Israeli Best Foreign Language Film Entry Disqualified for the Oscars

Beaufort by Joseph Cedar

Israel's submission for the best foreign-language film Academy Award, Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit, has been disqualified for the 2007 Oscar in that category because more than half of the film's dialogue is in English.

As the Israeli Academy's best film winner, The Band's Visit was automatically selected as Israel's Oscar entry. According to Miriam A. Shaviv in The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli Academy has appealed the rejection but it appears that Joseph Cedar's Beaufort, the Academy's best film runner-up, will become Israel's official entry.

“The real question is why this situation came to pass at all,” says Shaviv. “There are clear rules posted on the Oscar Web site that insist that nominated foreign language films appear 'predominantly' in the primary language of the submitting country. [sic] The Band's Visit was in clear violation of this pre-requisite. Is it arrogance or sheer lack of organization that prevented Israel's Academy from slightly altering its film submission to meet the US Academy's requirements? The Jerusalem Post predicted the problem in September, so why has the Israeli Academy been caught unprepared?"

Regarding the “sic” above: The US Academy has changed its rules, allowing countries to submit films spoken in a language other than the official language(s) of the submitting country. That's why last year Canada was allowed to submit Deepa Mehta's Hindi-language drama Water.

The Band's Visit, which has received widespread praise at several film festivals, revolves around an Egyptian police band stranded in a small Israeli town. Beaufort, the Best Director Silver Bear winner at this year's Berlin Film Festival, tells the story of the last Israeli battalion to leave Lebanon.

In her article, Shaviv adds that “Jerusalem Post film critic Hannah Brown speculates that voting members of the US Academy will more easily relate to the Israelis portrayed in a military drama than those in Kolirin's apolitical film.”

Even though The Band's Visit seems to be anything but apolitical, Brown could well be right. Academy members tend to like their nominated films to display their Messages in bold, capital letters. In turn, this predisposition for the obvious means that Academy members – especially those who vote in the foreign-language category – need to have their cinematic horizons expanded quite a bit.

The last time an (official) Israeli entry received an Academy Award nomination was in 1984. The movie in question, Uri Barbash's Beyond the Walls, portrays the struggles of Arab and Israeli inmates at a corrupt Israeli prison facility.

In 2005, the German-Israeli-Palestinian co-production Paradise Now also received a best foreign-language film nod, but as a Palestinian entry.

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1 Comment to Israeli Best Foreign Language Film Entry Disqualified for the Oscars

  1. Grandi

    That was such a shame. Such a good movie. Those stupid rules should be abolished!