”

Slovakia – “Gypsy”

Slovenia – “Silent Sonata”

South Africa – “Beauty”

South Korea – “The Front Line”

Spain – “Black Bread”

Sweden – “Beyond”

Switzerland – “Summer Games”

Taiwan – “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale”

Thailand – “Kon Khon”

Turkey – “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”

Uruguay – “The Silent House”

Venezuela – “The Rumble of the Stones”

Vietnam – “Thang Long Aspiration”

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